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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

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.

 

Creative Space & Urban Stone: Public Talk

Stone is the most fundamental material but over the last 50 years its creative use has declined in the public realm. Through a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship David F. Wilson aimed to discover how other creatives are exploring the space between tradition & current practice, travelling in the USA & Canada through the summer months of 2017.

Where problems exist, new opportunities open up. Using photos and examples, David’s talk will explore the findings of his North American tour, the challenges posed to creative stone craft through modern building practice, and innovative ways to keep stone craft alive in urban spaces.

Through the lens of his landscape architecture practice and university teaching, Brendan Stewart will respond to the report and extend the conversation, relating these findings, challenges and opportunities to urban spaces in Toronto and Canada.

Report here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/creative-space-contemporary-use-stone-urban-spaces


A public talk by David F Wilson (UK) in conversation with Brendan Stewart (University of Guelph), co-hosted with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada (Dry Stone Canada).
REGISTER HERE VIA EVENTBRITE 

Doors at 6:30pm, Talk begins 7:00pm
625 Church Street, Toronto

3 minute walk from Bloor-Yonge Station (TTC)
Car and Bike Parking at the rear of building (Impark Parking)
This venue has elevator access and an accesible washroom

Reception to follow, generously sponsored by Jonathan Kearns, Founding Principal of Kearns Mancini Architects (B.ARCH., OAA, FRAIC, RIBA, FRIAI, AIBC, AANB, AAA) and Member Dry Stone Canada


David F. Wilson
Artist, Designer, Waller, Maker
Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow and author of Creative Space: Contemporary use of stone in urban spaces

David graduated in 1987 from Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, with a Masters in Public Art & Design. Following a college art degree, he was inspired by a new trend for artists to work outside the traditional gallery system and decided to pursue a creative career in art for a wider public.

Flexibility has always been an asset in David’s practice when creating works in a public space. Every client & every different situation requires a unique design solution. Combining creativity with a playfulness of technique and form has always been at the heart of his process.

Two public projects that display this aspect well are the Edinburgh Airport Interchange and Livingston Landmarks. The latter was awarded the coveted Pinnacle Award from the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain.


Brendan Stewart
Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph; past Associate, ERA Architects, Toronto

Brendan Stewart received his BLA from Guelph, attended Edinburgh College of Art, and received an MLA from the University of California, Berkeley. Brendan’s research focuses on heritage conservation planning and design processes, cultural landscape theory, design history, service learning and participatory design practices.

Throughout his more than a decade of practice experience, Brendan has been actively engaged in the academic, professional, and community spheres. He has been a regular guest lecturer, critic, and instructor at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and the University of Waterloo, and was an editorial board member of Ground Magazine, the journal of the OALA.

In 2015, he was involved in organizing and participating in the ‘Leading with Landscape’ conference in Toronto, hosted by the Washington DC based Cultural Landscape Foundation, which was attended by over 400 landscape practitioners and scholars from around the world. He is a director of the Friends of Allan Gardens a not for profit organization with a mission to revitalize one of Toronto’s earliest designed landscapes. Starting in 2017, Brendan is the University of Guelph’s appointed educator to the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects governing council.

 

TALLINN–TORONTO: The Influence of Estonian Modernism in Shaping Toronto

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

This spring, the exhibition To The New World: Estonian Architects in Toronto launched at the Museum of Estonian Architecture (http://www.arhitektuurimuuseum.ee/en/). Following a smaller exhibition and symposium last fall hosted by Toronto’s Tartu College, the show explores the strong Estonian link in the creation of Toronto’s particular branch of modernism.

Exhibition and Symposium in fall of 2017 at Toronto’s Tartu College with ERA’s Graeme Stewart as presenter.

These exhibitions, and forthcoming book, are a result of years of research by Tallinn Architecture Centre archivist Jarmo Kauge. Following with curiosity the rise in cult status of Estonian-Canadian Uno Prii, whose large cannon of whimsically optimistic modernism have become local icons (and protected heritage properties), Jarmo began to explore the link between Estonian trained architects and the building of modern Toronto. Through a series of study tours, he quickly realized that the connection went well beyond Prii and that an entire generation of Estonian emigres practiced, taught, and transformed Toronto.

