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Accessibility & Heritage Conservation

How do we integrate universal accessibility with heritage conservation principles? ERA explored this topic in a two-day workshop at the Willowbank School in Niagara. ERA Associates Daniel Lewis and Douglas de Gannes worked with the second-year students to develop feasibility reports for two sites: The Laura Secord School and the Battle Ground Hotel Museum.

The workshop gave students a comprehensive overview of the legislation, process, approaches, and examples of barriers to accessibility. Barriers are more than just physical, and often they are rooted in societal attitudes and practices, which can sometimes be addressed through thoughtful design considerations. The students learned about two design solutions: barrier free design (with no physical obstacles) and universal design (accessibility for all people regardless of age, disability or other factors).

The Canada Life Building, 330 University Ave, Toronto.

The Canada Life Building, 330 University Ave, Toronto.

To give the students a better sense of what this design approach could look like, we reviewed ERA projects like the Canada Life Building (330 University Avenue, Toronto). Often, accessible entrances are placed in areas of the building other than the principal entrance, a practice that is now widely regarded as a human rights issue. Adding an accessible ramp to the front of the building, without negatively impacting the existing site’s architecture, demonstrates a commitment to accessibility and heritage conservation. The design has minimal impact and is reversible, a core element of heritage conservation, and the ramp design complements the character-defining elements of the building.

7 St Thomas, Toronto (the Sultan Street houses).

Another great example ERA shared with the students is the Sultan Street houses in Toronto. In this case, the stairs of the front entrance were removed entirely, and the doorways lowered to the ground level. This approach also offers an opportunity for interpretive design. For example, a small sliver of the stairs remains, which creates an ongoing dialogue on improving accessibility.

After reviewing these ERA projects, the students got the chance to apply their knowledge. They conducted their own accessibility audits and conservation assessments on the two historic sites and will use this information to produce a feasibility report as their final project.

This hands-on learning experience for the Willowbank students is part of a larger conversation about the importance and necessity of accessibility when it comes to heritage conservation strategies, and using design as an opportunity to promote equal access for all.

An Award-Winning Heritage Week

This past week, amidst annual #HeritageWeek events, ERA was proud to receive honours from both the City of Ottawa and the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Trust for four significant projects completed in 2018.

 

On Tuesday, February 19, the Ottawa Heritage Awards were presented for “outstanding contributions to the restoration and conservation of Ottawa’s heritage properties.” ERA’s Victoria Angel and Jan Kubanek received recognition for our roles on the National Arts Centre’s addition with Diamond-Schmitt Architects, and the extensive conservation and rehabilitation of the new Senate of Canada Building (formerly the Government Conference Centre) with DSA-KWC.

National Arts Centre,
Ottawa Heritage Award of Excellence 2018

In 2014, the NAC Rejuvenation project was announced in anticipation of Canada’s 150th celebration in 2017. The transformation included improved spaces for performance, new wings for audience and presentation events, and a new entrance on Elgin Street with a glazed addition wrapping around the north side of the complex.

ERA served as Heritage Conservation Advisor for Diamond Schmitt Architects on the project, developing a Heritage Conservation Approach report, which outlined the architectural, historical, and cultural significance of the building and identified heritage conservation goals and strategies to conserve its significance.The core of this approach revolved around preserving the distinct and dramatic features of the exterior and interior.

The rejuvenated NAC establishes new transparency with the city, enhancing its connection to the surrounding symbolic landscape of Confederation Square. The NAC project has both enhanced and sustained the heritage significance of the building, providing an excellent example of thoughtful and innovative heritage conservation planning.

National Arts Centre, 2018.

National Arts Centre, 2018.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC),
Ottawa Heritage Award of Excellence 2018

The project scope included the full rehabilitation of the exterior and interior of the former Ottawa Union Station. ERA Architects worked as the heritage architects with DSA-KWC Architects in Joint Venture, as well as John G. Cooke & Associates Ltd as structural engineers. As part of this multidisciplinary team, ERA was involved in all project phases from Schematic Design through Site Review and Construction Administration.

The rehabilitation project aimed to reveal the original character and historical elements of the building that had been concealed during modifications when Union Station became the Government Conference Centre in the 1960s. The theatrical character of the interior procession, the axial progression of spaces, the dramatic use of natural light, and the rich palette of materials were re-established and, in some cases, uncovered, while meeting the project’s functional and technical requirements for the Senate of Canada. Previous insertions in the significant interior spaces, such as the General Waiting Room and Concourse spaces, that obscured the heritage character of the building were removed.  Interior elements, such as imitation travertine, marble and woodwork, were all repaired and refinished.

