ERA Architects

The future of Ontario Place

Mark Medley had a piece in the Saturday Post exploring the future of Ontario Place. He quotes a number of local practitioners, including ERA’s Michael McClelland.

Perhaps we should revisit the past when deciding the future. Michael McClelland of E.R.A. Architects thinks we should look at Zeidler’s original blueprint.

“My hope would be that they’d reinvest in the original ideas,” he says, “and figure out how to improve them, rather then go, ‘That’s all crap; we’re going to take it all away.’ ”

McClelland also points to Zeidler’s unbuilt Harbour City project, which would have created a neighbourhood of 60,000 people on what is now the Toronto Island Airport; [project spokesperson Hugh] Mansfield says plans that include residential elements will not be dismissed.

Read the full article ‘Once a gem, now generally forgotten, what could the future hold for Ontario Place?

Two Sheds

Completed just before he joined ERA, one of Joey Giaimo’s projects is featured in the July issue of Canadian Architect.

Bred from his Masters thesis work at UBC,

which considered residual or underutilized space in the city and how it could be redesigned in ways not typically considered to connect with adjacent spaces, Giaimo proposed that the sheds be constructed of customary, practical materials to blend in with the industrial context of the neighbourhood–but in an unconventional way to challenge current approaches to these stereotypical ancillary structures and create meaningful public engagement or activity.

“Formally, sheds are boring structures–strictly utilitarian,” says Giaimo. “The project questions this understanding and how design could inform a rethinking of this building type.”

Read the full article ‘Two Sheds Are Better Than One‘ by Clare Tattersall here.

Marble Madness

[Unfortunately, not this kind of Marble Madness]

A number of ERAers got together to do a group order of reclaimed Carrara marble from First Canadian Place.  All 45,000 2′ x 4′ marble panels are currently being removed from the tower, and will soon be replaced by larger glass panels.  A slick animation of the process is available here.  The reclaimed marble is available for public purchase, with a minimum order of 30 pieces.

We look forward to seeing what everyone does with their new/old marble; expect coffee tables and counter-tops galore.  Hopefully Toronto is soon awash in re-used Carrara marble.  A few words of warning for anyone else looking to get in on the fun: the batch delivery process was convoluted and involved many delays, the individual slabs were a real challenge to move once delivered (each weighing +200lbs, depending upon varying thicknesses), and the chipped, soiled, and broken condition of many of the slabs limit their re-use potential – though with a bit of effort it’s a unique opportunity to get to work with high-grade locally-sourced recycled material at an extreme bargain price.

Narrow Streets

David Yoon has produced a series of retouched photographs illustrating how streets in LA would look and feel at imaginary, narrower widths. One might also think of them as a very effective demonstration of urban priorities – the built reality of the North American prioritization of the automobile versus human-scale livability. See more at his blog.

MLG in Canadian Architect

Conceptual collage of overlapping 1930s and contemporary MLG streetscapes at the corner of Church and Carlton (including Humphrey Bogart biking by, just for good measure). William MacIvor, ERA Architects.

The on-going adaptive reuse of Maple Leaf Gardens is featured in the June edition of Canadian Architect.

ERA Architects has signed on to deal with the restoration of the façade and the canopy. … [A]bout one-fifth of the bricks will be repointed, [and] much of the material can be salvaged from the new openings for loading bays and air intake vents. The upper level fenestration will be refitted with double-glazed vintage steel industrial windows. ERA is also developing a restoration plan for the oft-renovated entrance canopy that brings its appearance (including fonts) back to the Gardens’ heyday from the 1940s to the 1960s.


The current state of internal excavation, and preliminary shoring & foundation work. ERA Architects.

King Edward Hotel in the Globe & Mail

Dave Leblanc had an article on the redevelopment of the King Edward Hotel in yesterdays Globe and Mail.

The hotel – ventilation, colonnades and all – opened in May 1903 and was advertised as “absolutely fire-proof” (built of steel and concrete) to calm guests fearful of staying on upper floors. It had everything: Women-only areas for solo female travelers, lavish murals, a men’s barber shop, the Palm Room, the Oak Room bar and, of course, the exquisite Rotunda. In 1921, the 18-storey “skyscraper” addition, designed by a Buffalo, N.Y. and a London, Ontario firm, was tacked onto the east side of the hotel; until being eclipsed by the Royal York in 1929, the King Eddy was the largest hotel in the country. The Crystal Ballroom on the 18th floor set a new standard, and celebrities from Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor partied there.

