ERA Architects

Celebrating ERA’s 30th anniversary

A flag with ERA 30 on it

On May 1st, ERA is marking 30 years of heritage conservation, community building, and catalyzing change both in urban and rural settings. While we may not be able to celebrate together physically this year,  we thought we’d take a virtual walk down memory lane to mark some of the themes behind our projects that have made ERA who we are today.

Urban transformation through adaptive re-use

One of the first widescale projects we took on as ERA was the Distillery District. As the Architect-of-Record for the overall Distillery District project and Heritage Architect for a series of the tenant spaces, we’ve seen how adaptive reuse of historic buildings can spark urban transformation.

The potential for this type of renewal extends beyond Toronto. The Booth Street Masterplan in Ottawa looks to apply the lessons learned through the Distillery District project, scaling these approaches for the local context to celebrate Ottawa’s heritage and provide new opportunities for growth.

Exterior of Cambium Farms

Nathan Cyprys

Supporting transitioning and rural economies

Many smaller communities across Ontario and the country are struggling with the transition away from resource-based economies. While our Small initiative helps support these towns through engagement and community building, other architecture projects like Cambium Farms and Goodlot Brewery in Caledon and the Drake Devonshire in Wellington have helped cultivate new local economies fuelled by small businesses.

Senate of Canada

A national approach to heritage

In recent years, ERA has looked beyond Toronto, and even beyond Ontario, to bring a national approach to our work. Our offices in Ottawa and Montreal, where we have a partnership with Kubanek Architecte, have been growing, and we’ve taken on new and exciting work in Alberta. These projects range from largescale architecture work at the University of Alberta, to more community-based placemaking and adaptive re-use projects in Banff.

ERA hosted an opening session on affordability and resilience in our tower blocks at the office.

Resource sharing and collaboration

At its centre, heritage conservation is a collaborative process. We learn best practices, new techniques and innovative ideas from our heritage colleagues across the globe. This collaboration extends beyond the heritage field and into how we approach all our projects. We work closely in collaboration with our teams to better understand the challenges and needs of our projects in order to reach our full potential.

LGA-AP

 Resiliency in the 21st century

Building more resilient communities requires a collaborative effort, from low energy retrofit of existing buildings, to off-the-grid new homes. Evergreen Brick Works in the heart of the Don Valley floodplain is a shining example of the success of this work. The challenges of updating the buildings on site for 21st century use while incorporating innovative flood management and response solutions could only be accomplished by working across industries.

Our Tower Renewal work has resulted in the retrofit of thousands of units of housing as healthy, resilient and low energy homes. This includes the Ken Soble Tower, North America’s first Passive House tower retrofit, now under construction.

Resiliency doesn’t just mean preparing for a changing climate, but also building infrastructure that allows for support networks to flourish. Upgrading the existing spaces for accessibility in all our projects is core to our practice. Many of our Tower Renewal projects include building accessible community spaces like sport courts and mixed-use rooms to encourage connection between residents, many of whom are elderly and at an increased risk of social isolation.

While these themes may encapsulate some of our work from the past 30 years, they also provide a look into what the next 30 years may have in store. We look forward to building upon these approaches and continuing to celebrate our cultural heritage and values with you — our collaborators, clients and community.

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!

 

 

 

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 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.

 

 

ERA BBQ, 2013

We smoked cigars, blew bubbles, told humourous anecdotes, ate, drank, chased after obstreperous children, and mopped our brows in thirty-plus weather.

On the menu this year: hara bhara kebabs (“full-of-green” kebabs), “new age” watermelon salad, and several competing varieties of gourmet potato salad. For dessert: Greek honey balls, Newfoundland blueberry puff, Trinidadian rum cake, and Persian sholeh zard, which, we are given to understand, means “sloppy yellow.”

Thanks to Sonya and Anusha for organizing, and Andrew and Tony for hosting. Until next year!

ERA in Buffalo

Recently, ERAers Alana Young and Josh Thorpe took trips to investigate the fascinating city of Buffalo, New York. Less than two hours from Toronto by car, Buffalo is a city of major historical significance to the region and has some stunning work in planning and architecture. Continue reading…

Toronto to Detroit

Selection of photos by Lara Herald, Scott Weir, Alana Young, Sydney Martin, Graeme Stewart, Jordan Molnar, Julie Tyndorf, Alec Ring, and Brent Wagler.

Recently a large group of us here at ERA spent a weekend exploring the amazing city of Detroit, Michigan. Founded in 1701, Detroit became a huge industrial and economic engine from the mid-19th century through the automobile boom of the early 20th century. During the 1920s and ‘50s especially, a great deal of stunning modernist architecture was constructed and many of these amazing buildings still stand today. Continue reading…

Rum Cake: An ERA bake-off report

Like architecture offices around the globe, ERA Architects occasionally indulges in a bake-off. In these highly competitive events, contestants’ work is assessed and ranked by blind ballot, and the winner is proffered the prestigious Golden Whisk (pictured above, bottom right).

Continue reading…

A successful Toronto the Good, 2012

On Thursday, June 7th, we got together with Torontonians at Fort York to reflect on the city and toast its built and cultural environments, past and future. Close to 1000 guests joined us in enjoying great food, drink, dancing, and stimulating discussion about the place we live.

Thank you very much, all who attended – we look forward to seeing you again.

And, of course, thank you very much to Fort York for hosting, En Ville for catering, DJ Sam “Efsharp” Fleming for the music, Luminato’s Encampment for collaborating with us, and to all our partners and sponsors this year: Build Toronto, Toronto Society of Architects, McGowan Insurance Services, Prem Malik, Arup, McCarthy Tétrault, Kearns Mancini Architects, Diamond Corp, Palatine Hills Estate Winery, Carpenters’ Union, Spacing, Urban Strategies, Ground Magazine, Scadding Court Community Centre, Campbell House Museum, Working Habitat, Evolved Entertainment, Varsity Tents, and Astley Gilbert.

Keep up to date with our yearly event at torontothegood.org.

Carrot Cake Bake Off

Another delicious bake-off was held in the ERA office last week. This time the challenge was laid down by newcomer to the office Julie Tyndorf, to three time winner Sydney Martin. There was added scandal when an anonymous entry mysteriously appeared on the table. Who won?

Continue reading…