A major technical conservation challenge was the rehabilitation of the two suspended plaster ceilings.  Composed of precast coffered plaster panels suspended from the steel structure above, the ceilings were in poor condition at project start-up. As no appropriate North-American plaster conservation precedent existed, experimentation with conservation products and techniques from the United Kingdom was undertaken to determine suitability.  After multiple mock-ups and tests, a conservation strategy was developed and implemented, with no visual impacts from below, serving as a new precedent for plaster conservation in Canada.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC), 2019.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC), 2019.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC), 2019.

On Friday, February 22, ERA’s Michael McClelland, Andrew Pruss, and Doug de Gannes were invited to Queen’s Park for the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards and received the Award of Excellence in Conservation for One Spadina Crescent, the new home for the Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design, and for the University of Windsor’s School of Creative Arts in the former Windsor Armouries.

One Spadina Crescent, Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape & Design,
Lt Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award of Excellence in Conservation 2018

One Spadina Crescent is one of Toronto’s most prominent architectural sites. The historical building, site rehabilitation, and new addition re-establishes One Spadina as a gateway to the University campus and reintroduces it to the public perception. Beginning in 2006, ERA Architects worked with the University of Toronto to advise on heritage issues related to the site’s redevelopment. Since 2011, we’ve worked closely with the project’s prime architects, NADAAA.

The recent renewal of the south-facing 19th-century Gothic revival building and contemporary addition – home to the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design – is a showcase for the city and an international focal point for education and research on architecture, art and the future of cities. The rehabilitation and new addition at One Spadina Crescent provides a significant expansion to the heritage building for use by the faculty and its students as design studios, fabrication shops, a multi-functional principal hall, library programs, social spaces and offices. The addition was conceived to fill in the “U”-shaped space vacated by demolition of previous additions to the original 1874 Knox College on its north side, thereby preserving the original heritage structure and integrating existing and new program space for optimal use of the finite site.

One Spadina Crescent (DFALD), 2018

One Spadina Crescent (DFALD), 2018

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts,
Lt Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award of Excellence in Conservation 2018

The University of Windsor transformed the 1901 Windsor Armouries, once home to the Essex Fusliers, into a state-of-the-art learning centre for the creative arts. The transformation was made possible by the collaboration and co-operation of both the Government of Ontario and the City of  Windsor.

Over a four-year construction period, the rehabilitation of the Windsor Armouries was carefully undertaken to pay homage to the building’s historical military past. In 2015, ERA began working with CS&P Architects to restore the existing masonry building and insert within the existing fabric a brand-new purpose-built facility. The original brickwork was successfully restored, allowing for exposed brick on the interior and the exterior windows were also carefully restored to resemble the original arched windows. The original floor, which once supported tanks, was removed for the new construction of a three-storey interior structure, fully contained within the Armouries, which now houses 6,224 square metres of new space for students, including classrooms, performance spaces and a theatre.

This repurposed building now serves an active student community and as a dynamic space for creative arts: students, faculty, and staff moved into the restored Armouries and an adjacent building in January 2018. Its restoration is playing a key role in the revitalization and diversification of Windsor’s downtown, has given a new focus to Windsor’s military history, and has provided significant additional learning space for the creative arts. The project serves as an excellent example of adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of existing heritage buildings, connecting the city to its cultural past while instigating urban renewal.

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts, 2018.

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts, 2018.

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts, 2018.

New Approaches to Old Housing

For the past decade, Tower Renewal has been defined by research, policy design and action. Through multi-sectoral partnerships, best-practice and primary research, our work has evolved into program design, capacity building, and on-the-ground project implementation with a wide range of stakeholders.

This ongoing program of ‘research to action’ was featured in Architectural Design Magazine special issue: Calling All Architects: New Approaches to Old Housing. The issue showcases international leaders who are pushing the boundaries of traditional architectural practice in rethinking housing and shares the experiences of architects who have been expanding their practices to provide innovative housing solutions by revitalizing old buildings—instead of the typical process of demolition and building anew.

