ERA Architects

Celebrating ERA’s 30th anniversary

A flag with ERA 30 on it

On May 1st, ERA is marking 30 years of heritage conservation, community building, and catalyzing change both in urban and rural settings. While we may not be able to celebrate together physically this year,  we thought we’d take a virtual walk down memory lane to mark some of the themes behind our projects that have made ERA who we are today.

Urban transformation through adaptive re-use

One of the first widescale projects we took on as ERA was the Distillery District. As the Architect-of-Record for the overall Distillery District project and Heritage Architect for a series of the tenant spaces, we’ve seen how adaptive reuse of historic buildings can spark urban transformation.

The potential for this type of renewal extends beyond Toronto. The Booth Street Masterplan in Ottawa looks to apply the lessons learned through the Distillery District project, scaling these approaches for the local context to celebrate Ottawa’s heritage and provide new opportunities for growth.

Exterior of Cambium Farms

Nathan Cyprys

Supporting transitioning and rural economies

Many smaller communities across Ontario and the country are struggling with the transition away from resource-based economies. While our Small initiative helps support these towns through engagement and community building, other architecture projects like Cambium Farms and Goodlot Brewery in Caledon and the Drake Devonshire in Wellington have helped cultivate new local economies fuelled by small businesses.

Senate of Canada

A national approach to heritage

In recent years, ERA has looked beyond Toronto, and even beyond Ontario, to bring a national approach to our work. Our offices in Ottawa and Montreal, where we have a partnership with Kubanek Architecte, have been growing, and we’ve taken on new and exciting work in Alberta. These projects range from largescale architecture work at the University of Alberta, to more community-based placemaking and adaptive re-use projects in Banff.

ERA hosted an opening session on affordability and resilience in our tower blocks at the office.

Resource sharing and collaboration

At its centre, heritage conservation is a collaborative process. We learn best practices, new techniques and innovative ideas from our heritage colleagues across the globe. This collaboration extends beyond the heritage field and into how we approach all our projects. We work closely in collaboration with our teams to better understand the challenges and needs of our projects in order to reach our full potential.

LGA-AP

 Resiliency in the 21st century

Building more resilient communities requires a collaborative effort, from low energy retrofit of existing buildings, to off-the-grid new homes. Evergreen Brick Works in the heart of the Don Valley floodplain is a shining example of the success of this work. The challenges of updating the buildings on site for 21st century use while incorporating innovative flood management and response solutions could only be accomplished by working across industries.

Our Tower Renewal work has resulted in the retrofit of thousands of units of housing as healthy, resilient and low energy homes. This includes the Ken Soble Tower, North America’s first Passive House tower retrofit, now under construction.

Resiliency doesn’t just mean preparing for a changing climate, but also building infrastructure that allows for support networks to flourish. Upgrading the existing spaces for accessibility in all our projects is core to our practice. Many of our Tower Renewal projects include building accessible community spaces like sport courts and mixed-use rooms to encourage connection between residents, many of whom are elderly and at an increased risk of social isolation.

While these themes may encapsulate some of our work from the past 30 years, they also provide a look into what the next 30 years may have in store. We look forward to building upon these approaches and continuing to celebrate our cultural heritage and values with you — our collaborators, clients and community.

To our clients and colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 and ERA Architects: Our Work Plan

Dear Clients and Colleagues,

Arising from the continued spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization’s ‘global pandemic’ declaration, the State of Emergency called for the Province of Ontario and health emergency declaration by the Province of Québec, ERA Architects Inc has been working to adapt our work practices in order to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the potential spread of the virus. These practices will ensure the quality of our work remains high and we are able to continue serving the needs of you, our clients and colleagues.

To achieve this, ERA will be moving primarily into a virtual office mode, with meetings conducted by conference call or video software. As always, our team of architects, planners and specialists are on call and fully mobilized. Required in person meetings, such as architectural site visits, will be conducted following best practices in health, and in partnership with clients and constructors to ensure the health and safety of all parties.

Be assured that ERA’s commitment to you is to keep the caliber of work high; to understand and respond to changes beyond our control as quickly as possible; and work with our clients and colleagues to address these issues on a project-by-project basis. Our shared deadlines and goals are important to us, and we are making the changes needed to both adhere to the advice of Health Canada, the Ontario Health Agency and Toronto Public Health, and keep our workflow moving.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

ERA Architects Inc.

Senate of Canada Building receives international recognition with 2020 Civic Trust Award

Photo: Doublespace Photography

The Senate of Canada Building has been awarded a 2020 Civic Trust Award, the longest-running international awards program recognizing outstanding architecture, planning and design in the built environment.

The award was given to Public Services and Procurement Canada, Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects on Friday, March 6 in Manchester. The Senate of Canada Building was just one of two North American projects to win the award. As heritage architects on the project, ERA is thrilled to congratulate our project partners on such a notable achievement.

Constructed in 1912 as Ottawa’s Union Station, the Senate of Canada Building is one of the most important cultural and historic landmarks in Ottawa. The building is an excellent example of the Beaux-Arts railway station tradition, popular in the early 20th century. In 1966, with the decline of passenger railway travel, the building narrowly escaped demolition and was converted into the Government Conference Centre. The former station has since been refurbished to accommodate the Senate of Canada during the rehabilitation of the Centre Block.

