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Archaeology in The Ward: A New Exhibit

Just a few steps northwest of Toronto’s city hall is a quiet, empty plot of land and a former parking lot that will soon be the home of the new Toronto courthouse. But long before this site was just a place to park, it was a bustling part of St John’s Ward (The Ward), an area where newcomers to Toronto established themselves for over a century. In 2015, Infrastructure Ontario (IO), on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General, led a complex excavation and archaeological dig of the new Toronto courthouse site which revealed tens of thousands of artifacts from The Ward, providing an unprecedented level of insight into Toronto’s early multicultural history. 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.

Archaeology in The Ward display case, showing a selection of bottles and glassware recovered from the excavation site. An enlarged Goad’s Insurance Map of Toronto shows the site in context.

ERA Architects is no stranger to the histories related to The Ward—Michael McClelland and Tatum Taylor helped to literally write the book. As heritage professionals and editors of ‘The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood’ (Coach House Books, 2015), they were well positioned to approach the exhibition project with a comprehensive understanding of the site context along with the ability to provide powerful interpretations for the subjects reflected by the artifacts. ERA has been pleased to offer our 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 first of many planned exhibit installations was officially opened in February 2017 with the Mayor’s Reception for Black History Month and featured stories and important artifacts focused on Black History in The Ward, including the foundation stones of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, and a rare Black doll’s head.

We are excited to announce the latest installation of the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ series of exhibits at City Hall has opened this past week. This latest installation focuses on ‘Work in the Ward,’ showing that with the rapid industrialization of the late 19th century, manufacturing moved from homes to factories. In The Ward, this industrial and social shift can be seen clearly, with factories steadily replacing houses between 1895 and 1950. The exhibit is open now and 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 spring of 2018.

In the west exhibit cases, artifacts from the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ highlight two 19th-century household industries that were prevalent on the site: shoemaking and tailoring. The excavation site includes one of the largest archaeological collections of 19th and early 20th-century shoes ever unearthed in Canada, most too fragile to display but documented by photographs and reproduction tools. Other artifacts on display include tools commonly used by tailors and seamstresses in the period: straight pins, buttons made of ceramic and glass, thimbles, wooden spools, and bodkins.

In the east exhibit cases, industry in factories is examined through narratives that range from small-scale family operations such as the Edward Lye and Sons Church Organ Builders which operated first out of their home, to the large-scale T. Eaton Co. Tent and Awning  Factory on Chestnut Street. On display are two moulds used in mass production: one small drawer handle mould, likely used in furniture manufacturing on the site, and a large rubber hat mould used to form men’s brimmed felt hats from the Fashion Hat & Cap Company, which occupied the former Eaton’s factory on Chestnut Street from the 1940s to the 1960s.

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 spring of 2018.

Infrastructure Ontario is creating an online archive of past exhibit displays available at infrastructureontario.ca/armourystreetdig

Link to the Toronto Star’s coverage: https://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2018/01/11/new-exhibit-sheds-light-on-torontos-early-immigrant-entrepreneurship.html

Related content:
http://www.eraarch.ca/2015/the-ward-a-new-book-coming-2015/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2015/the-ward-a-new-book-update/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/coming-up-the-ward-songs-and-sounds-of-a-lost-toronto-neighbourhood/

Post by guest writer Carl Shura.
All photos courtesy of ERA Architects and TMHC.

When Crazy Gets Creative

Crazy Dames Share their Innovative Approach to Community Engagement and Design Development

Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs and a desire to use the artist’s studio as a site for fostering creative engagement, Jennie Suddick, and Sara Udow founded Crazy Dames. Their focus is on enhancing the user experience of urban spaces, empowering communities to drive the change they desire through ‘tactical and collaborative approaches’ to city-building. Crazy Dames utilize unconventional, yet playful methods from which innovative ideas evolve.

Their portfolio includes activities as diverse as building a blanket fort as part of a residency at the Gardiner Museum, entitled ‘We Built This City’. There they programmed events over the course of two weeks in the summer of 2016, including workshops, artist-led ‘walkshop’ walking tours, a collaborative art project, and closing event and panel discussion. The pair have also found attentive audiences through public engagement projects at the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre, and Create Your Path initiative.

