ERA Architects

“The expression of the mortality of culture is of value to the culture itself.”

Responding to the recently published coffee-table book “The Ruins of Detroit“, Norene Malone has a piece in The New Republic discussing The Case Against Economic Disaster Porn. We might debate her conclusions, but it raises some important discussions.  It is interesting to imagine how, looking perhaps to the historic writings of Alois Riegl, we might approach a more thorough analysis of our contemporary love of the aesthetics of the ruin – and how that speaks to our collective system of values.

Of the theme, Peter J. Thompson has a photo-essay in the National Post, documenting the state of the R.L. Hearn Generating Station.

John Street Square _ Competition Winner Announced

Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik’s proposal for an ‘Urban Ballroom’ has won the Ideas Competition for the John Street Square, located at the corner of John and King. The competition was sponsored by the Entertainment District Business Improvement Association, and is an element of the proposed John Street Cultural Corridor.

ERA developed the idea for the John Street Cultural Corridor in a 2003 cultural mapping study produced for the City of Toronto, entitled ‘Canada’s Urban Waterfront; Waterfront Culture and Heritage Infrastructure Plan‘.

For more information, please see Christopher Hume’s article in today’s Toronto Star.

Vertical Poverty

The United Way released a report today outlining the current state of apartment – tower living in the GTA. The report’s finding are based on several thousand interviews with tower residents, and contains important recommendations to improve the livability of apartment neighbourhoods.

ERA has long been involved with these Tower Neighbourhoods, and has championed the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative from it’s very inception. For further background on the issue, please visit the Tower Renewal Blog, and the Centre for Urban Growth + Renewal website, which features a related Provincial report: Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: An Analysis of High-Rise Apartment Tower Neighbourhoods Developed in the Post-War Boom (1945-1984), released last month.  ERA participated in the United Way Vertical Poverty report as peer reviewer. Similarly, the tower research team at the United Way was a peer reviewer for ERA and planningAlliance’s recent study.

Visit the Vertical Poverty website, where you can download the full report and/or the executive summary in PDF format.

Read the summary articles in the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star.

Loblaws Lakeshore

The Financial Post has a small feature on the Loblaws Groceteria building at Lakeshore and Bathust.  ERA are consulting as Heritage Architects on the developing project. Though Loblaws had no comment for the story, local developer Paul Oberman described the project eloquently:

“I think that’s what heritage preservation is all about. It’s adaptive reuse: breathing a new life into old buildings and spaces,” said Paul Oberman, president and CEO of Woodcliffe Landmark Properties, which was behind such restoration projects as King James Place and the LCBO at the North Toronto Station.

“Cities, urban spaces, they have a rhythm and a texture to them, and I don’t think that we want neighbourhoods that are exclusively high-rise or exclusively low-rise. It’s about weaving an interesting and appropriate urban fabric.”

The ghost of Matta-Clark visits Toronto

As previously mentioned, ERA is involved with the redevelopment and rehabilitation of the John F. Taylor house, and work has now begun on site.

The former east and west additions to the designated building have been removed, and general site preparation is underway. Restoration work is set to begin this spring, where by the heritage home will be returned to a house in the round. More photographs after the jump.

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Welcome to the Brickworks

Each year, the AIAS (American Institute of Architecture Students) hosts a Forum offering architecture students from across North America an opportunity to gather in celebration of the profession.  This year, Ryerson University hosted the Forum in Toronto and welcomed approximately 900 eager American students to Canada’s largest metropolis. ERA participated in this year’s Forum by hosting a building tour at the Don Valley Brickworks.

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2010 Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Awards

E.R.A. Architects and Shoalts Brothers Construction were awarded the Peter Stokes Award for Restoration from the ACO for the exterior restoration of the Miller House, in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The 1817 house is noted in several of Peter Stokes’ publications for its refined architectural quality and evidence of early 19th-century construction techniques and taste. Now part of the Pillar and Post Inn, it was restored by E.R.A. using sound heritage principles and the highest conservation standards.

E.R.A. Architects receiving the award. From left: ACO president Lloyd Alter, Edwin and Jan of ERA Architects, award sponsor Don Hutchison of J D Strachan, and presenting sponsor George Rust-D’Eye of WeirFoulds LLP.

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Home on the range

Scott recently completed a kitchen renovation for a private home in Cabbagetown. Centred around a six burner Wolf range, the space was just wide enough to accommodate a galley format with two runs of extra deep counters, lit by new double hung Kolbe and Kolbe windows.

More photos after the jump..

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The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R)

ERA Architects and planningAlliance have launched the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) website.

CUG+R is a non-profit research organization formed in 2009 to conduct cross-disciplinary research to further knowledge about the creation and renewal of sustainable urban, suburban and rural environments in Canada and elsewhere. CUG+R’s objective is to develop research to enhance public policy and promote private initiatives that foster City Regions and local communities that are: well planned and designed, economically vibrant, socially diverse, culturally integrated and environmentally sustainable.