“Can architects be more than passive participants in a broken [housing] system?”
AD Magazine

This issue builds from the practices showcased at the “Tower, Block and Slab” Symposium hosted by the New York Architecture League in 2016, featuring among others Karakusevc Carson Architects, Frederick Druot Architect, and Architects for Social Housing who have become ongoing collaborators in Tower Renewal.

The issue showcases how architects and organizations across the world are shaping and developing a new medium of practice in tackling issues of housing. Through the Tower Renewal Partnership, CUG+R, and ERA, architects Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto engage in work ranging from advocacy and policy development to technical development to create the context to make Tower Renewal a reality—something Stewart calls a “one-two punch”. “We have a research arm though a non-profit [CUG+R] as well as a practice arm [ERA] where we build things,” Stewart explains. It is this structure that has helped advance and implement building retrofits and site-wide renewal. “It’s those kinds of activities that are really outside the framework of a traditional practice, but are actually exploring the nuts and bolts of land-use planning, building codes, zoning, taxation and other barriers that have made Tower Renewal effective,” adds Santopinto.

Featured as one of the books designers should read in 2019, we are thrilled to have been included in Architectural Design Magazine’s “Housing as Intervention” Issue 4, Volume 88.

Guest post by Andrew Cohrs for the Tower Renewal Partnership.

Tower Renewal Solutions on CBC Radio

As aging apartment buildings begin to contribute to the housing crisis, (exposed this week in the infrastructure failure at 260 Wellesley, Toronto) the clear response is system-scale reinvestment — and it’s underway right now across Canada.

Of particular note, the Ken Soble Tower Project is one of the most significant and precedent-setting tower retrofit projects in North America, and it’s happening in Hamilton, Ontario:

Listen to ERA’s Graeme Stewart talk about Tower Renewal solutions on CBC’s Metro Morning, January 24, 2019 (the conversation begins around the 4-minute mark).

Click to listen to the audio of CBC Metro Morning, January 24, 2019 episode: in conversation with Graeme Stewart.


A Tower Renewal Primer:
Postwar apartment towers are the backbone of Canada’s purpose-built rental stock, and provide affordable housing to millions of Canadians. Now is the time to explore innovative strategies for transitioning these aging apartment tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities.
Tower Renewal is a strategy for action.


For more information on Tower Renewal, visit TowerRenewal.com
For more information on the current Ken Soble Tower Project in Hamilton, visit the link here.

 

Immigration and Daily Life in the Ward

We are very excited to announce the latest installation of the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ series of exhibits at Toronto City Hall. Commemorating and interpreting the histories of St John’s Ward, one of Toronto’s first points of settlement for many newcomers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the exhibit “Immigration and Daily Life in the Ward: Addresses and Artifacts” opens Wednesday December, 19th 2018 and will be on public view in the main floor rotunda until mid-2019.

This continuing exhibit focuses on immigration and daily life in the Ward neighbourhood explored through unearthed artifacts from the Armoury Street dig site, city directories, fire insurance plans, tax assessment rolls, and census records to provide a view of The Ward between 1840–1970. The research in this new installation seeks to understand the movement of people into The Ward, paired with objects reflecting the relationships that individuals form with their places of origin. In the words of Holly Martelle, principal archaeologist at TMHC,

“The presence, abundance, and patterning in artifacts over space and time often hint at various aspects of the identity and culture of a site’s occupants. By itself, archaeology paints a picture of the past, albeit a slightly blurry one. Historic and archival records help bring that picture into sharper focus by adding the details that archaeologists may never be able to visualize in their data.”

These exhibits follow from the excavation and archaeological dig in 2015 of the new Toronto courthouse site led by Infrastructure Ontario (IO), on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General. As part of the heritage interpretation efforts for the site, IO and the City of Toronto developed a partnership to create opportunities to share the artifacts and their stories in four display cases at City Hall. ERA has been pleased to offer expertise in this unique documentation of Toronto’s history, providing contextual research and interpretation for emergent themes, as well as designing the exhibit spaces in collaboration with City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services.

The exhibit is on view during regular public hours in City Hall’s main floor rotunda, located adjacent to both the east and west elevator bays, and will be on display through to Spring 2019.