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.


Rendering by The Design Agency.

Read the full article “Old King Eddy shows how to mix business and history” from the May 27, 2010, edition of the Globe and Mail here.

Toronto the Good 2010

ERA is hosting its annual Toronto the Good party with Spacing Magazine, the Toronto Society of Architects, the National Film Board, Ben McNally books, and David Vallee.

The Toronto the Good 2010 party will be held concurrently with the Authors at Harbourfront series, that includes presentations from:

Margaret and Phil Goodfellow
A Guidebook to Contemporary Modern Architecture in Toronto

Shawn Micallef
Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto

NFB Filmmaker-in-residence Katerina Cizek
The Thousandth Tower web documentary

Wednesday May 26, 2010 _ 6pm to midnight

free admission to the party _ catering by David Vallee _ cash bar

York Quay Centre at
Harbourfront Centre
235 Queens Quay West

For more information please visit:
http://www.era.on.ca
http://www.readings.org

Save the date – further details to follow!


Brickworks in the news again

Today’s Globe and Mail features an article by Angela Kryhul about the ongoing development at the Evergreen Brick Works; Brick Works fired up for the future, including an informative time-line of the historic evolution of the site.

From the article:

William Taylor was digging holes for fence posts one day when he came across a type of clay that he suspected would make a high-quality brick. His hunch proved correct and in 1889 William and his brothers John and George started a quarry and factory that, for nearly 100 years, churned out bricks and kiln-fired clay products used to build Canadian landmarks such as the Ontario Legislature and Osgoode Hall.

But the once bustling Don Valley Brick Works was abandoned in 1984. The jumble of dilapidated brick buildings and metal sheds sat idle for close to three decades until Evergreen – a national charity devoted to greening communities – approached the City of Toronto with a proposal to reinvent the site as a showplace for urban sustainability.

That transformation is now taking shape as the Evergreen Brick Works is readied for a September grand opening. Forest, meadow and wetlands occupy the northern part of the 16-hectare property, which was once the clay and shale quarry. To the south is the cluster of 16 heritage-designated buildings, 12 of which are being redeveloped as part of the $55-million project.

As Heritage Architect for the project, ERA continues to work diligently behind the scenes to ensure that the built history and cultural heritage of the site are celebrated through the final development.

In a related aside, ERA is also working on the redevelopment and rehabilitation of the John F. Taylor house, built by the son of John Taylor Sr.  Later additions to the original Taylor House will be demolished, and the existing site will be landscaped and improved to make the site more usable, and to enhance views of the house from Broadview Avenue.

photograph courtesy of the Toronto Archives.

Glass & Glazing in the 21st Century

Andrew recently attended the Glass & Glazing in the 21st Century: Design and preservation of Contemporary and Historic Architecture conference at MIT, and gave us an overview of the highlights at this week’s Friday social hour.

The conference presenters were a diverse group including architects, engineers, designers, manufacturers and fabricators working on projects that explore the properties of glass and how it can alter light, insulate envelopes and compose leading edge structures.

A selection of projects by conference presenter James Carpenter.

This was tempered with participation from conservationist who are engaged in trying to solve the significant problems encountered in early modern buildings that use significant amounts of glass. Finally, there was a day long immersion into stained glass conservation practices in the US and Europe.

Bigelow Chapel at the Mount Auburn Cemetery

Undoing the Gardens

Since the story has leaked, we feel safe enough revealing some photographs of the interior demolition at Maple Leaf Gardens. These photographs were taken approximately three weeks ago, and work is on-going..

Though the destruction looks ‘apocalyptic’, it is all being performed in an extremely careful and controlled manner, and in the service of future renewal.  The renovated facility will be jointly owned by Loblaws and Ryerson University, and will feature retail facilities at the ground floor with a university sports complex above, including an ice rink on the upper level beneath the central dome.

More images after the jump.

Continue reading…

Parkwood in the news

Dave LeBlanc has an excellent article in the Globe and Mail today about one of our favorite projects, the Parkwood National Historic Site.

Parkwood National Historic Site was built in 1916 as the home of the late R. S. McLaughlin, founder of General Motors Canada. The building, designed by prominent Toronto architects Darling and Pearson, now serves as a historic house museum, with a collection that includes original furniture, paintings, and tapestries. ERA has provided professional conservation services for the site, including the restoration of the stone grand stair case and terrace overlooking the Water Garden, designed by John Lyle.

