ERA Architects

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

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.

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!

Tower Renewal Action Forum

Canada faces a growing housing affordability crisis. Now is the time for coordinated action to build a future around more complete, resilient, and affordable cities – and Tower Renewal is a strategy for realizing this change.

Postwar apartment towers are the backbone of Canada’s purpose-built rental stock, and provide affordable housing to millions of Canadians. On October 5th, 2017, international experts and local city-builders came together to explore innovative strategies for transitioning these aging apartment tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities.

The Tower Renewal Action Forum showcased exemplary practices at home and abroad, focused on housing transformation, neighbourhood resilience, and the maintenance of affordability in our apartment tower neighbourhoods.

The Tower Renewal Action Forum took place on Thursday, October 5th at the Evergreen Brick Works. For more information, including the event speakers and program, please visit: http://towerrenewal.com/initiatives/tower-renewal-action-forum-2017/

To learn more about the Tower Renewal Partnership, please visit: http://towerrenewal.com/about-us/

 

Toronto the Good 2017

Toronto the Good is back, ushering in a new season at a new venue! It is an annual party presented by ERA Architects (and friends) to celebrate the city of Toronto, and contemplate its history and evolution with fellow architects, designers, and urban-minded people.

For this instalment of our annual party we are supporting the initiatives of the Tower Renewal Partnership, an initiative working to preserve and enhance mid-century apartment tower neighbourhoods through research, advocacy and demonstration. International experts and local city-builders will be meeting at a symposium during the day to explore innovative strategies for transitioning these aging apartment tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities. Now is the time for coordinated action to build a future around more complete, resilient, and affordable cities. Tower Renewal is a strategy for realizing this change.

We hope you will join us at the Evergreen Brick Works on October 5th, 2017, in celebration of the Tower Renewal Partnership’s accomplishments at this year’s event. Join us for hors d’ourves, cash bar, and a lively crowd of people passionate about design and civic engagement in Toronto.

Admission is free, but registration is required for entry into the party.

Join us at 5:30pm for a keynote by author and journalist Doug Saunders.

Shuttle buses will be running between Broadview Station and the Evergreen Brick Works throughout the duration of the event.

When: Thursday, October 5th, 2017, 6:00 – 10:00pm.
Where: Evergreen Brick Works

Register here through Eventbrite.

Click here for more information on the Tower Renewal Partnership and its work.

Update: RAC Zone Launch Event

On Wednesday, July 19th, leaders in the development of Toronto’s Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) Zoning by-law gathered at York University to celebrate and explore challenges and next steps in empowering communities to utilize Toronto’s newest zone. The esteemed panel had representation from property owners, entrepreneurs, community members, academics and city builders with Graeme Stewart, Principal at ERA Architect and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal as the Panel Moderator.

Panelists included:

  • Michael Mizzi Director, Zoning and Secretary-Treasurer Committee of Adjustment, City Planning Division at the City of Toronto
  •  Jason Thorne, General Manager Planning and Economic Development, City of Hamilton
  •  Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto
  •  Doug Saunders, Author, and Journalist
  •  Maurine Campbell, Coordinator, 2667/2677 Kipling Avenue Tenant Association
  •  Gobal Mailwaganam, Managing Director, Municipal Affairs & Housing and Operations  CAPREIT

The evening provided a platform for the celebration of Toronto’s new Zone as well as a discussion about the next steps in rolling out the RAC Zone on a large scale.

For coverage of the event see:

– “Changes coming to business and social services for apartment towers“, Graeme Stewart’s interview on Metro Morning

– “Towering Ambitions, article by Globe and Mail

– “Zoning changes give new life to Toronto’s ‘apartment neighborhoods’: Hume“,  article by Toronto Star

For more information on RAC zoning, visit http://www.raczone.ca

Refreshing Allan Gardens

The Friends of Allan Gardens (FOAG) are leading efforts to ensure that this historic public garden remains relevant and integrated into its ever-evolving surrounds. ERA’s Tatum Taylor, who also sits on FOAG’s Board of Directors, has published an article in the Summer/Parks issue of Spacing Magazine that describes the process for renewal. In her words:

‘…For decades, Allan Gardens has struggled to maintain its identity and integrity within Toronto’s rapidly evolving downtown core. The diversity of its uses sets it apart within the City’s parks system, but also imposes competing demands on its aging infrastructure. The newly released Allan Gardens Refresh, produced by the Friends of Allan Gardens (FOAG) in collaboration with the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department, envisions a future for the park that evokes its former grandeur. In keeping with Allan Gardens’ traditions of horticulture innovation and social activism, the Refresh initiative is an inventive approach to planning, stewardship, and revitalization – shaking up the existing model of master planning for Toronto’s parks…’

To read the article in its entirety, please pick up a copy of Spacing Magazine online or at your local newsstand outlet.

To learn more about the Allan Gardens Refresh – a vision document produced by FOAG in partnership with the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division – visit friendsofallangardens.ca

Allan Gardens feature image courtesy of Brent Wagler.
Workshop image curtesy of ERA Architects.
Spacing cover image courtesy of spacing magazine.

 

Sabina Ali & Graeme Stewart Speak to ‘Modern Tower Blocks and the 21st Century City’

Harlyn Thompson Lecture Series – Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba
Thursday, March 16, 2017
6PM Lecture
Eckhardt Gramatte Hall
University of Winnipeg

Speakers:
Sabina Ali – Chair, Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee
Graeme Stewart – Principal, ERA Architects, Co-Founder/Board Member, Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) and Co-Editor, Concrete Toronto: A Guidebook to Concrete Architecture from the Fifties to the Seventies

Graeme Stewart and Sabina Ali will introduce the case of Toronto’s built legacy: upwards of 2,000 modernist tower blocks that define its urban landscape. Hidden in plain sight on the political radar for decades, they have experienced an extended period of neglect, however a season of change has recently emerged.

‘Tower Renewal’ sprang forth as a resolution to engage policy-makers and members of the public through research, development and calls-to-action. It shone a light on the under-estimation of the importance of these towers as vast, vertical communities whose social and structural preservation are imperative in meeting the challenges of the city’s demand for greater density and enhanced quality of life amid dwindling resources.

Toronto’s Tower block urbanism is ubiquitous, complex and contentious in nature for its physical and cultural landscape. Conservation solutions refuse to be pigeonholed, requiring a multifaceted and customized approach. The Tower Renewal initiative is nimble and dynamic in approach, successfully and sensitively addressing each project as separate and unique.

Promotional poster

Photo credit: Chloë Ellingson

The (Lane)way Forward: Exploring the Potential of Under-Served Public Space

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As Toronto’s population increases in density, it places more pressure on ever-shrinking resources, including public space. The use of laneways in the city to increase public space offers the opportunity to release some of this pressure.

ERA’s Annabel Vaughan moderated a panel discussion on November 30th on just this subject. Organized by The Laneway Project, panellists included Jake Tobin Garrett of Park People, Jessica Myers of the Junction BIA, Jonathan Morrice of Toronto Police Service’s 55 Division, Mark van Elsberg, Public Realm Section, City of Toronto, and Monica Wickeler, a visual artist who works in street art and murals.

The Laneway Project – a not-for-profit corporation – champions change, initiating action through a grassroots approach, specializing in ‘tweets to shovels’ social media activism in the realms of planning, urban design, architecture, landscape, communications, research, community engagement and public policy. They would like to see a time-based sharing of spaces: to push laneways to offer an ebb and flow as dynamic, multi-purpose community spaces over a 24-hour cycle.

Laneways lie on the marginal edge and are often associated with crime, however they are vital as potentially thriving public spaces. Toronto often lags behind other international centres when it comes to optimizing our public space. An interesting precedent is Detroit’s TAP (The Alley Project), where garages host street art workshops and animated laneways are adorned with graffiti, creating spaces to engage youth, ultimately changing the focus of their use.

