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Kensington Market Lofts Presents a Gateway of Colour to the Neighbourhood

The scaffolding has finally come down to reveal the brilliant collection of 17 colours featured on the east façade of the Kensington Market Lofts building, a public art piece created by notable local artist and area resident An Te Lui! Inspired by the culturally-diverse public realm in which it is located, it as a gateway to the neighbourhood.

Located at 160 Baldwin Street, the Kensington Market Lofts was built in 1952 by George Brown College to house their technical school, was and attached to an older red brick school building dating from 1923. The new addition was clad in glazed yellow terra-cotta blocks, which over time had begun to allow water to infiltrate its steel support structure. ERA has worked with the condo board on a long-term multi-stage revitalization of the buildings, including interior finish upgrades and wayfinding, as well as developing an extensive program of façade remediation.

It was determined that the east façade was at particular risk of future infiltration, and that a robust over cladding strategy would be required to protect the steel structure once remediated. Simultaneously the remaining terracotta blocks could be salvaged for use in preserving the original features of the building on the remaining facades. In addition to its functional necessity, ERA and the condo board viewed the proposed over cladding as a unique opportunity for the building to contribute to the public realm, and asked An Te Liu to develop a pattern that could speak to the building’s important context within Kensington Market.

An Te Liu’s concept for the colour configuration was based a pattern depicting the neighbourhood’s historic diversity, the distribution of the colours being drawn from an analysis of the percentage of those present in the world’s national flags. The significance of the approach is that the material sits comfortably within its bohemian context as it complements the existing vibrant-coloured awnings, shops and graffiti that energize the streetscape. The project faces one of Toronto’s most important thoroughfares, providing a landmark that will invite people into the market at one of its primary entrances. It is a physical manifestation and embodiment of the eclectic spirit and energy of the market.

Congratulations to ERA’s project team: Graeme Stewart, Max Berg, and Leah Gibling!

To access the recent Globe and mail article on this project by David LeBlanc, click here.
To access recent CODAmagazine coverage on this project, click here.

Images by An Te Liu and Vik Pahwa.

Tower Renewal in 2017

The Tower Renewal strategy has had significant impact over the past year. Across all levels of government, there is a growing consensus: Tower Renewal can have a scalable impact nation-wide as a means to meet climate change, affordable housing, poverty reduction, smart growth, and economic development objectives. Some highlights include:

1. Announcement of $15.9B Co-Investment Fund, committing to the rehabilitation of 240,000 units of existing affordable housing as part of Canada’s landmark National Housing Strategy.

2. $350M allocated towards apartment retrofit through Ontario’s Social Housing Apartment Retrofit Program (SHARP) and Social Housing Apartment Improvement Program (SHAIP) with the first round of projects underway.

3. Release of Transform TO, a strategy adopted by Toronto City Council that will require every multi-unit residential building (MURB) to undergo deep energy retrofit by 2050.

4. Intermunicipal Working Group convened with representatives from Ontario’s four largest cities: Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga and Ottawa working toward a collaborative Tower Renewal framework. 

5. Provincial collaboration toward Tower Renewal action. Initiated in 2017, five provincial ministries are coordinating to tackle the question of enabling Tower Renewal in Ontario through housing rehabilitation and neighbourhood growth planning.

6. The Tower Renewal Action Forum brought together international experts and local city-builders to explore innovative strategies for transitioning aging tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities with welcome remarks from Mayor of Toronto,  John Tory and the Minister of Housing, Peter Milczyn.

7. 500 tower sites in the City of Toronto rezoned through the launch of the RAC Zone, removing barriers to Complete Community objectives being met on tower sites. CUG+R, the Tower and Neighbourhood Revitalization UnitUnited Way Toronto and York Region, and Toronto Public Health won the 2017 OPPI Excellence in Planning Award for the implementation of this work.

8. New primary research underway towards a comprehensive Tower Renewal framework: Retrofit Finance Analysis for a nation-wide retrofit program prepared by the Tower Renewal Partnership and the National Housing Collaborative, and a study on Housing Quality and Standards prepared by CUG+R and Transsolar in partnership with Maytree identifying standards to ensure healthy, safe, and resilient retrofits.

9. University Research Network established, harnessing applied graduate student research on Tower Renewal at five academic institutions across Ontario.

10. Unit Retrofit Challenge initiated, creating a prototype to engage owners and industry in research, development, monitoring, and verification of local best practices on a single-unit basis.

In 2018, work continues by a diverse set of partners to continue to enable Tower Renewal and the Tower Renewal Partnership continues to be a catalyst for this progress through ongoing research, policy advocacy, and action.