The opening of the exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture represents a milestone for the international exposure of modernism in Toronto as well as the transatlantic scholarship that affected architectural and planning practice in post-war Toronto. ERA is proud to have been a collaborator in these efforts and congratulates Jarmo for the tremendous work in making it a reality.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

For more on on Toronto’s Estonian modernism, the works of Prii and other Estonian Canadian architects feature strongly in both Concrete Toronto http://www.eraarch.ca/project/concrete-toronto/

(ERA / Coach House) and the Concrete Toronto Map https://bluecrowmedia.com/collections/architecture-maps/products/concrete-toronto-map (ERA / Bluecrow Media).

Also see an article by the Globe & Mail’s Dave LeBlanc published during the Toronto launch of the exhibition last fall.

ERA Has Moved to 625 Church Street

For two decades, we have called 10 St Mary Street our home, an eight storey modernist office building (1957) designed by the architects Mathers and Haldenby, whose offices were located on the 8th floor of the building. It seems fitting today as we say goodbye and start a new chapter in ERA’s story, that we’d share some of the history of this place that’s grown along with us all these years.

10 St Mary Street, in all its modernist glory, 1957. (Archives of Ontario)

The ground floor suite of 10 St. Mary Street, which faces both Yonge and St. Mary streets, was originally conceived as a retail space with a strong relationship to the public realm. Until recently, this suite has been occupied by a chain of fast food restaurants. The open volume at the base of the building has been partially enclosed as a restaurant terrace.

The original entry to 10 St Mary Street boasted exquisite mosaic tile work. (Archives of Ontario)

The Site sits on land originally owned by the Buchanan and Elmsley families in the early 19th century. In 1848 Captain John Elmsley donated part of his land to St. Michael’s College and St. Basil’s Church and began subdividing the property, naming local streets after his favourite saints. Many of the buildings that presently occupy the block bounded by Yonge, St. Mary, St. Nicholas and Charles streets were constructed during the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, following the extension of Charles Street (formerly Czar Street) westward from Yonge Street in the 1880s. As Yonge Street developed as a commercial strip, cross streets were often developed with row houses. The length of the block along Charles Street West up to the westward addition to 720 Yonge Street is occupied by a row of residential buildings constructed in 1891.

The Yonge Street properties (with the exception of the mid-century building at 10 St. Mary Street) represent the second generation of storefronts along the Yonge Street corridor, which was revitalized with increased commercial activity at the turn of the last century. These were constructed in 1909 as a parade of shops with similar detailing; The mid-block shopfront properties at 710-718 Yonge Street first appear on Fire Insurance Plans in 1912.

The portion of the Site at the corner of St. Mary and St. Nicholas Streets was originally residential, but primary source documents show automotive uses began in the early 20th century and continued until the 1940s. In the 1920s the Holden Vulcanizing Works and Johnson Motors Repair operated at 79 St. Nicholas Street. The Uptown Auto Body and Fender Repair Co. were replaced in the 1940s by General Auto Body and later Pep Boys Garage.

Coles Bookstore purchased the Barron properties in the 1940s, using the Yonge Street storefront for retail and the former stables on St. Nicholas for storage. The fine-grained Victorian buildings along the southern portion of the block were replaced in 1957 by the 8-storey office building at 10 St. Mary Street, designed by Mathers & Haldenby. In the latter half of the 20th century, the properties on St. Nicholas Street witnessed a string of tenants and a wide variety of uses, including furniture stores, art galleries, restaurants and discotheques.

The evolution of the block over the past century. (ERA Architects)

Our office will be closed on Friday, June 15, while we pack up and head just down the street to 625 Church Street, and we’ll be back to regular business on Monday, June 18.
OUR NEW ADDRESS IS: #600-625 Church St, Toronto ON, M4Y 2G1

ERA & CaGBC: Sustainable Development

Late last month, on Thursday April 26th, the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Green Building Council met for their annual Spring Open event. Hosted at the newly opened EY Tower downtown, the event included a series of rapid and informative presentations known as the event’s “Building Blitz” —highlighting the newest and most sustainable buildings in Southern Ontario.

ERA’s Shelley Ludman was invited to speak about the adaptive reuse of 158 Sterling Road, the new home of Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We were honoured to present on the often overlooked importance of adaptive reuse as a strategy for a sustainable future.

Other presentations included: 

  • 80 Atlantic Avenue, Presented by Quadrangle
  • Zero House at the Endeavour Centre, Presented by Ryerson University, Department of Architectural Science
  • Kiln Building at Evergreen Brick Works, Presented by LGA Architectural Partners
  • University of Toronto – The Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Presented by Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc. 
  • York University Student Centre, Presented by CannonDesign