ERA Architects

Head Start

After a prolonged workterm at ERA, Jordan Molnar is headed back to Dalhousie to begin his M.Arch thesis. Before shipping off, he gave a Friday presentation and recruited feedback on his initial research – involving preliminary studies of an under-utilized commercial block in downtown Brampton. This sparked an interesting discussion, centering primarily on the questioned validity of the classic Main Street commercial typology in relation to the distributed urban point/field mesh that is the Golden Horseshoe area. Best of luck back in academia, and we look forward to the final project!

The Holiday Spirit

ERA celebrated the season with an insiders tour of the Distillery District (an active project in the office since 1995), and an obligatory stop at the Mill St Brewery, followed by a wonderful dinner party at the (perfectly historic) Campbell House.

Thanks go to curator Liz Driver and planner David Vallee, our gracious hosts; it was a great way to kick off the holiday season!

PS: It was all a highly dignified affair up until a certain hour, after which, it devolved (as it always must).  The 2am tequila was not really necessary.

Whatever happens after midnight demands to remain anonymous.

Jerome Markson: Houses and Housing 1955-1980

Legendary architect Jerome Markson came in and gave a presentation on the residential projects produced over the first third of his career – from 1955 up until 1980.

He showcased a number of experimental single family housing designs, and his transition to multi-family and social housing projects. Alexandra Park featured heavily, and we were all eager to learn more about the lessons contained in the project that can be applied to our understanding of our collective urban environment.


1957 _ Housing for Stanrock Mines Ltd.


1959 _ Winston Avenue Residence


1960 _ Saintfield Residence


1962 _ Montressor Drive Residence


1965 _ Alexandra Park Public Housing


1968 _ Folkstone Crescent Stacked Housing


1971 _ Unionville Stacked Housing

In Mr. Markson’s own words, from 1981:

In all of our work we constantly attempt to produce a solution which respects a site, street or ambiance worth respecting, to reflect a client’s needs with warmth and humanness and to recognize that no single solution or architectural approach handles all problems. While striving for innovative design and the use of appropriate construction techniques and materials, we keep an open attitude necessary for creative solutions.

We are very grateful to Mr. Markson for sharing his time and insights with us, and look forward to part two…

All scans above from Jerome Markson Architects: Twenty Five Years of Work.

Oleleshwa Primary School, Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya

This week’s Wednesday Design Forum looked at a project being developed outside of the office. Alec Ring, an assistant architect here at ERA, and his colleague Karl Sarkis presented a design they have been developing for Oleleshua Primary School in Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya. The funding to build the school is through Harambee 4 Humanity a small not for profit organization set up in the town of Gravenhurst, Ontario in order to finance this project.


Traditional Maasai Enkaji (house) near the school grounds.


Some of the students who will attend the new primary school.

The presentation looked at the culture of the Maasai people, their traditionally nomadic way of life, their architecture, and a proposal for the new school and school grounds. Feedback on the design portion of the presentation focused on two key areas of the project, the first being the constructability of the proposed classrooms, and the second being how to respectfully integrate the new site plan and building into the existing and lost cultural heritage of the Maasai people.


Site terrain.


The primary school project is to be realized over several phases and is to include four classrooms, a kitchen, an administration building, a library, 6 pit latrines, and teacher housing. The site itself is a seven acre parcel of land which will also include areas for agricultural and physical education. The first phase will include the two classrooms, two pit latrines and conversion of an existing building into a kitchen.


Preliminary proposal for cluster of classrooms.

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Huge congratulations go out to Brendan and Andrea on the birth of their new baby daughter: Quinn!

Vancouver Matters Wins Design Exchange Award

Vancouver Matters received an award in the Visual Communications category at this week’s Design Exchange Awards event. The book was also recently awarded at the Alcuin Society’s 27th Annual Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada.

Photo by Jason Vanderhill

Don Valley Brick Works

Wednesday morning’s design forum took a slightly different approach this week. The ERA team went on a field trip down to the Don Valley Brick Works, a site ERA has been working on since 2002, to meet up with the George Brown Masonry students. ERA has been performing site review to the masonry students who are in the second year of their Building Restoration Technician Program.

Professor John Jensen, an experienced heritage mason, provided us with a hands-on demonstration of various types of mortar batching including: lime putty and sand; hydrated lime, sand and water; and a pre-bagged Dubois mix which has hydraulic lime. Each mortar has it’s own unique characteristics, and we were able to explore each in turn. Once we had the mortar batched, everyone took a turn at pointing a mock-up wall.

The hands-on experience gave everyone a taste at the work involved in providing specific pointing profiles and techniques, as well a better understanding of the tools, techniques and craft of fine masonry.

First time buyer, beware.