In each case, they strive to create an experience that will bring broad communities together, break down barriers, and ignite their imaginations to ultimately express their thoughts/feelings about the city they live in, generating ideas for change. At the end of the day, it’s about talking to people, listening to divergent perspectives, and encouraging long-term community involvement and ownership.

Fast forward to August 2018, Jennie and Sara have been invited to participate in a residency in Valletta, Malta, European Capital of Culture. They have also recently been chosen as Varley Art Gallery’s inaugural Community Artists in Residence. This residency will run in 2018 in Markham, ON.

ERA was delighted to host them for an interactive presentation on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018, when they shared an informative slide presentation. Not wanting to rest solely on traditional methods however, they invited staff to get out of their seats, split into two groups and create a 3D drawing using balls of black yarn. The objective of the exercise was to define the space we were in, how it’s used and how it has evolved. The teams discussed various perspectives before creating two intricate webs. The communication and designs that resulted made for an interesting collaborative experience.

For more information visit: http://www.crazydames.com/
U of T News article: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/these-crazy-dames-want-us-rethink-way-we-engage-city

All photographs courtesy of Crazy Dames.

Nothing is Impossible: NXT City defines its strategies for city-building through an inspirational presentation at ERA

On December 13th, NXT City visited ERA to engage staff as part of our Wednesday Morning Forum ‘Spark Sessions’, a series of talks presented at ERA’s office by people and organizations who are at the forefront of their respective practices, and pushing the boundaries of design, policy and development in our city.

NXT City is a not-for-profit organization that unites the desire of emerging leaders to make a difference with city builders looking for innovative ideas to program and develop public space. It was established in 2013 by founders Christine Caruso, Mackenzie Keast and Justin Leclair, who have since garnered much attention for their exciting initiatives, such as an annual NXT City Prize, public space symposium, quarterly talks and secret warehouse parties.

In the early days, the team identified a gap in opportunities for Toronto’s current and future city-builders to assemble, in order to network, strengthen partnerships, and synergize ideas. As a result, they devised a strategy to connect various stakeholders whom they admire (Jennifer Keesmat was an early supporter), programming approachable, exciting events that draw people together to brainstorm on methods of reshaping the city in delightful, unexpected ways.

The various platforms compliment and reinforce their objective: the NXT City Prize was initiated as an opportunity to encourage and reward thought leadership on relevant topics. Teams are invited to submit proposals for jury review based solely on the quality of the idea. The NXT City Symposium promotes itself as ‘public space on a global stage’, offering up discussions on civic innovation and ideas by industry leaders challenging the boundaries and limitations of public space. The mix of speakers is a potential tension-builder, arranged as a counter-point to create a more meaningful dialogue. The NXT City Talks are small-scale panels with a ‘how to’ approach to project development. The secret warehouse parties offer an opportunity for the community at large to connect and celebrate all that is exciting and ground-breaking in the Toronto region and beyond.

To gain more insight on NXT City visit: https://nxtcity.ca/

Photos courtesy of Nicky Brunn-Meyer

The Broadview Hotel’s terracotta panels have a story to tell

Much has been spoken and written of the Broadview Hotel over the past few years. Having opened last spring, the updated landmark at the corner of Queen and Broadview has already established itself as the new go-to site for entertainment in the Riverdale neighbourhood. With all the positive attention, comes increased interest in the building’s history and the stories that continue to be revealed.

One such story can be found in the features that adorn the exterior of the Richardsonian Romanesque-style architecture, the semi-circular terracotta panels that sit atop the third-floor arched windows, and those interspersed amoungst the rich surface textures of the brick enhancements, and the moulded profiles of the arches. Twenty-one modeled reliefs provide a decorative element, featuring faces and personifications that may allude to a narrative that is not understood and could be open to interpretation.

Though the artisans are not known, the reliefs were supplied by the Toronto Pressed Brick and Terracotta Company, started in 1888 and based 2 miles west of Milton, ON. The factory was situated on a slope near the Credit River, where Medina shale was available. The main product was pressed brick. Moulded and ornamental bricks, roofing tiles and terra cotta were considered a specialty. In 1906 the company was bought by Charles Lewis. He and his brothers focused on fine terra cotta works, the only large company in Canada to do so. Many office buildings and private residences were adorned with their product, such as the 1890’s Confederation Life Building, and the Gooderham Building in Toronto.