ERA would like to give a special thanks to our project partners:
Ainsley Davidson, Infrastructure Ontario
Abbey Flower, Infrastructure Ontario
Geoff Woods, Infrastructure Ontario
Wayne Reeves, City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services
Christophe Jivraj, City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services
Holly Martelle, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants
Nicole Brandon, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants


*SAVE THE DATE*

Upcoming performances from The Ward Cabaret this winter:
February 4, 2019 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto Reference Library
February 5, 2019 at Hugh’s Room (link to tickets here)

JUNO Award-winning musician and composer David Buchbinder is joined by a collaborative team of musicians, singers, and actors for an abridged version of The Ward Cabaret, a musical event based on the songs and sounds of Toronto’s first cross-cultural community.

Heritage at Home

ERA Associate and Architectural Conservation Lead, Jan Kubanek, has managed and consulted on immense, complex projects like the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa and Toronto’s Union Station—and like so many other Canadians has also faced the unforeseen complexities of his own home renovation.

It’s hard to find a more capable person to offer advice on renovating your heritage home.

Jan got in front of the camera this fall to help Héritage Montréal spread the word about their Home Renovation course held every year and that he has been a part of since 2012.  The course is intended to assist home owners in understanding the heritage value of their homes and assist them in planning and undertaking sympathetic renovations.  Organized around eight evening sessions, subjects include residential building typologies, building inspections, planning sustainable renovations, and how to deal with issues of and repairs to foundations, structure, roofs, windows and doors. Jan’s lecture focused on planning and undertaking successful home renovation projects.

Watch the Héritage Montréal video below (en français)
https://www.facebook.com/heritagemontreal/videos/249081312363741/

or catch his “All in a Weekend” interview on CBC Radio (in english)
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/all-in-a-weekend-montreal/segment/15611249  

ERA at Passive House Canada Conference

Last week, ERA’s Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto joined City Housing Hamilton CEO Tom Hunter to present on the Ken Soble Tower Transformation at Passive House Canada’s National Conference in Vancouver. 

The Ken Soble Tower Transformation project kicks off a groundbreaking program by CityHousing Hamilton to use the ultra-low energy Passive House standard for the retrofit of their existing buildings and as the standard for their new construction. ERA is thrilled to be working with CityHousing Hamilton realize this vision. Built in 1967 as modern affordable housing, the building’s rehabilitation will preserve 146 units of affordable seniors’ housing and ensure that stateoftheart affordable housing is at the heart of the Hamilton’s growing West Harbour neighbourhood. 

Ken Soble Tower Transformation: diagram overview of Envelope, Systems, and Modernization.

The project is poised to be the first Passive House high-rise retrofit in North America and it will demonstrate the tremendous potential for aging affordable housing in Canada to be modernized through Tower Renewal. 

What is Passive House?
Common in Europe, the Passive House approach is centred around high-performance building envelopes, achieving nearly twice the insulation value of building code requirements, which drastically reduces required heating and cooling loads.

The Ken Soble Tower Transformation will:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90%
  • Reduce energy intensity by 70%
  • Reduce resource consumption through a 45% reduction in utility costs
  • Improve indoor air quality for resident health and comfort
  • Extend the life of the building and its systems for another generation

The 2018 Passive House Canada Conference in Vancouver opens up this discussion to a broad audience of builders, contractors, architects, city-builders, and policy-makers, and ERA is proud to be part of the growth of this approach in Canada, sharing best practices with our colleagues and collaborators. A highlight of the conference included a tour of Dockside Green, a master planned community with affordable housing, district energy, and low carbon buildings.

An idyllic urban setting shows the courtyard of Dockside Green with pond and a number of balconies overlooking.

Touring #docksidegreen, a master planned community with affordable housing, district energy, and low carbon buildings on par with the best of Sweden or Germany. Lessons for the rest of Canada in the city of Victoria!

Dockside Green interpretation panels explaining the water treatment systems in use.

Interpretive panels at Dockside Green help to educate and inform about water treatment and usage.

 

Our Growing Leadership Team

As ERA continues to grow and evolve, the Executives and Associates are very pleased to welcome Sydney Martin to the leadership team as our newest Associate.

Sydney has been with ERA for nearly a decade as a heritage conservation specialist whose expertise in architectural history, historic construction techniques and materials, and material repair has been a tremendous and integral asset to our team. Her portfolio of work at ERA has included all stages of the project lifecycle, from assessment and evaluation to conservation strategy, development and implementation, interpretation, and long term management plans for significant projects, including the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, Maple Leaf Gardens, Osgoode Hall, and the Senate of Canada’s temporary new home, the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa.