Read In Oshawa, an automobile pioneer’s Xanadu

Dispatchwork

Though perhaps not exactly in-line with the Ministry of Culture’s Ontario Heritage Tool Kit procedures or the guidelines set forth in the Burra Charter, these temporary masonry repairs in Bocchignano, Italy are a series of wonderfully playful gestures.



photographs via Jan Vormann

ps: How do you write a spec for Lego?

After you left, they took it apart

Buffalo photographer Chris Mottalini has produced an astoundingly beautiful and poignant set of images from now-demolished Paul Rudolph homes in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Florida. The images speak for themselves:

In Chris’ own words:

My intent was to pay homage to Paul Rudolph and his work, as well as the more abstract and elusive qualities of architecture – decay, destruction, loss, and fragility.

Many more images from the project can be found at Chris Mottalini’s website.

Grant Whatmough 1921-1999

ERA is currently studying the above house by Grant Whatmough, designed for Canadian Homes and Gardens managing editor Gerald Maccabe in 1956.  The Maccabe house is an example of the many early modernist ‘gems’ which are only now being rediscovered in the suburbs around the Greater Toronto Area.

Born in Toronto, Whatmough served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and studied in England after the war.  Upon graduation he practiced in Portsmouth as a Naval Architect, before returning to work in Canada. His career as a designer combined interests in technical innovations and modern aesthetics with a practicability that allowed him to execute a wide range of design and construction projects.

From 1953 onward Whatmough worked independently as an Architect in Ontario. His focus was on suburban and estate homes, though he also completed a number of commercial projects. Not satisfied with established building contractors, Whatmough also founded a small construction company to execute his commissions. He revisited his earlier interest in marine design in completing a floating offshore drilling rig, tug and fire boats, and a research vessel for Radar Explorations Limited of Toronto. Commercial projects included industrial plants in Oakville, Port Credit and Islington, studios for an Oakville radio station and alterations to retail stores.

Available records show that Whatmough’s commissions focused in the areas of Oakville, Burlington, and Milton. He also designed a number of commercial buildings in Toronto. However, more research is required to establish a complete record of his career.

In honour of Whatmough, this week at ERA our Friday afternoon social hour became Friday afternoon at the movies: we watched an episode of the 1957 CBC program Open House that George had unearthed from the CBC Archives.  The show featured interviews with three of Whatmough’s clients, including the Maccabes, and tours of three of his houses. It also included the mandatory posed, awkward shots of the architect in his studio, redrawing existing lines (with OAA certification propped conveniently on the drafting table) and leaning down to consider a model of his own work.

Favorite line from the episode:  “Your pool is very inviting Jim, but so is your wife’s tea.”

Two other houses designed by Whatmough can be found near the Maccabe House, on Argyle and Barrington streets. The house on Argyle Drive, which looks on to Lake Ontario, was designed for Jim Floyd – lead designer of the (in)famously abandoned Avro Arrow.

2011.08.23: Edited title to remove the middle initial P, as per comment below.

Evergreen Brick Works

Construction and conservation work are ongoing down at the Evergreen Brick Works, and the project has recently been attracting a good deal of attention. The Toronto Star reports today that National Geographic Traveler named Evergreen Brick Works a Top 10 destination for sustainable travel, and ERA was present for the recent royal site visit from HRH The Prince of Wales.


The Prince gives the Brick Works Farmers’ Market produce the Royal review.

ERA is currently working to stabilize the south east corner of Building 11, which will be adjacent to the new site entrance and welcome centre.


Building 11, as it currently stands

The floors between building 14 and 15 have been excavated and prep work is underway for the new greenways.

ERA is also working with Shawn Selway, of Pragmata Historic Machinery Conservation, to develop a conservation strategy and interpretation of the Martin A. Brick Machine.



The Martin A. Brick Press

Work is ongoing, so check back soon for further updates…

People per Hectare _ Installation Documentation


We often talk about density in terms of numerical ratios, or other quantitative abstractions. Our intention here is to try and map the spatial experience of specific densities to their numerical signifiers, and then relate these examples directly to similar conditions in Toronto.

Continue reading the full post below for expanded versions of the neighbourhood and density studies shown at the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibition.