The typical production process involved taking ground shale, kneading into a soft condition and casting it in Plaster of Paris moulds made from design drawings. The Broadview Hotel reliefs however were completed only by hand and they have a variety of textures and finishes that reveal the energy of the work and the skill of the author. Finished pieces were set to dry prior to being fired in a down-draft kiln.

The reliefs have multiple personifications of the wind, sun and moon. As companion panels these are interspersed with a series of faces; a canine, a bearded man, an Indigenous man, an owl and a boar. The collective meaning of these panels is open for interpretation.

Photography courtesy of Steven Evans

A once-popular historic Mackinac Island retreat is in the process of being restored to its former glory

ERA is highly anticipating the completion of their latest project in Michigan, Silver Birches Resort. Built between 1906-1912, it is a well-loved landmark on the remote north shore of Mackinac Island. The Lodge is a rare example of a rustic log hotel and is included on the State Register of Historic Sites.

This helped spread a uniquely North American architectural vernacular that was ideally suited to rustic summer structures.

This vernacular has been embraced and highlighted. The client’s family are heavily-invested in the region and its prosperity. Possessing a deep desire to understand the property and to restore it in a way that honoured the architecture and its surrounds, they became intimately engaged with the site during the early renovations. Mackinac Island, ‘the crown jewel of Michigan’, is regaining its lustre.

The project team have spent the last four years managing the site as design lead in support of the local architecture firm and project manager, and coordinated the work of the various consultants. The scope included the complete restoration of the site’s “Yellow Cottage”, and the extension and refinishing of its “Blue Cottage”. Also included was the preservation and restoration of the lodge’s ground floor log assembly, the rebuilding of its wrap around log veranda with code-compliant replacements, and the complete re-build of the upper two storeys to match the appearance, form and materiality of the original.

The project team includes:
Scott Weir – Principal
Brendan Stewart – Associate
Sandford Riley – Project Manager
Rui Felix – Landscape Designer

Links to related articles:
https://mynorth.com/2016/08/historic-mackinac-island-lodge-silver-birches-undergoing-renovations/
https://www.freep.com/story/travel/2016/07/09/grand-hotel-resort-hotel-mackinac/86716566/
https://savingplaces.org/stories/silver-birches-polishing-a-jewel-at-michigans-mackinac-island#.WirAvbQ-dUN

Link to related blog post:
http://www.eraarch.ca/2016/mission-point-resort/

In-House Experts: Heritage Mortars 101 & Heritage Interiors

Although there is obvious benefit to be drawn from the synergy created from ‘the whole’, we would be remiss if we did not recognize and highlight the individual expertise that makes up the sum of ERA’s parts. Staff have been treated to two presentations recently that featured their peers introducing topics for which they possess expertise through weekly ongoing information session series.

First up, ERA Associate Jessie Grebenc gave a talk on ‘Heritage Mortars 101’ as part of the Wednesday Design Forum series. The presentation led in with the philosophical decision-making process required to conserve a building. More thoroughly, it defined mortar, its components, uses and evolution, how to determine its age based on set analytical criteria and the related issues/challenges that arise under various circumstances (such as Canadian vs. European material, manufacturing and climactic contexts). The presentation was intended to give staff a solid foundation on the topic, discuss best practices from the North American and British contexts, and review the options available given the multiple factors surrounding the project.

ERA Associate Jan Kubanek and Project Manager Sydney Martin presented on the topic of ‘Heritage Interiors’, highlighting the project work completed to date on the Government Conference Centre (GCC) in Ottawa and a review of the topics presented at the Architectural Paint Research Conference in New York City that they attended in the spring.

Jan provided an overview of the GCC Rehabilitation Project currently underway that is transforming the former Ottawa Union Station into an Interior Senate facility, a project on which ERA is the heritage conservation architect working with Diamond Schmitt/KWC Architects in Joint Venture. The Beaux-Arts interiors are characterized by a formal procession route taking the visitor through the Rideau Entrance Lobby, down a grand stair into the General Waiting Room, through the Ticketing Block Anteroom and into the Concourse.

Finishes include marble floors and wall paneling, imitation travertine wall finishes (a patented process involving the application of tinted plaster with a texture characteristic of travertine laid in ashlar coursing, elaborate plaster ceilings and suspended plaster ceilings in the two large spaces.  The rehabilitation project, through careful paint and material analysis, allowed the revealing of the original colour and material palette of the building that had been concealed over time.

