ERA Architects

Glass & Glazing in the 21st Century

Andrew recently attended the Glass & Glazing in the 21st Century: Design and preservation of Contemporary and Historic Architecture conference at MIT, and gave us an overview of the highlights at this week’s Friday social hour.

The conference presenters were a diverse group including architects, engineers, designers, manufacturers and fabricators working on projects that explore the properties of glass and how it can alter light, insulate envelopes and compose leading edge structures.

A selection of projects by conference presenter James Carpenter.

This was tempered with participation from conservationist who are engaged in trying to solve the significant problems encountered in early modern buildings that use significant amounts of glass. Finally, there was a day long immersion into stained glass conservation practices in the US and Europe.

Bigelow Chapel at the Mount Auburn Cemetery

Undoing the Gardens

Since the story has leaked, we feel safe enough revealing some photographs of the interior demolition at Maple Leaf Gardens. These photographs were taken approximately three weeks ago, and work is on-going..

Though the destruction looks ‘apocalyptic’, it is all being performed in an extremely careful and controlled manner, and in the service of future renewal.  The renovated facility will be jointly owned by Loblaws and Ryerson University, and will feature retail facilities at the ground floor with a university sports complex above, including an ice rink on the upper level beneath the central dome.

More images after the jump.

Continue reading…

Parkwood in the news

Dave LeBlanc has an excellent article in the Globe and Mail today about one of our favorite projects, the Parkwood National Historic Site.

Parkwood National Historic Site was built in 1916 as the home of the late R. S. McLaughlin, founder of General Motors Canada. The building, designed by prominent Toronto architects Darling and Pearson, now serves as a historic house museum, with a collection that includes original furniture, paintings, and tapestries. ERA has provided professional conservation services for the site, including the restoration of the stone grand stair case and terrace overlooking the Water Garden, designed by John Lyle.

Read In Oshawa, an automobile pioneer’s Xanadu

Dispatchwork

Though perhaps not exactly in-line with the Ministry of Culture’s Ontario Heritage Tool Kit procedures or the guidelines set forth in the Burra Charter, these temporary masonry repairs in Bocchignano, Italy are a series of wonderfully playful gestures.



photographs via Jan Vormann

ps: How do you write a spec for Lego?

Celebration of Heritage


On Wednesday February 24th, at the “Celebration of Heritage” event held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, ERA was awarded the “Peter J. Stokes Heritage Commendation” for the exterior conservation of the 1817 Miller House.

Congratulations are extended to the building’s owner Vintage Inns and the project’s contractor Shoalts Brothers Construction, who were also recipients.

After you left, they took it apart

Buffalo photographer Chris Mottalini has produced an astoundingly beautiful and poignant set of images from now-demolished Paul Rudolph homes in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Florida. The images speak for themselves:

In Chris’ own words:

My intent was to pay homage to Paul Rudolph and his work, as well as the more abstract and elusive qualities of architecture – decay, destruction, loss, and fragility.

Many more images from the project can be found at Chris Mottalini’s website.

View Points: You’re invited to look inside the City!

Harbourfront Centre regularly hosts a forum series called View Points that “explores issues in contemporary culture and showcases current culture-makers”.

To coincide with the current Community Centred exhibition at the Architecture Gallery, a forum titled “Inside the City” is set for next Thursday February 25th at 7:00 pm at Harbourfront. Ian Chodikoff will be moderating the event that will include Joe Lobko, Helena Grdadolnik, Michael McClelland, and Graeme Stewart.

Photograph by Tom Bilenkey

Harbourfront Centre | Inside the City

Grant Whatmough 1921-1999

ERA is currently studying the above house by Grant Whatmough, designed for Canadian Homes and Gardens managing editor Gerald Maccabe in 1956.  The Maccabe house is an example of the many early modernist ‘gems’ which are only now being rediscovered in the suburbs around the Greater Toronto Area.

Born in Toronto, Whatmough served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and studied in England after the war.  Upon graduation he practiced in Portsmouth as a Naval Architect, before returning to work in Canada. His career as a designer combined interests in technical innovations and modern aesthetics with a practicability that allowed him to execute a wide range of design and construction projects.

From 1953 onward Whatmough worked independently as an Architect in Ontario. His focus was on suburban and estate homes, though he also completed a number of commercial projects. Not satisfied with established building contractors, Whatmough also founded a small construction company to execute his commissions. He revisited his earlier interest in marine design in completing a floating offshore drilling rig, tug and fire boats, and a research vessel for Radar Explorations Limited of Toronto. Commercial projects included industrial plants in Oakville, Port Credit and Islington, studios for an Oakville radio station and alterations to retail stores.

Available records show that Whatmough’s commissions focused in the areas of Oakville, Burlington, and Milton. He also designed a number of commercial buildings in Toronto. However, more research is required to establish a complete record of his career.