Sydney is a member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) and is a graduate of the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, and of Fine Art History & Architecture at the University of Toronto.

We look forward to this new chapter and the exciting work ahead!

 

 

 

Toronto Set in Stone

A guest article by Brendan Stewart—Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph


Stone plays an outsized role in defining many of Toronto’s most beloved and well-used public spaces. Of course there is something singularly enchanting about the material itself, but as important is how it is arranged and put together — the artistry and craft that elevates the average to the exceptional.

Stone and stone work is something I’ve been thinking about more and more, starting with an article I wrote last year in Ground Magazine about dry stone walls, which has led to my involvement as a guest speaker at the upcoming Dry Stone Canada Festival on Amherst Island at the end of the month, and a talk next week at ERA with visiting Scottish stone artist David Wilson (RSVP here), which will explore ideas about the creative use of stone in public spaces.

In Toronto, a recent recurring theme is the importing and re-purposing of ancient precambrian boulders; carefully selected, removed and transported at great expense from northern Ontario’s Canadian shield wilderness, and strategically re-installed in vibrant downtown settings.

Ryerson Image Centre and Devonian Square (photo: Hoice, Wikimedia Commons).

Think of Devonian Square at Ryerson, created in 1978 by landscape architects Richard Strong and Steven Moorhead, which features artistic groupings of massive boulders scattered around the plaza, and is the setting for winter scenes of ice skaters whose silhouettes are dwarfed as they weave in and around the rock.

Then, there’s the giant granite outcropping that defines Village of Yorkville Park, created in the early 90s by US landscape architects Martha Schwartz, Ken Smith, David Meyer and PWP Landscape Architecture. An iconic landscape landmark to match any in Toronto, the experience of emerging from underground at Bay station to meet a friend for coffee on the warm rock is unique to Canadian urbanism.

Sugar Beach by Claude Cormier + Associés, opened in 2010, pays homage to the granite outcropping at Yorkville Park, but integrates playful white and red candy-cane stripes, referring to the active Red Path sugar factory that animates the dramatic, working waterfront views.

And finally, there is the newly opened Trillium Park, designed by lead landscape architects LandInc, which features the 83 metre long ‘Moraine Bluff’ — an artfully sculpted, complex wall of stone that was designed using an innovative combination of digital modelling and in the field craft. Laid out in full on the floor of a quarry in Dwight Ontario, the wall was then transported and re-constructed on the lakeshore at Ontario Place[1].

‘The Ravine with Moccasin Identifier’ Trillium Park (photo: Brendan Stewart).

‘The Ravine with Moccasin Identifier’ Trillium Park, details (photo: Brendan Stewart).

Moraine Bluff, Trillium Park (photo: Brendan Stewart).

These projects, all representing in one way or another the ancient and sublime landscapes of the near north, all go to extraordinary lengths logistically, technologically, and artistically to bring the sensual and intangible resonance of stone into the city to create powerful civic experiences.

Stone, of course, has been used in many other wonderful ways in Toronto’s public realm. From interpreting and commemorating the history of the Irish Famine migrants who landed in Toronto in 1847 at Kearns Mancini’s Ireland Park (2007), to defining tranquil academic courtyards such as the Quadrangle at University College, executed by landscape architect Michael Hough in the mid 1960s[2].

And before this, there is the rich legacy of carved stone, integrated into the great buildings of 19th and early 20th century Toronto, some of which remain in situ, and some of which can be explored, as salvaged and re-constructed artifacts in the unique Guild Park and Gardens at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs. This wonderful and curious place is described and explored in a 2016 article in Ornamentum by ERA alum Tatum Taylor here.

For more fascinating discussion on the topic of creative urban use of stone and placemaking, join us at ERA on Monday, September 24 with Scottish stone artist David Wilson (RSVP here).

 


[1] See ‘Romance of the Stone: When metaphor meets technology’ by Patrick Morello in Landscapes Paysages v.19, Winter 2017.

[2] See ‘Quiet, Green, and Orderly: The History of the UC Quadrangle’ by Jane Wolff

From Past to Page: Uncovering the Ward

An unidentified man on Centre Avenue, 1937 (City of Toronto Archives).

