ERA Architects

Append & tweak: Rethinking heritage in our suburbs

An article by ERA associate Joey Giaimo was recently published in the latest APT Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology International.  The article, “Append & Tweak: An Approach for Preserving the Evolving Suburban Landscape,” asks us to re-evaluate how we regard and manage heritage resources in suburban contexts, and argues for a cultural landscape approach as we move forward. Continue reading…

The Red Mason

Recently, as part of ERA’s ongoing interest in preserving and applying traditional building crafts, we were happy to be involved in heritage masonry workshops led by Dr. Gerard Lynch. Dr. Lynch is an internationally acclaimed historic brickwork consultant, master bricklayer, educator, and author.  He is considered the world’s leading authority of gauged brickwork, and affectionately known by the historic term “The Red Mason.” Continue reading…

Graeme Stewart on “Imagine a City”

This autumn, United Way’s Imagine a City blog is hosting a series of guest writers to discuss a number of important programs related to Toronto’s future as a livable city. Recently ERA’s Graeme Stewart blogged on his vision for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, a program we have been working on in collaboration with partners including the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R), the City of Toronto, Province of Ontario, Toronto Public Health, and United Way Toronto. Continue reading…

Conference in Charleston

Recently Andrew Pruss and Jan Kubanek traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to attend the Association for Preservation Technology International Conference, 2012.

Jan Kubanek presented on Sharon Temple, a fascinating project ERA has had the opportunity to work on for several years. Jan’s presentation focused on the importance of working collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team. In this project, ERA was able to make the best use of our multi-disciplinary team’s combined expertise in traditional construction carpentry and wood conservation. The team included a structural engineer specializing in heritage preservation and a carpenter with extensive experience at the Temple site. Continue reading…

Polychrome brickwork

Following up with more masonry-related topics in honour of an upcoming visit by our friend Gerard Lynch, today’s post is on a distinctive masonry tradition used internationally: polychrome brickwork, the use of usually two, but sometimes three, colours of brick, generally red with buff accents (but the opposite in the image above). Continue reading…

Tuckpointing: a note on detail

This month we are posting on a few masonry-related topics in honour of an upcoming visit by our friend Gerard Lynch, who is leading heritage masonry workshops at Evergreen Brickworks, from October 23 to 31. Today’s post is on an ingenious but little-known art called tuckpointing. The term tuckpointing is often used today as a synonym for repointing, the replacement of old mortar in brickwork. But historically, this term in fact refers to a less common subtlety of the mason’s practice. Continue reading…

Toronto to Detroit

Selection of photos by Lara Herald, Scott Weir, Alana Young, Sydney Martin, Graeme Stewart, Jordan Molnar, Julie Tyndorf, Alec Ring, and Brent Wagler.

Recently a large group of us here at ERA spent a weekend exploring the amazing city of Detroit, Michigan. Founded in 1701, Detroit became a huge industrial and economic engine from the mid-19th century through the automobile boom of the early 20th century. During the 1920s and ‘50s especially, a great deal of stunning modernist architecture was constructed and many of these amazing buildings still stand today. Continue reading…

Community Art Project at the Riverdale Hub

Over the past few months, ERA has had the pleasure of working with the Riverdale Hub on a community revitalization strategy for the Gerrard Bazaar/Little India neighbourhood. The Riverdale Hub is an innovative model for community revitalization that integrates environmental sustainability and social enterprise in order to provide training for new Canadian women and create opportunities for local economic growth and investment. Continue reading…

Health, zoning and urban design: Two new reports released

The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) has announced the release of two reports examining public health, urban policy, and neighbourhood rejuvenation in Toronto:

In partnership with United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health respectively, these reports further research, policy development, and practical strategies to help achieve the potential of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal.

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Kubanek’s new Montreal office

ERA is pleased to announce that Jan Kubanek’s Montreal office has moved to Complexe du Canal Lachine on Rue St. Ambroise in the Saint-Henri neighbourhood. The building was constructed in the late 1800s and was once home to the Alaska Feather and Down company and Simmons Ltd. mattress manufacturers.

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Stone Engravings at Soldiers’ Tower

One of the projects we have been involved with for several years is the ongoing masonry conservation of Soldiers’ Tower, a monument built just to the west of University of Toronto’s Hart House. An interesting aspect of the project has been to catalogue and document hundreds of lines of engraved text on several stone faces within and adjacent to the Tower.

The Tower began construction in 1919 and was designed by Sproatt & Rolph Architects. Funded through donations raised by the University’s Alumni Association and benefactor Vincent Massey, the Tower was completed in 1924.  It is a solid stone masonry structure designed in the Late Gothic Revival style and built to honour members of the University of Toronto who lost their lives in World War I. Additional names where later added in the archway after World War II.