In honour of Whatmough, this week at ERA our Friday afternoon social hour became Friday afternoon at the movies: we watched an episode of the 1957 CBC program Open House that George had unearthed from the CBC Archives.  The show featured interviews with three of Whatmough’s clients, including the Maccabes, and tours of three of his houses. It also included the mandatory posed, awkward shots of the architect in his studio, redrawing existing lines (with OAA certification propped conveniently on the drafting table) and leaning down to consider a model of his own work.

Favorite line from the episode:  “Your pool is very inviting Jim, but so is your wife’s tea.”

Two other houses designed by Whatmough can be found near the Maccabe House, on Argyle and Barrington streets. The house on Argyle Drive, which looks on to Lake Ontario, was designed for Jim Floyd – lead designer of the (in)famously abandoned Avro Arrow.

2011.08.23: Edited title to remove the middle initial P, as per comment below.

Evergreen Brick Works

Construction and conservation work are ongoing down at the Evergreen Brick Works, and the project has recently been attracting a good deal of attention. The Toronto Star reports today that National Geographic Traveler named Evergreen Brick Works a Top 10 destination for sustainable travel, and ERA was present for the recent royal site visit from HRH The Prince of Wales.


The Prince gives the Brick Works Farmers’ Market produce the Royal review.

ERA is currently working to stabilize the south east corner of Building 11, which will be adjacent to the new site entrance and welcome centre.


Building 11, as it currently stands

The floors between building 14 and 15 have been excavated and prep work is underway for the new greenways.

ERA is also working with Shawn Selway, of Pragmata Historic Machinery Conservation, to develop a conservation strategy and interpretation of the Martin A. Brick Machine.



The Martin A. Brick Press

Work is ongoing, so check back soon for further updates…

People per Hectare _ Installation Documentation


We often talk about density in terms of numerical ratios, or other quantitative abstractions. Our intention here is to try and map the spatial experience of specific densities to their numerical signifiers, and then relate these examples directly to similar conditions in Toronto.

Continue reading the full post below for expanded versions of the neighbourhood and density studies shown at the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibition.

Continue reading…

People per Hectare _ Toronto by Numbers

Density is one of the key tools currently used for planning cities. Architects, planners, and policy makers all use density as a calibration of the city.

We want to make our cities better, more vital, more full of possibilities. As our cities change, we want to propose change intelligently. To change intelligently, we need to understand density.

For the ERA installation at the Harbourfront Centre, as part of the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibition, we asked our office to contribute examples of places they had recently visited. How did density affect built form? How did density affect the quality of the environment?

We often discuss density in terms of numerical ratios, or other quantitative abstractions. Our intention with this installation is to try and map the spatial experience of specific densities to their numerical signifiers, as free of imported bias (culture, context, etc) as possible.

By assembling this information we are now able to consider: how do Toronto’s neighbourhoods compare?

Please join us for the opening reception:

Friday January 22, 2010
6:00 to 10:00pm

York Quay Centre
235 Queens Quay West

Architecture at the Harbourfront Centre

ERA is currently preparing a new installation for the Harbourfront Centre, focusing on the ways in which density affects our lives. This is part of the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibit with Public Workshop and du Toit Architects Limited.

The opening reception:

Friday January 22, 2010
6:00 to 10:00pm

York Quay Centre
235 Queens Quay West

For more information about the exhibit please visit the Harbourfront Centre website.

Union Station Train Shed Renewal



The interior of the Union Station Train Shed, shortly after opening.

Completed in 1930, the Union Station Train Shed was designed by Toronto Terminals Railway Assistant Bridge Engineer A.R. Ketterson. The design was a variation on the Bush train shed, invented by American Engineer Lincoln Bush in 1904. Bush sheds replaced the expensive and difficult to maintain, large balloon-framed train sheds that were common in 19th century Europe. Linear smoke ducts directly above the tracks would permit the evacuation of smoke from locomotives while protecting passenger platforms from the elements. Other Bush sheds include: Chicago Union station 1925, Hoboken NJ 1906, Winnipeg 1911, and Montreal Windsor Station.


The western end of the Union Station Train Shed, currently.

ERA, as Heritage Consultant, is responsible for the conservation of the Train Shed as part of Union Station Train Shed Rehabilitation. The Train Shed Rehabilitation is a major part of the 10-year program of repair, restoration and upgrading of the Metrolinx facility and railway corridor.



Original structural steel drawings, above, and portions of the proposed rehabilitation work by ERA, below.

The Train Shed is designated a National Historic Site and is subject to a heritage easement agreement between Parks Canada and Go Transit. The project includes the construction of a new central atrium (designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects), the restoration of the shed over Tracks 1 and 2, and the rehabilitation of the remainder of the shed. Construction is to begin shortly, and is set to last 5 years.



The Union Station Train Shed, before and after revitalization. Prominent features include a large, elevated central atrium space, a through-connection to the Air Canada Center, and the extensive green roof.

Together with the Union Station Revitalization project initiated by the City of Toronto, the changes forthcoming at Union Station will greatly improve the efficiency and user experience of the station. For more information, please see the official Union Station Renewal site.