Sydney Presented on aspects of paint technology, assessment and methodology and how they apply to ERA’s work on the GCC.  Due to the condition of the original faux travertine plaster walls (scagliola) and the extreme difficulty of using the original plaster technique for repairs it was decided to replicate the original appearance of the tinted plaster faux travertine with paint and provide a unified appearance. Her presentation focused on the development of the paint technique and colour selection for the imitation travertine surfaces that honour the original design intent. The colours for the faux travertine were derived from analysis of the original tinted plaster.  The painted technique was meticulously tested on mock surfaces and under various lighting to emulate the original faux travertine surfaces in the building.

She then shared details of her experience at the conference, including a presentation by a Painting Conservator/Consultant, and a tour of Ellis Island featuring installations by French artist JR entitled ‘Unframed’ that added a layer of heritage interpretation to the abandoned spaces as a reminder of their purpose as an entry point to America for millions of immigrants.

All photography courtesy of ERA Architects.
All historic images accredited to the Library and Archives Canada.
All renderings accredited to DSA-KWC Architects in Joint Venture.

 

Eva’s Phoenix wins a Canadian Brownfields Network (Brownie) Award and signals a transformational start to the redevelopment of the Water Works

Both the Broadview Hotel and Eva’s Phoenix were named as finalists for the REBUILD category of the 2017 Brownie Awards, a program of the Canadian Brownfields Network established to promote projects and programs arising from the brownfield community. The REBULD category in particular recognizes ‘excellence in site-specific responses to public policy initiatives that accelerate the pace of regeneration resulting from development’, promote an enhanced public realm and successfully reimagine the adaptive reuse of heritage structures that promote increased health and well-being.

Eva’s Phoenix, located at 60 Brant Street (at the corner of Richmond Street), took home top honours. ERA’s role was of heritage consultant, supporting the work of lead architect LGA Architectural Partners. The scope of work included the photographic documentation of the property; conducting background research on the history of the property and its context, sourcing archival photographs and context maps; determining the impact of the proposed development on the existing heritage fabric; and preparing the Heritage Impact Assessment report, including a Statement of Cultural Heritage Value. The project team was comprised of Michael McClelland and Sydney Martin.

The site was once home to Toronto’s Water Works building, a heritage-designated property that was the site of the St. Andrew’s market from the 1830’s until 1860, when it was destroyed by fire. After an 1873 rebuild, the activity in the market began to decline, forcing it to close in the early 1900’s. The building that stands today was built in the Art Deco-style of architecture in 1932, designed by then City Architect J.J. Woolnough. It’s location between the high-density and thriving neighbourhoods of Queen and King Street West presents an exciting opportunity to redevelop the site as a culturally-rich, inclusive and dynamic resource for the local community. ERA has been brought on board as the heritage consultant to review the heritage approach and specify and review the conservation work. The site will eventually include a new YMCA, a public food hall, affordable housing, and a residential condo development tower that sits atop the conserved heritage base. The project team consists of Michael McClelland, Andrew Pruss, Annie Pelletier, Dan Eylon, Annabel Vaughan, Miranda Brunton, Anna Pavia, Diana Roldan and Peter Pantalone.

Brownie Award details: https://canadianbrownfieldsnetwork.ca/brownfield-awards/brownies
Water Works Development details: http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2017/09/work-begins-waterworks-building-heritage-preservation

Photos courtesy of Nathan Cyprys.

‘Big River Landscape’ wins the National Capital Commission’s Nepean Point Redevelopment design competition

Team Rosenberg’s design concept – ‘Big River Landscape’ – has been selected as the winner of a prestigious international design competition that proposes the redevelopment of Nepean Point into an enhanced public park and major destination at the heart of the Capital. The design team is made up of Janet Rosenberg & Studio Inc. with Patkau Architects, Blackwell Structural Engineers, and ERA Architects Inc.

On Thursday, October 5th four shortlisted proposals were presented at the National Capital Commission’s Urbanism Lab, followed by a period of public feedback through the NCC’s website. The winning scheme was announced on November 23rd, 2017.

