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Harold Hanen

first Plus 15 walkway

Harold Hanen, architect and urban designer, is famous for developing the Calgary Plus-15 walkway system downtown, the most extensive above-ground pedestrian network in the world. He is also a member of the "prairie-house" school of architecture, founded by Frank Lloyd Wright, which was committed to designing urban spaces that reflect the environment of the prairies.

Harold Hanen was born in Calgary in 1935, to Sam and Lena Hanen. Harold began his training at McGill University in Montreal, taking two years of Liberal Arts in 1954 and 1955. He then began his apprenticeship under Frank Lloyd Wright in the United States. At the time, Wright was devoted to developing an American architecture, devoid of European influences. This architectural mode would come to be known as the Prairie-House style, and featured low horizontal lines and wide open interior spaces, designed to evoke the flat openness of prairie landscape.

Calgary Civic Centre

Hanen continued his studies in the United States, earning his Bachelor's degree in Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in 1961, and then his Master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston in 1964. During his training, he married Marsha Pearlman and they had a daughter Amy, in 1955, and another daughter, Sharon, in 1965.

Hanen did not return to Calgary until 1966. Upon his return, he was hired as the City Planner. Hanen's most memorable and controversial urban planning scheme was the Plus 15 pedestrian walkway system in downtown Calgary. His plan to connect city sky-scrapers with a network of glass and steel skywalks was opposed by some, because it was thought that the skywalks would render city streets lifeless. The skywalks were implemented in 1969, and the first walk connected the Westin Hotel and Calgary Place. The skywalks were known as the "Plus 15 system" because they were about 15 feet above ground-level. New buildings were required to connect to the system by providing their own walkways. Hanen's development of the skywalk system won him a Vincent Massey Award for Merit in Urban Planning in 1970; however, he was unhappy with how the Plus 15 system turned out. He had envisioned the walkways as gathering places, each walkway having its own decorative character, but the walkways are largely uniform and used mainly as a means to travel from one building to another.

Harold Hanen was not city planner for long. He was fired in 1969 for holding a directorship in a local trust company. He sued for wrongful dismissal and won, but thereafter could not find work with the City of Calgary. In 1970, Hanen began his own company P.A.R.D. (Planning, Architecture, Research and Design) Associates Ltd. Through this venture, he continued working on urban planning in downtown Jasper, Fort McMurray, Kamloops and Okotoks. He also worked to make northern Albertan community centres accessible to people with physical disabilities.

In 1975, he became a sessional instructor for the University of Calgary's Faculty of Environmental Design, and later became an adjunct professor. He then began work renovating Calgary's Clarence block and Lancaster Building, as part of his efforts to revitalize and restore the buildings on Stephen Avenue Mall in the downtown core. Then, in 1979, he and Toronto architect Ray Moriyama began designing Calgary's Civic Centre Complex, a five-block civic square that was expected to cost 233 million dollars. Unfortunately, the complex was rejected as too grandiose. From the 1980s to the year 2000, Hanen worked for his company, Harold Hanen and Associates, concentrating primarily on the restoration of heritage buildings. He also became involved with the Winter Cities Association in 1985, a Canadian organization that embraced seasonal awareness in urban planning and design. He made many contributions to their magazine, and he eventually became president of the association and chairman of the board.

Harold Hanen died in 2000 from cancer.


Brennan, Brian. Alberta Originals: Stories of Albertans who made a Difference. Fifth House: Calgary, 2001.

Glenbow Museum. "Harold Hanen Fonds." Retrieved July 22, 2008

The City of Calgary. "Plus 15." Retrieved July 22, 2008

Wikipedia. "+15." Retrieved July 22, 2008

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