Urban Form and Social Energy of the City- the University of Waterloo focuses on isolation in Toronto’s mature suburbs

This March, ERA’s Ya’el Santopinto was a panelist at the “Urban Form and Social Energy of the City”, a forum hosted by the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. Under the overarching theme of non-isolating urbanism and architecture, discussions explored challenges and opportunities in preserving affordable housing and transforming tower neighbourhoods throughout the Toronto Region.

Alongside Ya’el were Martine August from the University of Waterloo Planning and George Baird from the University of Toronto, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design with Adrian Blackwell as Moderator.

For more information, visit the University’s event page here.

Header image courtesy of the University of Waterloo Architecture’s Instagram account.

Casey House is Awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation

The 2017 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation has been awarded to ERA Architects, for the conservation of Casey House. The award highlights projects across the province that contribute to the conservation of a heritage building and the community enhancement it fosters. The firm is thrilled, and could not have successfully completed this endeavor without collaboration from Hariri Pontarini Architects and the broader community.

Casey House is a significant visual reminder of the affluence and grandeur of Jarvis street during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The property has been redeveloped as a state-of-the-art AIDS/HIV healthcare facility that integrates the historic building with a new four-storey extension.  The design of the contemporary facility juxtaposed against the Victorian mansion is a distinct but complementary addition by Hariri Pontarini. It embraces and respects the existing building, preserving its qualities and organizing the day-to-day user experience. Throughout the project, the architects considered how to manifest unifying themes from the AIDS movement such as ‘embrace’ and ‘quilt’ by working the design concept from the inside out.

The conservation strategy was to retain and conserve the heritage fabric, replacing deteriorated elements where necessary. The preservation of the exterior was extensive, including the removal of paint from the masonry, repointing of brickwork, the replacement of stone bands, the fabrication and installation of new window boxes, and new lead-coated copper spiralettes on the roof. The iron fence was repaired and repainted, and the wall it sits on was cleaned, re-pointed, and any deteriorated stone replaced. The interior preservation included the repair and repainting of the plasterwork, the development of the colour scheme, preservation of the fireplaces, and repair of the mosaic flooring in the vestibule. The woodwork was repaired and refinished, and the timber flooring repaired and re-stained. A high degree of durability in the finishes was required to withstand the rigours of the daily/weekly cleaning regimes required of a hospital. Casey House is Canada’s first and only stand-alone hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS.  

In spite of the complexity involved with designing a health facility, the preservation and restoration of the original building—an example of the grand homes that lined Jarvis Street at the time of its development—was at the forefront of discussions when expanding the facility first arose.

At its heart, the redevelopment of Casey House was a community-inspired and driven initiative, with stakeholders recognizing the importance of their generous contributions.

Congratulations to ERA’s project team: Michael McClelland, Edwin Rowse, Scott Weir, Jessie Grebenc, Joey Giaimo, Luke Denison,  and Mikael Sydor.

Related links:
http://www.eraarch.ca/project/239/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/a-hospital-with-heart-that-embraces-its-patients-celebrates-its-grand-reopening/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/capitalizing-on-heritage-awarding-conservation-materials-craftsmanship-and-construction/
http://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/index.php/media-releases/lieutenant-governors-ontario-heritage-awards-presentation

​Project photos are courtesy of Vik Pahwa.

The Legacy Lives On: Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory as an emerging practice in historic urban landscape stewardship

ERA Associate Victoria Angel’s article in Plan Magazine’s Winter Issue ‘Urban heritage: A living legacy’ on the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Recommendation (2011) illustrates its implications and emerging practices, using the City of Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory as a case-study. The recommendation encourages a more holistic, integrative approach to urban heritage conservation, focusing on the urban landscape. It proposes that future considerations around urban development should enhance sustainability, functionality, inclusivity, place-making and local identities. Governments have experimented with its implementation, in spite of the complexity of the various urban systems.

Practices that have emerged as a result include a greater use of community consultation, and the characterization of large urban areas through the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which integrate well with other municipal information systems.

Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory process was adopted by its City Council in the spring of 2014 and was the subject of a paper by Victoria Angel, Angela Garvey and Mikael Sydor that was published by the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The City of Hamilton intends to implement the strategy one neighbourhood at a time, at a citywide level.

By incorporating the HUL’s recommendations, ‘…Citywide surveys and inventories, landscape characterization, and an understanding of people’s perceptions of the places they inhabit could, in the future, be used by cities to identify a much broader range of conservation opportunities, better understand an area’s capacity to change and evolve, and reposition historic resources to serve as the springboard and foundation for new development….’