Round One: Get It Livable…
One of ERA’s own goes through her first home purchase and improvements. In a little alley near Dundas and Trinity Bellwoods, a row of 1870’s houses have been minimally touched and altered. With a simple construction of balloon framing and one layer of bricks; the house is modest and functional; it is also bound on three sides with no access except from the narrow front door. First steps towards simply being able to move in have been undertaken: this includes fixing a very leaky old roof, ripping out a moldy bathroom and painting every possible interior surface. Next steps towards renovations, maintenance, and an addition could mean real estate disaster or top dollar ~alas~ stay tuned for the next installment!

Window and door openings


UC at the University of Toronto. Building designed by Cumberland and Storm, 1856-7.

This past Friday Scott gave an internal presentation about the different types of window and door openings in masonry construction, how to write about and describe each element correctly, and how these elements can help to locate a building within a specific historical period.

The presentation also included a brief tour of some architectural wonders in his hometown of Detroit, MI – many of which are currently for sale at rock-bottom prices.



More images from Scott’s extensive catalogue of architectural photographs are available on his Flickr page.

North York’s Modernist Architecture

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ERA Architects assisted with a recent forum on North York’s modernist architecture, which sought to raise awareness for modernist buildings and landscapes in the city of Toronto. The event included a panel discussion consisting of Dave LeBlanc (Globe & Mail), Leo deSorcy (City of Toronto Planning Division), Kim Storey (Brown and Storey Architects), and Lloyd Alter (Architectural Conservancy of Ontario), and was moderated by Matt Blackett of Spacing Magazine.

ERA contributed to the event by preparing and printing an update to the document North York’s Modernist Architecture put together by the former City of North York in 1997. The update – available here as a PDF file – includes the complete 46 page original document, new essays by the aforementioned panelists, and current photographs of a number of the featured buildings.

Dave LeBlanc also wrote an article in the Globe and Mail about the forum and the republication of the document, which is available on the Globe’s website.

Download North York’s Modernist Architecture

Download the full 2009 edition of North York’s Modernist Architecture in PDF format.

This document contains the complete, unaltered original 1997 report and inventory, along with updated photographs and new contributions from Lloyd Alter, Geoff Kettel, Edith Geduld, Moiz Behar, Michael McClelland, Kim Storey, Leo deSorcy, Helene Iardas, Joey Giaimo, and William MacIvor.

The PDF version presented here is substantially similar to the hard-copy booklet which was distributed at the October 29th, 2009 forum on North York’s modernist architecture.  We are happy to present it in electronic format, such that it may be accessed by the greatest number of people possible.

A word of warning – the file is large (22mb), and may take a few minutes to download. Additionally, please use Acrobat to view the document (not Preview), to ensure that the images are clear and sharp.

North York’s Modernist Architecture Forum

ERA Architects is helping out with an upcoming forum on North York’s modernist architecture that is taking place this Tuesday evening at the North York Civic Centre.  The forum focuses on raising awareness for modernist buildings and landscapes in the city.  The event includes a panel discussion consisting of Dave LeBlanc (Globe & Mail), Leo deSorcy (City of Toronto Planning Division), Kim Storey (Brown and Storey Architects) and Lloyd Alter (Architectural Conservancy of Ontario).  The discussion will be moderated by Matt Blackett of Spacing Magazine.

We will be contributing to the event by printing an update to the document, North York’s Modernist Architecture, put together by the City of North York in 1997.  The original document was developed to underline the importance of modernist buildings, and many that were featured found their way onto the City’s Inventory of Heritage Properties.  The updated document – available exclusively at the forum – will include the original in addition to new essays by the featured panelists and current photographs of a number of these buildings.

Tuesday, October 27th 2009
Council Chamber, North York Civic Centre
5100 Yonge Street
7 – 9:30pm

The Turn of the Screw

DVxT Theatre Company presents a site-specific performance of Henry James’s hauntingly beautiful glimpse into the ultimate source of evil: the human mind.

Performed throughout the Campbell House Museum – mixing candlelight, sound and video DVxT brings this ghostly gothic mystery to life.

For more information please go to the following site:

DVxT Theatre Company

Richard Ouzounian’s preview article in The Star:
The museum’s scary story – thestar.com

Jon Kaplan’s preview article in Now:
Preview: The Turn of the Screw – NOW Toronto

CAHP Awards

The 2009 Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals Awards were hosted at the Artscape Wychwood Barns on September 25th.

ERA was identified as part of the team for the CAHP Award for Environmentally Sustainable Rehabilitation, for the Artscape Wychwood Barns.

Congratulations goes out to Sally Gibson for receiving the Heritage Communication Award of Excellence for Distillery District Heritage Handouts for Tenants.

Colour Washing, Stopping, and Penciling

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We have observed that on many buildings from the Victorian period in Toronto there is a finishing application that is often original to the building construction. This finish includes a coloured pointing of the joints (stopping), a staining of the surface (colour washing) and the application of a slim and regular representation of mortar joints that replicates fine, gauged brickwork (penciling).Working together with Paul Goldsmith of Heritage Restoration, we have reproduced this process on a recent project using a series of in-situ tests applied to sample areas of brickwork.This finishing approach may be used in future conservation work as part of the repair of existing masonry.

