ERA Architects

Micallef: Canada’s identity, modernist architecture

If there is a character that unites Canada across its many regions, says Shawn Micallef of Spacing, it could well be our huge stock of post-war modernist architecture.

From well-known innovations such as Montreal’s Habitat ’67, Toronto’s CN Tower, or Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University; to the thousands of lower-profile urban and suburban low-, mid-, and high-rise buildings that serve as our residences, universities, schools, malls, factories, and corporate headquarters, Canada is a nation stitched together with modernist fabric. Every urban area, it seems, has its share of brutalist concrete slab towers, curtain-glass minimalist icons, geodesic domes, and long elegant bungalows with exaggerated eaves.

Though we might call out a small number of masterpieces as worthy of our attention, Canada in general has yet to fully embrace its architectural modernist roots. And as these buildings become 40, 50, and 60 years old, we are faced with many decisions about whether to keep them, how to evaluate them; how to use them, adapt them, conserve and repair them; and, more generally, how to conceive of them as part of our cultural heritage.

In his article, Micallef cites the work of ERA (and ERAer Graeme Stewart) in attempting to broaden the conversation surrounding Canada’s modern heritage. ERA has been involved in several publications and projects regarding modernist architecture, including Toronto Modern, Concrete Toronto, North York’s Modernist Architecture, and the ongoing Tower Neighbourhood Renewal program, among others. Projects such as these see Canada’s modernist stock as offering great potential as we continue to plan and develop our urban and suburban fabric.

To read further into Micallef’s discussion of modernist architecture as foundational to contemporary Canada, please see the full article in Spacing.