ERA Architects

Irwin House: Floating in mid-air

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The historic John Irwin House (1873) was moved in 2013 from the west to the east side of this lot on Grenville near Yonge, in Toronto. Today it rests on a concrete slab and two concrete columns, suspended five storeys over solid ground. A new 50-storey condominium designed by architectsAlliance incorporates the John Irwin House into its podium.

As part of the development, the heritage exterior will be restored while the interior will be refurbished and adapted to commercial use. The suspension of the house on its “floating raft” allows crews to excavate below while the house remains in use as the site office. This unusual feat is the result of a rare collaboration between heritage architects (us), structural engineers (Jablonsky Ast), geostructural engineers (Isherwood), and building movers (Laurie McCulloch).

The moving of houses, always a methodical and careful process, is a practice that occurs more often than most people realize, and has a history dating back to at least the 1700s. In this case, the building could only move about six inches per minute and took almost three days in total.

The relocation of Irwin House this short distance makes it more visually accessible from Yonge St. and allows for a more successful integration of new design and heritage fabric.

For more info and pictures on this project, please see a recent story in The National Post online.