Article in CIP’s PLAN Canada Journal: http://www.kelmanonline.com/httpdocs/files/CIP/plancanadawinter2017/index.html
Related content: http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/hamiltons-durand-built-heritage-inventory-project-incorporates-digital-innovation-to-develop-a-citywide-approach-to-heritage-planning/
http://www.eraarch.ca/project/hamilton-downtown-built-heritage-inventory/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2013/9295/

All images courtesy of ERA Architects.

62 – 64 Charles Street: The Lost Craft of Tuck-pointing Returns

Tuck-pointing was developed by the English back in the late 17th century and was practiced all the way up to the early 20th century. Historic preservationist/educator Michael Shellenbarger states in a 1993 essay titled Tuck Pointing History and Confusion the correct definition of tuck-pointing (based on historical precedents) is:

…… a masonry jointing that uses mortar in two colours to simulate the appearance of narrow joints. The actual joint is disguised with a flush mortar tinted to appear similar to the colour of masonry units. A joint like groove (the tuck) is often cut into this flush joint. Then mortar of a contrasting colour is added onto the flush joint and into the groove and is shaped and trimmed into a narrow false joint, which usually projects slightly. This line gives the appearance of a narrow projecting jointing.    

Completed properly, tuck-pointing is the most highly skilled of all pointing finishes. It creates the illusion of finely pointed gauged brickwork, enhancing the quality of appearance of buildings constructed of damaged or irregular bricks.

62 – 64 Charles Street East, an ERA project where recent conservation work has restored the tuck-pointed building to its former glory under the expert hand of Hunt Heritage. This is the largest application of the process that ERA has been involved with, and it’s an exemplar for bringing this lost craft back to the city. The project was undertaken in the late summer of 2015 and completed in late spring of 2017.

As heritage consultants ERA strived to protect the value, significance and integrity of the heritage assets. The work required a full conservation scope on the semi-detached house, that included the rarely-seen craft of tuck-pointing for which National Trust (Aus) award-winning Tuck-pointer Antoni Pijaca was hired to share his expertise and the secrets of his trade.

The Charles Street project was honoured last fall with a 2017 CAHP Award of Excellence —Materials, Craftsmanship and Construction. ERA is continuing to feature this technique prominently through work on the Selby Hotel at 592 Sherbourne, which is set to be completed in the summer.

For more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxPc6_2R-Hc
Article by Dave LeBlanc in the Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/toronto/the-lost-art-of-tuckpointing-reborn-intoronto/article37802073/

Related content: http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/capitalizing-on-heritage-awarding-conservation-materials-craftsmanship-and-construction/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/era-learns-the-fine-art-of-tuckpointing-from-a-melbourne-based-master/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2012/tuckpointing-a-note-on-detail/

 

In-House Experts: Barrier-Free Design and Heritage Buildings

At ERA we thrive on finding new uses for existing buildings and integrating the heritage fabric of our city into contemporary designs. One of the ways we approach conservation of existing fabric is through modifications to buildings and cultural landscapes that enable all users to enjoy our shared heritage. Many heritage structures are not barrier-free by today’s standards: the main entrances often are only accessible by stairs, they have heavy doors without automatic operators, the washrooms don’t accommodate wheelchair users, the stairs don’t have the tactile and colour-contrasting nosing that aid users with low-vision in navigating them.

Improving upon our heritage fabric to create a more accessible environment requires a careful and sensitive approach. Whereas a barrier-free approach to a new building design is integrated from the very beginning, a barrier-free retrofit requires considering the impact of the alterations on the historical features of the building: How can we position a new entrance ramp to minimize its visual impact? How can we modify existing doors to accommodate power door operators without damaging the existing fabric? How can we renovate an existing washroom to allow for universal access? What materials can we use to provide tactile and colour-contrasting nosing without negatively impacting a historical wood stair?

Two of our most recent projects in downtown Toronto feature smart designs that integrate barrier-free features into the existing fabric of heritage structures: the Sultan Street Development and 330 University Avenue.

The Sultan Street Development features the integration of a row of red brick Romanesque houses with a new office tower development designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA). As the original entries to the heritage houses featured a series of steps up to the doors, they impeded the possibility for barrier-free access from the street. ERA proposed a simple modification to the entrances which lowered the doors to street level and enabled barrier-free access without the need for a ramp or elevating device.

At 330 University Avenue (also known as the Canada Life Building), ERA took a different approach to providing barrier-free access. In this case, the existing steps to this Beaux Arts building were maintained and a ramp was designed to allow barrier-free entry through one of the three main doors off University. In addition, the original bronze and glass doors were equipped with power door operators to ensure a fully barrier-free path of travel to the public lobby.

Post by guest writer Max Yuristy.
All photos courtesy of ERA Architects.

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