Continue reading…

People per Hectare _ Toronto by Numbers

Density is one of the key tools currently used for planning cities. Architects, planners, and policy makers all use density as a calibration of the city.

We want to make our cities better, more vital, more full of possibilities. As our cities change, we want to propose change intelligently. To change intelligently, we need to understand density.

For the ERA installation at the Harbourfront Centre, as part of the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibition, we asked our office to contribute examples of places they had recently visited. How did density affect built form? How did density affect the quality of the environment?

We often discuss density in terms of numerical ratios, or other quantitative abstractions. Our intention with this installation is to try and map the spatial experience of specific densities to their numerical signifiers, as free of imported bias (culture, context, etc) as possible.

By assembling this information we are now able to consider: how do Toronto’s neighbourhoods compare?

Please join us for the opening reception:

Friday January 22, 2010
6:00 to 10:00pm

York Quay Centre
235 Queens Quay West

Union Station Train Shed Renewal



The interior of the Union Station Train Shed, shortly after opening.

Completed in 1930, the Union Station Train Shed was designed by Toronto Terminals Railway Assistant Bridge Engineer A.R. Ketterson. The design was a variation on the Bush train shed, invented by American Engineer Lincoln Bush in 1904. Bush sheds replaced the expensive and difficult to maintain, large balloon-framed train sheds that were common in 19th century Europe. Linear smoke ducts directly above the tracks would permit the evacuation of smoke from locomotives while protecting passenger platforms from the elements. Other Bush sheds include: Chicago Union station 1925, Hoboken NJ 1906, Winnipeg 1911, and Montreal Windsor Station.


The western end of the Union Station Train Shed, currently.

ERA, as Heritage Consultant, is responsible for the conservation of the Train Shed as part of Union Station Train Shed Rehabilitation. The Train Shed Rehabilitation is a major part of the 10-year program of repair, restoration and upgrading of the Metrolinx facility and railway corridor.



Original structural steel drawings, above, and portions of the proposed rehabilitation work by ERA, below.

The Train Shed is designated a National Historic Site and is subject to a heritage easement agreement between Parks Canada and Go Transit. The project includes the construction of a new central atrium (designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects), the restoration of the shed over Tracks 1 and 2, and the rehabilitation of the remainder of the shed. Construction is to begin shortly, and is set to last 5 years.



The Union Station Train Shed, before and after revitalization. Prominent features include a large, elevated central atrium space, a through-connection to the Air Canada Center, and the extensive green roof.

Together with the Union Station Revitalization project initiated by the City of Toronto, the changes forthcoming at Union Station will greatly improve the efficiency and user experience of the station. For more information, please see the official Union Station Renewal site.

The Holiday Spirit

ERA celebrated the season with an insiders tour of the Distillery District (an active project in the office since 1995), and an obligatory stop at the Mill St Brewery, followed by a wonderful dinner party at the (perfectly historic) Campbell House.

Thanks go to curator Liz Driver and planner David Vallee, our gracious hosts; it was a great way to kick off the holiday season!

PS: It was all a highly dignified affair up until a certain hour, after which, it devolved (as it always must).  The 2am tequila was not really necessary.

Whatever happens after midnight demands to remain anonymous.

Jerome Markson: Houses and Housing 1955-1980

Legendary architect Jerome Markson came in and gave a presentation on the residential projects produced over the first third of his career – from 1955 up until 1980.

He showcased a number of experimental single family housing designs, and his transition to multi-family and social housing projects. Alexandra Park featured heavily, and we were all eager to learn more about the lessons contained in the project that can be applied to our understanding of our collective urban environment.


1957 _ Housing for Stanrock Mines Ltd.


1959 _ Winston Avenue Residence


1960 _ Saintfield Residence


1962 _ Montressor Drive Residence


1965 _ Alexandra Park Public Housing


1968 _ Folkstone Crescent Stacked Housing


1971 _ Unionville Stacked Housing

In Mr. Markson’s own words, from 1981:

In all of our work we constantly attempt to produce a solution which respects a site, street or ambiance worth respecting, to reflect a client’s needs with warmth and humanness and to recognize that no single solution or architectural approach handles all problems. While striving for innovative design and the use of appropriate construction techniques and materials, we keep an open attitude necessary for creative solutions.

We are very grateful to Mr. Markson for sharing his time and insights with us, and look forward to part two…

All scans above from Jerome Markson Architects: Twenty Five Years of Work.