In 2015, ‘The Ward—The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood’ was published, documenting the area within Toronto known as St. John’s Ward (or simply “the Ward”), home to thousands of immigrants between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. With little of the neighbourhood’s physical fabric remaining, The Ward had largely faded from public consciousness, but following the book’s release it quickly became a topic in public discourse with critical questions about how contemporary cities handle immigration, poverty, urban renewal, and the geography of difference.

At the time of that publication, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and a team of archaeologists had begun digging up a parking lot next to Toronto City Hall on Armoury Street, the site of the new Toronto court house, and uncovered an extraordinarily rich buried history, which provided new material for the editorial team to start compiling a follow-up volume.

The new anthology, ‘The Ward Uncovered—The Archaeology of Everyday Life’ was published in June of 2018, bringing an important urban history to life through the findings of one of North America’s largest urban archaeological digs to date.

Excavation site on Centre Avenue (photo: Holly Martelle).

Assorted glass bottles

A leather shoe and ceramic container.

With a range of essays and images, the latest book further explores the stories of The Ward’s buildings, institutions, communities, and individuals. It aims to inform readers about the history of this neighbourhood, and to provoke discussion about how the Ward’s past informs Toronto’s present and how and why places are determined to be historically valuable and consequently preserved as “heritage.” ERA Architects principal Michael McClelland and heritage planner Tatum Taylor co-edited the book alongside archaeologist Holly Martelle and Toronto journalist John Lorinc, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund. Nearly 30 contributing authors include journalists, politicians, historians, architects, urban planners, archaeologists, artists, and descendants of Ward residents.

Ultimately, the book continues a public conversation that began with the 2015 publication of ‘The Ward’—how history can be conserved and understood into the future. ‘The Ward Uncovered’ highlights the immense importance of urban archaeology in meeting this task, creating for us a tangible link to the past and reclaiming an historic account that accurately reflects the diversity of immigrant experiences in building the City of Toronto.

“The Armoury Street Block is municipally, provincially, and nationally significant on many levels. Representing the remains of most of a city block, the site provides a rare glimpse of a neighbourhood and its evolution over time, as revealed by building remains and objects left behind. Equally rare is the opportunity to visualize intimate details of the daily life of the working class and immigrant families who helped build the city. Descendant communities, researchers, and the public will benefit much from the story-telling and educational opportunities this work has afforded.”
—Holly Martelle, Project Archaeologist, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants)

‘The Ward Uncovered—The Archaeology of Everyday Life’ is the fourth in a series of books published by Coach House Books that Michael McClelland has co-edited. Each book has dealt with a specific role of heritage and architecture within the City of Toronto. The first was called ‘East West—a Guide to Where People Live in Downtown Toronto,’ and focused on the development of Toronto’s neighbourhoods. The second, ‘Concrete Toronto—a guide to concrete architecture from the fifties to the seventies,’ focused on the architecture of the recent past, and the third, ‘The Ward—the Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood,’ (eds. John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg, Tatum Taylor) looked at diversity, immigration, and urban renewal from an historical perspective. The intention of each book has been to highlight the need to continually re-evaluate our perceptions of heritage and cultural value in our urban environments.

In the same spirit of re-evaluating perceptions and understanding cultural heritage value, several Ward-related projects have grown from these books and have captured the city’s collective imagination: from the Mysuem’s walking tours, to an ongoing public exhibition of artifact displays at City Hall in partnership with IO and the City of Toronto, and even to a Ward Cabaret musical, created in collaboration with Juno Award winner David Buchbinder and performed to sold out audiences during Toronto’s 2018 Luminato Festival.

ERA-initiated series of books (CoachHouse Press).

Exhibit space at Toronto City Hall, curated and designed by ERA Architects, 2017.

The Ward Cabaret at Luminato, 2018.

“History is a verb. The passage of time is a constant. But what we seek to preserve from our past and what we choose to cast away has always been a selective process often informed by unexamined motives and biases.”
—Michael McClelland, The Ward (Co-Editor) & Principal, ERA Architects

Is there just one way to understand and interpret the histories of our city? How will we tell these stories into the future? How does a city remember? These collective projects each trace the past conditions of immigration and urban growth in Toronto in their own ways, promoting dialogue and understanding of neglected heritage landscapes. Once we are able to appreciate the history of marginalized areas such as the Ward, we can begin to reclaim an historic account that accurately reflects the diversity of experiences that have built the City of Toronto.