CUG+R officially launched in December 2010 with the release of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, a report jointly prepared by CUG+R’s founding partners, ERA Architects and planningAlliance, and the launch of cugr.ca.


www.cugr.ca will showcase research work the founding firms have undertaken together and individually, as well as those of partners, collaborators, and increasingly work unique to CUG+R as it expands and evolves.

CUG+R also works in collaboration with the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto; an umbrella organization that combines researchers from the University’s urban focused faculties to engage in projects that affect positive change in the Toronto region and urban Canada.

Picton Main Street

Meandering this morning through the Archives of the Ontario  I came across these  great pictures of Picton’s Main Street at the turn of the century.

Parade (1905)

H. B. Wright & Co. storefront (between 1898-1920)

Picton Methodist Church and tourist office (between 1898 and 1920)

The Millionth Tower

ERA (in association with the Centre for Urban Growth + Renewal) has been working with the National Film Board on their documentary project HighRise, which looks at the experience of living in post war concrete towers around the world.

Currently, ERA, CUG+R, and the National Film Board are working with the Kipling Towers community in north Etobicoke to produce the forthcoming web documentary The Millionth Tower; a follow up to the powerful web documentary, The 1000th Tower.

While The 1000th Tower brings the viewer inside the lives of six tower residents, sharing stories of their present experience, The Millionth Tower will showcase the bold ideas that the residents have in re-imagining what their neighbourhood could become in the future. ERA and CUG+R have been helping to inspire the community to dream big, and providing design guidance to help communicate their ideas. Look for The Millionth Tower to be launched in 2011.

Allstream Centre _ restoration photographs


A few very quick photographs from the restoration of the former Automotive Building north lobby. This part of the project included the removal of a number of unsympathetic modern additions, and a significant regrading of the original floor slope to accommodate contemporary universal accessibility requirements.  Extensive metal work and finishes were also replicated or restored (including the amazing pendant light fixtures seen in the bottom-most photograph), and new windows installed replicating the original design and colour.

More images after the jump.

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John Street Square _ Design Competition Finalists

The five finalists for the John Street Square Design Ideas Competition have been revealed on-line.  It is now up to you to vote for your favorite redesign of this important but underutilized public space at the strategic intersection of King and John Streets. Voting closes on January 9th, 2011, but until then you’re allowed to vote once/day. Vote early and vote often!

ERA developed the idea for the John Street Cultural Corridor in a 2003 cultural mapping study produced for the City of Toronto, entitled ‘Canada’s Urban Waterfront; Waterfront Culture and Heritage Infrastructure Plan‘.

The image above is from finalist #4, titled “Entertain Me”.
 

Download North York’s Modernist Architecture Revisited

Download the full 2010 edition of North York’s Modernist Architecture Revisited in PDF format.  A hard-copy of this booklet was made available at the November 9th, 2010 North York Modernist Architecture Forum.

North York’s Modernist Architecture Revisited is an extension of and complements ERA’s 2009 reprinting of the original 1997 report and inventory.  It includes current photographs of over 200 buildings from the original inventory plus additional notable buildings built between 1945 and 1981 in North York.  Also included is a proposed heritage policy strategy, biographies of several prominent architects, and an essay on North York’s modernist beginnings.

Please note that North York’s Modernist Architecture Revisited includes over 300 photographs, and the PDF is quite large.  At 32mb, the file may take some time to download.

Hidden Architectural Gems

As part of our exploration of the County and surrounding areas, we recently had the opportunity to visit a few true architectural gems – Otto Roger’s artist studio by architect Siamak Hariri and the Bata Residence (in Batawa) by architect John B. Parkin.

The Bata residence (currently being documented by Carleton University students) is a remarkable and well preserved example of Parkin’s residential work.  Located up on the hill, the residence boats an incredible view overlooking the Town of Batawa.  And though it is modest in size, it is clear that every detail was considered.  A few memorable attributes include the family shoe closet (but of course), the bathroom colours, and the custom designed dining table.

The artist studio by Hariri was another fantastic discovery.  Here we found a building, again modest and finely articulated, quietly nestled into the woods.  But what was breath-taking was how the intimacy with nature extended into the studio with the light and the glow of the autumn coloured leaves.

Both these visits, unique and inspiring in their own ways, confirmed to me there is indeed a special ‘sense of place’ here.  And that it is exemplified not just in our loyalist building stock, but also in our more recent architectural contributions.