The interior of the Senate of Canada

ERA worked as heritage architects from 2014 until 2018 together with Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects in joint venture. Our work included a full rehabilitation of the building’s exterior and interior, ensuring it could appropriately accommodate the Senate of Canada.

The building was recognized by the Civic Trust Awards Panel for its adaptive re-use: “A bold re-use of an old building which recognises the gravitas of the original can be repurposed for social and environmental benefit, with a strong identity and a real architectural clarity,” read the comments.

We’re thrilled to add the Civic Trust Award to the building’s accolades. Read about the award from Diamond Schmitt and learn more about ERA’s work on the Senate of Canada Building project.

Affordability and resiliency: Renewing Toronto’s towers

Photo courtesy Jesse Colin Jackson

Over time, Canada’s aging mid-century towers have become the backbone of the country’s affordable rental supply, home to hundreds of thousands of low and middle-income households across the country.  

There are 2,000 postwar apartment towers located throughout Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe Region alone, representing nearly half of the region’s affordable rental stock. In 2006, more than 40 per cent of tower households in the city are considered low-income, up from 25 per cent in 1981. As the housing crisis continues to mount, it’s only imaginable that this number continues to rise. Maintaining these largely privately-owned buildings to ensure their continued affordability is a vital and necessary part of improving Toronto’s housing ecosystem.

A tower

ERA’s Tower Renewal projects focus on rehabilitating these aging and neglected towers, creating comfortable, affordable and healthy homes for residents. These tower renewal projects also include energy-efficient and low-carbon retrofits that help maintain affordability while limiting the impact on the environment.

Through the Tower Renewal Partnership, ERA collaborated with the City of Toronto and ULI Toronto to host a week of events focused on exploring how we can better retrofit our apartment towers in order to create a more resilient city. 

A group of people in a meeting

ERA hosted an opening session on affordability and resilience in our tower blocks at the office.

The week culminated with an Advisory Panel on Friday, February 28, where experts focused on solutions, providing a series of recommendations to the City to encourage broad investment in the improvement of private apartment towers while maintaining rents at affordable levels.

The recommendations emphasized the importance of acting swiftly when it comes to retrofitting these towers. They include: incentivizing higher levels of affordability and accessibility, accelerating tower renewal with a retrofit program and more. Watch the presentation below, and for the full list of recommendations, visit the Tower Renewal Partnership website.

These conversations could not have been held at a more critical time. This week, residents began to return home to their building at 650 Parliament Street following an August 2018 electrical fire.

Graeme Stewart on CBC Radio.

The displacement of the building’s more than 1,500 residents paints a clear picture of the potential future of some of our towers if they are not upgraded to ensure they remain safe and affordable for Torontonians. ERA principal Graeme Stewart was interviewed on CBC Radio’s The World at Six about Tower Renewal and 650 Parliament. 

A group touring a tower neighbourhood in Toronto

Learn more about the Tower Renewal Partnership, and the Advisory Panel event, and explore more ERA tower renewal projects.

Celebrating Laskay through Memory’s Gate

Residents and Small artists gather at the opening of Laskay's Gate

Public art has the ability to represent and celebrate the identity of a place. As an architecture firm specializing in built heritage and cultural values, we are increasingly interested in how art and other placemaking interventions can not only represent unique histories but do so in a way that transforms underused spaces into thriving places for community.

We’re seeing this idea come to fruition through Small, which works with communities to express cultural heritage in a tangible way.

In November, local residents, the Township of King and Small celebrated the opening of Memory’s Gate, a new public art installation in Laskay, a rural village located northwest of Toronto. 

Together with the Township of King’s Parks, Recreation and Culture department and the public art committee, Small created an architectural installation that recognizes the heritage of the village – both intangible and tangible.

Memory’s Gate is a weathered steel archway etched with lines from the poem that served as its inspiration – “Musings at Memory’s Gate” by King City’s Reverend Martin Jenkinson. The poem, written in 1953 and included in the Laskay Women’s Institute 60th Anniversary Portfolio in 1968, speaks to community connectivity across generations.

The Memory's Gate structure in Laskay.

The Gate connects tangible and intangible heritage of the village with the ever-changing landscape of the Humber River Valley. The artists hope to inspire contemplation and reflection for those who take rest upon the bench, which is fastened to a boulder that once sat outside the historic Laskay hall.

We’re thrilled the piece is already sparking conversation and remembrance for the Laskay community. At the unveiling, community members gathered to hear about the piece and to share their own memories of the village from decades past.

ERA and Small would like to thank those who helped shape the project along the way, as well as the Township of King for the wonderful placemaking opportunity. A special thank you to the Laskay Women’s Institute, who granted the reproduction rights of the poem on the gate and bench, and to FILOTIMO for providing excellent collaborative approach to Memory Gate’s fabrication and installation.

Finally, congratulations to the artists who brought this work to life: Stuart Chan, Jasmine Frolick, Max Yuristy, Carl Shura and Heather Campbell.

Learn more about Small, a initiative developed by ERA that works with rural and remote communities across Canada to express their unique cultural values, whether that be through artistic installations like Memory’s Gate, or with the revitalization of local main streets and creation of visionary masterplans.