While the Tower, which stands 143 feet tall, is architecturally significant in its own right, the carefully cut engravings, which list the names of 1185 fallen members, are arguably the most important element. So when members of the Soldiers’ Tower Alumni Committee told us that the names had never been recorded, we took the opportunity to do so.

What ensued was a process of ladder climbing, photo-documentation, and numerous careful measurements assembled in a graphic catalogue identifying the content, form, location, and dimensions of each line of engraving.

Having been through this process, we now see the monument not only as a record of our collective past, but also as a carefully constructed work of art. Its typesetting and engraving are artfully conceived and finely crafted, while its scale and grandeur convey with appropriate weight the loss of life in war.

A page from the catalogue of documentary photographs.

For information on Soldiers’ Tower and its annual remembrance service, please see University of Toronto’s Soldiers’ Tower webpage. For images and information on ERA’s work with Soldiers’ Tower, please see our portfolio page.

The city as garden

Recently ERA’s Brendan Stewart gave a talk at Toronto’s Metro Hall, sponsored by LEAF and Park People, on the design potential of trees in cities. After setting the context of modern landscape design, beginning with André Le Nôtre’s French tradition and William Kent’s English tradition, the talk moved on to survey several interesting historical and international projects, including… Continue reading…

Construction and river valley tour, East Scarborough

Photos: Holly Pagnacco

Progress on the East Scarborough Storefront’s (ESS) soon-to-be grapevine pergola is running on time. We have just completed some 50 trellis modules which will form the roof structure for the grapevines to grow on. The youth spent weeks building these modules and have become confident measuring and cutting wood, along with many other skills.

As part of this ongoing learning process, our youth landscapers recently presented on the transformations the community could expect at ESS, including the pergola and deck, which the team has been working on since early July. Participants were surprised and inspired to see the impressive projects community youth are working on.

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Construction begins at the Storefront

Over the past couple of years, ERA has been working with The East Scarborough Storefront (ESS) on the Community Design Initiative (CDI), where Scarborough youth are educated in architecture and design by mentors from ERA, Sustainable.TO, and ArchiTEXT. In the current phase, we are working to bring more shade and plant life to the site. This will include several garden and landscape features, a pergola structure for grapevines, and a green-roof pavilion known as the Sky-o-swale.

Beginning earlier in July, five youth from the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community, who have cumulatively dedicated hundreds of hours to the CDI program, were hired by the ESS for a five-week period to physically build an exterior deck for public use (located under the Sky-o-swale), as well as 50 trellis modules that will form the roof structure for the grapevine pergola.

Continue reading…

Repurposed junk: A chicken coop

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk”
–Thomas Edison.

One thing that attracted us to rural living was a sort of environmental frugality: You try to figure out how to accomplish what needs doing with what you’ve managed to save.  (This notion applies to the practice of heritage conservation as well.)  Hoarding is admittedly easier here than it was in the city: Now we have the garage, the barn, the shed, the back of the lot….  But the idea of turning waste into usefulness (central to the practice of farming as we see it) percolates into all manner of rural living, and provides a close and satisfying connection to our practice, whether working in the garden, tending to our beehive, or building a chicken coop.

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Rum Cake: An ERA bake-off report

Like architecture offices around the globe, ERA Architects occasionally indulges in a bake-off. In these highly competitive events, contestants’ work is assessed and ranked by blind ballot, and the winner is proffered the prestigious Golden Whisk (pictured above, bottom right).

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Planting for an elevated bioswale in Scarborough

On a recent pleasant day in June, ERA joined green roof expert Atom Cianfarani and a group of community youth to plant a nursery in preparation for the future construction of an unusual green-roof shade structure at the East Scarborough Storefront.

Over the past year, we have been working with the Storefront, Sustainable.TO, ArchiTEXT, various volunteers, and youth participants on an exciting project in the tower neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park. Soon we begin construction of a dynamic new environment including a kitchen garden and patio, a bee and butterfly garden, a small orchard, and a unique green-roof pavilion or “Sky-o-swale.”

Continue reading…

Detroit’s new “Creative Ventures” announced

Recently the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) announced the 2012/13 round of its Creative Ventures project. DC3, a partnership between Business Leaders for Michigan and the College for Creative Studies, seeks to enhance the collective potential of Detroit’s creative community and grow its creative economy. This kind of initiative is key to the increasing role that design and applied arts are playing in the rebirth of the city.

Since 2011, ERA’s Scott Weir has been a mentor with DC3 and is actively working to build bridges between the creative communities of Toronto and Detroit. Stay tuned for future developments in this and other projects in Detroit-Windsor.

Community project in Brigus, Newfoundland

Recently Alana Young and Andrew Pruss returned from Brigus, Newfoundland where they worked with a group of Ryerson students to study the interaction of culture, place, history, and landscape. This project was part of an ongoing initiative by ERA and Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) called Culture of Outports, which investigates how architectural thinking can help re-imagine changing economies and cultures.

For more information and detailed documentation of the Brigus project, please see CUG+R’s website.