 

Maple Leaf Gardens _ Heritage Interpretation Plan


Alexandra Studio Fonds; 1257, series 1057, item 4737

Built in 1931, Maple Leaf Gardens quickly became a social and cultural hub in the city, and it is no overstatement to say that the wide variety of events held there over the ensuing decades influenced the cultural development of the nation.  Best known as the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team from 1931 to 1999, the Gardens also hosted political rallies, large religious congregations and assemblies, military drills, and pageants.  The large, clear-span arena provided the setting for every conceivable form of musical entertainment, from the Metropolitan Opera to Metallica.  It was also the battleground for boxers, wrestlers and runners, and has hosted innumerable bicycle races, tennis matches, ice follies, basketball games, rodeos, ballets, bingos, and circuses.  The building is widely acknowledged as a local and national landmark, and has been recognized as a National Historic Site.  As part of the on-going Maple Leaf Gardens adaptive reuse project by Loblaws and Ryerson University, ERA is currently developing the Heritage Interpretation Plan to celebrate the rich history of the Gardens as a series of moments and stories distributed throughout both new owner spaces.

In doing our research and combing through the mountains of audio/visual content associated with the building from the past eighty years, we’ve come across some pretty amusing photographs.  This is one of our favorites, found at the City of Toronto Archives.  Who is … The Legionnaire Mystery Man?

 

The Colours of the Allandale Train Station

As part of the strategy to restore the Allandale Train Station, ERA is working to identify the exterior paint scheme, as it would have appeared in 1905.  At the office social hour last Friday, Alana described how preliminary research uncovered clues to the original building colouration from a variety of sources including; archival photographs, newspaper clippings and postcards.

Additionally, ERA consulted with a professional paint analyst.  She analyzed paint samples removed from various locations on the buildings to accurately determine the original 1905 colours.

The combination of archival resources and physical samples has informed a colour scheme that uses four main colours – consistent with the standard corporate colours of the Grand Trunk Railroad.

The three buildings in the station complex were not all built at the same time.  The brick office building to the far right in the illustration above pre-dates the restaurant (middle) and passenger depot (left).  The original brick building was also decorated with Chinese screenings around windows, doors and along the fascia under the roofline.  These stencils may be restored at a later date.

The Brick Works _ from academia to practice

Here at ERA, we seek to operate at the fine and blurred line between the realms of theory and practice.  Two ERAers are currently teaching design studios at the Daniels School of Architecture at the University of Toronto, and a number of employees in the office have been able to continue working on large-scale projects that they originally investigated at school.   For example, Kirsty‘s masters design thesis Postproduction: the adaptive renewal of industrial-purpose built architecture looked at the rediscovery of Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works. Her theoretical proposal encompassed sustainable re-use strategies that were developed through an extensive study into the history and current state of the site.

Factory production of the early twenty-first century was generally linear and parochial.  The architecture of these factories was designed to be functional, flexible, and subservient to the processes housed within. Industrial production tended to follow a sequence of gathering resources, mixing the parts, producing the product, and distributing the product.  Process buildings at resource extraction sites were constantly in flux, and for the most part this led to dereliction once the resource was exhausted. Owing to the initiative of Evergreen, the re-imagined complex has now become a vehicle for the propagation of sustainable ideas. Clay is no longer the resource. The Brick Works site itself has become the resource; an amazing landscape and raw space full of opportunity.

ERA has been working on the Evergreen Brick Works project for over a decade now.  Since joining the firm, Kirsty has been able to continue working on the adaptive re-use of these structures, and their transfer from industrial production to cultural opportunity.  The rehabilitation of the Brick Works buildings and artifacts is an on-going process of renewal.  Significant rehabilitation work remains, but this past fall Evergreen were able to move into their new home, and have opened their doors seven days a week to the community.

King Edward Hotel condo conversion receives top marks.

Christopher Hume, in his Toronto Star Condo Critic column, has given the ongoing King Eddy condo conversion project an ‘A’ grade.

Though it was a social and business centre of Edwardian Toronto; for decades it never quite fitted in as anything more than the Grande Dame of King St. In the 21st century, that’s all changed. The gilded splendour of the old King Edward now shines brighter than ever. Who wouldn’t want to live there? If that isn’t an idea that occurred to anyone sooner, it is definitely one whose time has come.

Three floors of the hotel building which had previously been commercial space are being redeveloped as private condominiums.  ERA are the architects-in-charge of the project, with The Design Agency handling interior design.

Read the full article.

Our First Stop: 2335 County Road 10

2335 County Rd. 10 circa 1898

Circa 1898

Summer 2010

Summer 2010

Before we dive into the Settler’s Dream, however, it seems that we should begin by “writing what we know”: our own house on County Road 10, located almost exactly between Cherry Valley and Milford.

 

The eastern portion of our house (currently the office) is thought to be some 150 years old, and the central and western portions thought to have been added about 50 years later. Kitchen and dining functions occupied the centre, while the west was used as a wood shed (ground floor) and a chicken coop (second storey). The western third was fully incorporated as an interior space in 2004, when its then new owners renovated inside and out. The first photo shows the house c.1898, “on occasion of new drive shed” (demolished 2004) in the foreground, and if one squints, one can see some young locust trees that eventually come to their modern prominence.