ERA Architects

The Settler’s Dream

The ERA Prince Edward County office is up and running (and running and running). And running.

ERA PEC is a whole new adventure, and everywhere we look there is something new (or old) and beautiful and unique. We can’t turn around without seeing something we haven’t seen before. This blog will be a record of our discoveries, our projects, and provide a snapshot of local life through an architectural lens.

But first – a little background how it all began.

Ontario’s only island county, “The County” (as it is locally referred to) would first have been occupied by indigenous peoples as soon as retreating glaciers allowed, and evidence of these early occupiers dates back some 11,000 years. The County was originally a peninsula, only gaining island status with the construction of the Murray Canal in the late 1880s, fully 100 years after settlement by United Empire Loyalists, mercenaries, and other immigrants from (predominantly) the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The information above was taken from The Settler’s Dream, the local authority on the built heritage of the County. To help us explore our new home (and all its wonders), we will use this as our guide — visiting the places described in the Settler’s Dream to see how (or if) they have changed.

PEC Picnic for ERA’s 20th Anniversary

ERA celebrated twenty years in operation with a picnic at our new office in Picton. The Toronto branch (and their respective significant others and extended families) made the journey east for a fine day in the county, which included tours of historic properties, a huge barbeque, and a sampling of delicious local wines.

Here’s to the next twenty!

Toronto Densities Map now available for download

Developed for ERA’s People Per Hectare installation at Harbourfront last fall, this gigantic map compares densities across a sample of Toronto neighbourhoods.  Using familiar local examples, it was developed to illustrate the very abstract concept of a quantitative density value – and to question what exactly that value might tell us about neighbourhood livability.  Copies of the map have been in constant demand by visitors to both the exhibition and to our offices, where it has found a permanent home.

Now you too can download the map and print your very own copy – in either 3″x6″ postcard, 11″x17″ tabloid, or 36″x18″ poster size.

The Allenby, to the Roxy, to the Allenby

With the historic marquee now back in place, the Allenby has been catching a good bit of attention recently.

From Christopher Hume’s piece Tim does its bit on the Danforth, in the Toronto Star:

Cleaned up and nicely restored, the Allenby looks better than it has in years. The 1930s art deco movie house is no masterpiece, but it has character and exuberance. As is so often the case with these old cinemas, the building is all façade. With its streamlined symmetry and classic marquée cantilevered over the entrance, it is a relic from another age. Though only 75 years old, the Allenby comes from a time when movies weren’t such an industrial pursuit. It also speaks of a moment when architecture was allowed to be entertaining.

The modernists would soon do away with that, another reason why the former Roxy remains one of a tiny handful of architectural highlights on the Danforth. Most of the street is lined with two- and three-storey boxes of the sort that can be found throughout Toronto.

ERA has been working on the restoration and adaptive re-use of the Allenby (aka Roxy) Cinema since 2006.  The façade was entirely restored and greatly re-built, as the cinema had originally been hastily built at the tail end of the great depression.  The entire marquee sign was replaced, as well as the vitrolite glass at the ground floor window storefronts.  The terrazzo floors are being refurbished at the exterior lobby, and the interior lobby has been retained and is being re-used as the new Tim Horton’s component of Esso’s Gas station to the west of the property. The ticket booth is also being reinstated.

Though Hume’s article mentions that this is just a façade – in reality the first bay of structure was retained, proving to be both a modern engineering feat and a very effective and unique method for preserving  an old cinema that features an exterior lobby and ticket booth.

Katie Daubs also had a story in the Star; Wanted on ‘other’ Danforth: More foot-powered traffic, which focuses on the Allenby as a key component in the neighbourhood’s burgeoning rejuvenation.

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…