The City of Toronto aims to facilitate stakeholder-driven, incremental interventions of a similar nature, seeking out opportunities to revitalize and enliven existing laneways. This has included limiting parking to enable restaurants to set up licenced patios in alleys, reinventing micro-retail environments, developing parking spot parklettes, retaining historic laneway networks, developing guidelines for housing, and supporting laneway innovations hosted by BIAs and communities as part of the public realm.

The panel successfully fleshed out these opportunities; for Toronto, the conversation is just getting started.

For more information please click here.

‘Tower, Slab, Superblock: Social Housing Legacies and Futures’ Sparks the Imagination on Postwar Design and Construction

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Participants included: Geraldine Dening, Co-Founder, Architects for Social Housing, Simon Elmer, Co-Founder, Architects for Social Housing, Phineas Harper, Deputy Director, The Architecture Foundation, Paul Karakusevic, Founder and Partner, Karakusevic Carson Architects, Jean-Louis Cohen – Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at New York University, Javier Arpa, Research and Education Coordinator of The Why Factory at Delft University of Technology,
Kenny Cupers, Associate Professor in the History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Basel, Frédéric Druot, Founder and Partner, Frédéric Druot Architecture, Susanne Schindler – Architect, writer, and housing columnist for Urban Omnibus, Martine August, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, and Graeme Stewart, Principal, ERA Architects.

“Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform and reuse!”
– Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

On December 10th a group of international guests will assemble at the Cooper Union Rose Auditorium in New York City to share thoughts on policy and design improvements to enhance the existing stock of postwar social hosing in North America and Europe, reflecting on the need for creating solutions to reimaging this housing stock.

Hosted by the Architecture League of New York, the focus of the symposium will be the approaches and best practice of three cities: London, Paris, and Toronto. ERA’s Graeme Stewart will speak of the Toronto experience and emerging opportunities through our ongoing work on Tower Renewal.

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When: 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM Saturday, December 10, 2016
Where: Rose Auditorium, The Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square, New York

For background event information please click here.
For event information please click here.

Flashback Friday: A Jane’s Walk Down Memory Lane

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ERA loves the Jane’s Walk festival. Not only do the walks encourage citizens to share stories, explore communities, and connect with neighbours, they also provide platforms for discussing important urban, suburban, and rural issues that affect communities across the world. The Jane’s Walk festival is a global event that is celebrated in over 200 cities, and we’re excited that it’s just around the corner! From May 6-8, join in this worldwide event and lead or join a walk. Continue reading…

Harvest Festival in Thorncliffe Park

IMG_4171On Saturday, September 26th, the Third Not-So-Annual Harvest Festival took place in Thorncliffe Park. Hosted by not-for-profit Diasporic Genius (DG), the festival featured a pop-up Women’s Cultural Café, an initiative of the Thorncliffe Action Group (TAG). Diasporic Genius, TAG, and ERA Architects collaborated to design, build, and run this dynamic pop-up café. Continue reading…

ERA Steps Back in Time

 

As architects (and appreciators of all things historic) an office discussion regarding family heirlooms of tools, appliances, and other cool items (that predate most of our staff) has resulted in this great photo collection of household artifacts.

Brendan1Brendan Stewart has a block and tackle handed down from his great grandfather..

b2…and a rocking chair that came from his great great grandparents that dates back at least 150 years.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 9.54.35 AMSydney Martin’s very old microwave. She even has a cookbook complete with a microwaved rack of lamb recipe.

draftingkit[1] tatumTatum Taylor’s grandfather’s set of architectural drafting tools.

philip Philip Evans has this bright red and yellow 1961 lawn mower.

Lindsay R.Lindsay Reid has a set of tools in her workshop from her grandfather…

Lindsay R2.. and a really cool foot measuring tool.

image1Scott Weir’s wooden boatbuilding tools, belonging to family member James Weir of Glasgow.

image2

IMG_0579A 17th- 18th century Norwegian mangle board used to flatten linen is a family heirloom of Victoria Angel.

Edwin Toaster and ToastAnd the greatest of all, Edwin Rowse’s 95 year old toaster, equipped with a slice of fresh toast to prove it still works.