As Edmonton’s population expanded in a relatively short period of time, the city needed many institutional structures to maintain civic services. New multi-storey buildings changed the face of downtown as many historic buildings were either replaced with larger, modern structures or renovated for new uses. There were multiple influences on styles as the city attempted to find its own architectural identity. The post-war Modern years left many iconic buildings that encapsulate the ideologies and feelings of the times, primarily modern styles such as Brutalist, International and Expressionist. These buildings emphasized craftsmanship and simplicity of line, but were often misunderstood as boring or ugly. They are representative of a significant era in Edmonton’s history, and one that greatly transformed the city.
Effects on Architecture
Post-war Edmonton was booming. Houses were being built at a rate not seen since 1929, but supply was unable to keep up with demand. The first federal housing crown corporation, Wartime Housing Limited (WHL), built and managed rental units for war workers and veterans. In 1946, the federal government initiated a post-war program promoting home ownership, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which offered easy, low cost mortgages.
The city spread into the suburbs as veterans started families in affordable, suburban houses. Downtown became less of a focal point as services decentralized and distances between services decreased due to the increased use of cars for travel. Auto-culture also led to houses being built with attached garages, a common sight in post-war subdivisions, though less typical in Edmonton’s older neighborhoods.
Returning veterans had access to a wide variety of assistance, including education and housing programs. Helped by a booming economy because of the nearby discovery of oil, Edmonton's extraordinary growth in this period was also due to the healthy state of agriculture and to the expansion of the University of Alberta. New subdivisions were being built quickly, filled with Victory Houses for thousands of veterans and their families. The City hired its first professional planner in 1949 to help manage Edmonton's phenomenal growth. Between 1947 and 1970 the city grew from 40.8 to 87.8 square kilometres in size.
During the 1950s, the city increased in population from 149,000 to 269,000 people. In 1955, Edmonton was home to one of the first shopping centers in Canada when Westmount Mall opened its doors. The University of Alberta expanded, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology opened in 1960 to meet the growing need for skilled technical workers. The $25 million Edmonton International Airport opened for commercial flights, also in 1960. Arts organizations, such as the Edmonton Civic Opera and the Edmonton Symphony, found new homes in the Jubilee Auditorium (1957) and the Citadel Theatre (1964). The first skyscraper in Edmonton, the 27-storey CN tower, was built in 1966. One year later another world class attraction, the Provincial Museum of Alberta, opened during the celebration of Canada’s centennial.
Edmonton prospered throughout the 1960s and 1970s as the northern oil boom brought thousands of jobs and newcomers. Suburban growth flourished as Edmonton became a metropolitan area growing on all sides when Beverly in the east and Jasper Place in the west were annexed in the early 1960s.
Beth Shalom Synogogue on Jasper Avenue is a prominent example of International style architecture in Edmonton.
This moderne dream home was built in 1950.
The Churchill Wire Centre is located in the heart of downtown and was built to house equipment for Edmonton Telephones.
The Dean-Kuperus Residence is an example of a fairly common International style house found throughout Edmonton.
The Edmonton Art Gallery (now the Art Gallery of Alberta) was originally a textbook example of Brutalist architecture before its recent extensive renovation.
This sprawling building is a good example of Modern expressionist architecture.
School Board Building
The concrete construction, hard angles, heavy massing and lack of detail make this building a typical example of Brutalist architecture in Edmonton.
Designed in 1939 but not built until the 1950s, the Federal Building is the newest example of Art Deco influenced architecture in Edmonton.
This home is located on 112 Avenue across from Commonwealth Stadium, and is therefore a prominent example of Art Moderne residential design.
Located on Stony Plain Road, this substation is a prominent landmark in Glenora.
Built in 1946, this home is a good example of the local use of the International style after the Second World War.
of Canada Building
The Imperial Bank of Canada is located in the heart of downtown and is a strong local example of Modern classicist architecture.
The 1972 Law Courts building is an imposing landmark in downtown Edmonton due to its size and Brutalist design.
These park buildings were built in what is now Hawrelak Park in 1968 and are an example of Organic Modernist architecture.
The Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium was built to celebrate Alberta's 50th anniversary as a province.
This building was built in the 1950s, and used log construction to evoke idealized images of pioneers in Alberta.
The original Oliver School is an example of one of Edmonton's early brick schools. Its later additions have architectural value of their own, and combined they make for a very interesting site.
This award-winning pool was built as a Centennial project, and is located in Coronation Park.
Located in Coronation Park, the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium is a showpiece of Modern Expressionist design.
This two storey Windsor Park home is an excellent example of the Prairie style.
Art Deco influenced buildings are not common in Edmonton, through there are some noteworthy examples.
Brutalist architecture is characterized by concrete and a lack of detail. Regardless of your view on its aesthetics, it is certainly easy to identify.
Byzantine architecture is an important reminder of the Eastern European settlers who arrived in Edmonton beginning in the 1890s.
The International style was popular in Edmonton in the 1950s, and is most easily identified by its smooth surfaces, flat roof and lack of detail.
Log buildings were among the first constructed in the Edmonton area. Although seemingly rudimentary, they required considerable skill to build well.
Edmonton has a rich and varied Modern architectural legacy, with many subsets and some world class examples.
Edmonton has only a few examples of Prairie style homes, identified by their low roofs, banks of windows and horizontal emphasis.