Taking full advantage of dramatic natural topography, exposure to the elements, and a panoramic vista, ‘Big River Landscape’ envisions Nepean Point as the premier place in the Capital region to immerse the senses in the experience and drama of the Ottawa River valley, an ancient and continuing cultural landscape that is deeply associated with the layered histories that tie all peoples of Canada to this land, and which also defines our evolving identities as we shape our collective future. Envisioned as an inclusive public place, the design seeks to give a voice to various actors and histories, each one connected to Nepean Point in a meaningful way: the land, the river, First Nations, the Parliamentary and Federal landscape of the capital, artists, visitors experiencing the site, and all Canadians.

‘Big River Landscape’ envisions a significant new public destination, contributing to the restoration of the sense of the river as the heart of the National Capital Region within the collective imagination of Canadians. It also proposes important new connections to surrounding open spaces and federal institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada, and Major’s Hill Park.

ERA is thrilled at the chance to continue to collaborate on this important new public space for all peoples.

ERA’s team includes: Michael McClelland, Victoria Angel and Brendan Stewart, and as a sub to ERA: Lisa Prosper Heritage Consultant.

More from theNational Capital Commission on the ‘Big River Landscape’ scheme: http://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/our-projects/nepean-point-redevelopment/big-river-landscape

NCC website announcement: http://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/our-projects/nepean-point-redevelopment

Youtube Video of the NCC Public Board of Directors Meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV_Th_HDRcE – t=01h52m32s

Ottawa Citizen article: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/nepean-point-winner-announced-milestone-meeting-on-lebreton-flats-expected-january

CBC Coverage: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/nepean-point-redesign-big-river-landscape-redevelopment-1.4415946

Ottawa Start post: https://ottawastart.com/ncc-reveals-proposed-redesign-for-nepean-point/

Renderings courtesy of The Flat Side of Design

Congratulations to Ya’el Santopinto, our new Associate 

As ERA continues to grow and evolve, the Executives and Associates are very pleased to appoint Ya’el Santopinto to our leadership team. Ya’el has demonstrated commitment to our core values of city building, rehabilitation of heritage buildings, and democratic community design, and has used these values to help the firm expand into new areas.

Ya’el is a registered Architect at ERA who specializes in affordable and energy-efficient housing, international housing policy and regulation, and the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings. Ya’el is also the Director of Research and Partnerships with the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, leading work on Tower Renewal — an initiative to catalyze reinvestment and community building in apartment tower neighbourhoods. Her work includes research, advocacy, and implementation of best-in-class practices in energy retrofit, affordable housing and planning policy, green financing, and social inclusion.

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

One Spadina Crescent: When All is Finally Revealed…….

ERA has been eagerly anticipating the official opening of One Spadina Crescent, the University of Toronto’s new home for the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Our collaboration with NADAAA and Adamson Associate Architects has seen the transformation of the historical landmark that is Knox College, conserved and updated with a beautiful new addition. The history, relevance and inspiring new context of the building is captured in an insightful piece in the Globe and Mail by Dave LeBlanc, including a few words from Michael McClelland (see link below).

The site was originally designed as a garden feature for the Baldwin family, who owned the Spadina park lot that extended from Queen Street West to Bloor. In the 1870s, the Presbyterian Church bought the land and commissioned architects James Smith & John Gemmell to build Knox College. Having been adapted over the years to a number of different uses, the structure survives today as a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture, with a heritage designation (designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act on March 17, 1976).

Beginning in 2006, ERA worked with the University of Toronto and advised on heritage issues related to the site’s re-development. Since 2011 ERA has been working closely with prime architects, NADAAA, on the project. Phase 1 included the conservation of the exterior, and Phase II, the new addition extending from the historic building.

As heritage consultant, ERA prepared the Heritage Impact Assessment, Conservation Strategy and Conservation Plan, and provision of heritage architecture services related to the conservation scope of work (exterior and interior) throughout all phases of the project. The project team includes: Michael McClelland, Andrew Pruss, Julie Tyndorf, Alana Young, and Tatum Taylor.

The article reintroduces the heritage building to the public mindset, reinforcing its position as a work of prominent architecture in its own right, as well as a new asset in Toronto’s evolving cultural landscape.

Link to Globe and Mail article: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/toronto/an-overlooked-university-of-toronto-gem-brought-back-to-thespotlight/article36984536/

All photos courtesy of John Horner Photography