Historic Modern

Modern buildings are funny things. Their proliferation has been accepted as the common typology for city forms, yet they are often perceived as a banal insertion to the city’s skyline and an impediment towards a richer public realm.

Following a recent talk at Heritage Canada’s annual conference on the adaptability of modern buildings, I was asked about the possibility (if any) of “fixing” the maligned relationship between these buildings and the public realm. I perceived this question as one that considered this association over with little chance of reconciliation.

Modernism’s indifference does not sit well with many, and it was evident that an optimistic approach on its structures’ adaptability would not be accepted with immediate enthusiasm.

In their book Collage City, Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter critiqued the city of modern architecture against the built conditions of the traditional city. With the adeptness of the ‘bricoler’, Rowe and Koetter state that these early city builders had the ingenuity to maneuver within and around the city’s built forms and spaces in order to complement and integrate with their surroundings. Referring to existing conditions became a moot point in the Modernists’ agenda and was largely disregarded for an opportunity to begin anew.

With some irony, it is this disregard that opportunistically positions the current generation of city builders. Presented with these latent resources, the buildings and landscapes of the recent past are now prime for reconsideration.

As they move well beyond the years of their life expectancy, the bricolers for this generation need to rethink, react to, interrogate, exploit, and most important, understand these buildings and landscapes in order to reconsider their initial ideals and to fully explore these inherited opportunities.

Urban Design Awards

On Monday September 21st, the Mayor’s Tower Renewal Opportunities Book was awarded the Toronto Urban Design Award of Excellence in the Vision and Masterplan category.

Congratulations go to the full Tower Renewal team, including ERA Architects, The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, the City of Toronto, and countless local and international partners.

In the Tall Buildings in Context – private section an honourable mention was given to Jazz located at 167 Church street. The project team included Burka Architects Inc., NAK Design Group, and ERA Architects.

In the Buildings in Context – public section an honourable mention was given to Artscape Wychwood Barns located at 601 Christie Street. The project team included: Joe Lobko Architect Inc., du Toit Architects Limited, ERA Architects Inc., Stantec Consulting, Blackwell Bowick Partnership Limited, Michael Dixon-University of Guelph, BA Group, Leber Rubes Inc., Gottschalk + Ash International, The Dalton Company Ltd.

Another honourable mention was awarded to Transformation AGO located at 317 Dundas Street West. The project team included: Gehry International, and ERA Architects Inc.

Artscape Wychwood Barns


Wychwood Barns under (re)construction


Grand opening weekend

A collection of street car barns constructed between 1913-21, the Wychwood Barns are the oldest surviving carhouses built as part of the Toronto Civic Railway, a transportation system with a significant role in the development of the annexed areas in the City of Toronto. When completed, the facility accommodated 50 cars inside and another 110 outside, with access to the yard via nine tracks.

ERA was the heritage consultant for this project, and was involved from the Building Permit application through to project completion. Services included providing a Conservation Plan, preparing working drawings for the alterations to the Barns, and helping to complete the Heritage Easement Agreement. Additionally, ERA worked with Gottschalk+Ash International on wayfinding and site interpretation, and with David Leinster and the Planning Partnership to convert the remaining land on the site into a new public park.

Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archive Opening

The Archive is having an opening of their new home.

Your presence is requested at the Grand Opening of the new home of the

Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives
34 Isabella Street, Toronto
Saturday September 26, 2009
2:00 – 5:00 pm

Reception in George Hislop Park
just west of the Children’s Aid Society (30 Isabella)

Alternate facilities near the Park in case of rain

Please RSVP to events@clga.ca or 416-777-2755
before Friday, September 18 , 2009

ERA has been assisting the Archive in repairing and upgrading 34 Isabella.

The Carlu, before and after

In this line of work, there’s often nothing more satisfying than a juxtaposition of the historic, the as-found (generally neglected and derelict), and the restored. For your viewing pleasure, we present a few of these moments from the rejuvenation of the Carlu.

The Round Room at the Carlu – when it first opened in 1931, as-found before restoration, and after.


Detail of the central fountain, before restoration and after.

Detail of the central overhead light-fixture in the Round Room, before and after. Note the beautiful original grille set into the ceiling above the fixture, which reflects the original space-planning of the room below.  The exposed rivets in the central black band were also (originally) cleverly disguised sprinkler heads.

The main foyer of the Carlu, before and after.

Detail of the Carlu foyer display cases, before and after.  Note the unique, restored decorative air-return grille.

Can’t order those from a catalogue..

The interior of the Carlu is the wealth of small, custom details – from the lights to the central fountain to the return-air grilles. The grilles especially are miniature art-deco treasures, and demonstrate an artful way of elevating a necessary ‘building-systems’ component into an element which helps define the atmosphere of the larger space.

Historic photograph of the foyer of the Carlu, with grilles in place.

The grilles as they were found prior to restoration.

The restored grilles.