ERA Architects

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.

Scott Weir presents at Society of Architectural Historians

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Last week ERA’s Scott Weir presented at the 68th Annual Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Conference in Chicago held from April 15-19.

The SAH conference brings together innovative thinkers from around the world to examine major currents in architecture and urban design with a mission statement “to foster the understanding and appreciation of architectural history among both professional scholars and laymen.”

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The material library

A material library is a cataloged collection of real-world materials kept for research and reference. Often the library consists of recently released, innovative, or unusual products, but can also include more commonly used materials that are important to combine, compare, contrast etc., in their full materiality. Continue reading…

Shipbuilding in NFLD: a book

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ERA’s Philip Evans and grandfather Calvin Evans are about to launch Master Shipbuilders of Newfoundland and Labrador, Vol I, a detailed account of one of maritime Canada’s oldest traditions. The book, published by Breakwater Books, will be launched at 3:30 on Sat. Sept. 14 at the St. John’s Chapters. Philip and Calvin Evans will be present for an informal discussion and Q&A. Continue reading…

Slabs vs. points

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A new article in Satellite Magazine on Toronto Towers by ERA’s Graeme Stewart, Josh Thorpe, and Michael McClelland.

The article compares Toronto’s two high-rise housing booms, which have generated housing in volume and distribution unlike anywhere else in North America: first, the suburban tower boom in Toronto’s post-war period, and next the contentious condo boom of recent years. Continue reading…

Concrete Toronto on spacing.ca

ERA is pleased to announce that this summer spacing.ca will be republishing several articles from our book, Concrete Toronto: a guidebook to concrete architecture from the fifties to the seventies.

The book, published by Coach House Books in 2007, reconsiders Toronto’s large inventory of concrete buildings and infrastructure from the perspective of a diverse group architects, city planners, academics, historians, and journalists. Continue reading…

Rapid Response at Harbourfront Centre

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Harbourfront Centre Architecture Gallery, Toronto
June 21 to Sept 7, opening June 21, 6 to 10 p.m.

The design duo known as Captains of Industry, which consists of ERAer Amy Norris and Clint Langevin of architectsAlliance, are collaborating on a project for Rapid Response, an exhibition exploring architectural responses to natural disaster. Amy and Clint describe their contribution, Postnatural Disaster below: Continue reading…

Seoul: its heritage and its future

ERA’s Sharon Hong was recently published in Transforming Asian Cities, a new book edited by Nihal Perera and Wing-Shing Tang for Routledge. According to Perera and Tang, Asian cities are too often thought of as “following global models” and “Western-dominated urban hierarchies and spatial structures.” This new publication, however, aims to provide “inside-out” interpretations of Asian urbanism. Continue reading…

April 25-27: Exhibition on landscape

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Please join us for the opening reception and exhibition of Gladstone Grow Op, an exploration of landscape and place curated by Victoria Taylor, OALA.

Thursday, April 25 to Sunday, April 28. Opening reception: Friday, April 26, 7–10 pm

Our contribution, Hoarding Suggestions, situated at the Gladstone Art Bar and sponsored by the Friends of Allan Gardens and ERA Architects, centres around the history of public engagement in one of our favourite parks: Allan Gardens.

In 1963, the Department of Parks and Recreation set up a suggestion box in Allan Gardens. It turned out that Torontonians were full of ideas about how to improve the park, and we found their suggestions in the city archives. Fifty years later, we are hoping to generate new excitement for revitalizing this cherished public space.

We hope to see you there.

Gladstone Grow Op

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We are pleased to announce that ERA will be participating in Grow Op: Exploring Landscape and Place, a special four-day event and exhibition to be held in late at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel April 25-28, 2013.

The exhibition, curated by landscape architect Victoria Taylor OALA CSLA, will involve a wide range of interdisciplinary practices and creative positions on landscape, gardens, city, and place. Please keep an eye out for news on this exciting event as we approach the date.

As an aside, in the process of discussions with the Gladstone, we were reminded of a project from years ago: an installation by ERA’s Michael McClelland and Philip Evans called Room for a Bungalow. To see this project, please see the Gladstone archive.

Happy Holidays!

Append & tweak: Rethinking heritage in our suburbs

An article by ERA associate Joey Giaimo was recently published in the latest APT Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology International.  The article, “Append & Tweak: An Approach for Preserving the Evolving Suburban Landscape,” asks us to re-evaluate how we regard and manage heritage resources in suburban contexts, and argues for a cultural landscape approach as we move forward. Continue reading…

United Way AGM: Graeme Stewart’s Keynote Address

On Thursday, June 21, ERA’s Graeme Stewart addressed United Way’s AGM as keynote speaker.

In 2010, ERA and CUG+R published Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which looks at a broad range of historical trends, planning issues, sustainability concerns, social needs, and opportunity for renewal in and around Toronto’s tower block neighbourhoods. In 2011, United Way published Vertical Poverty, which focuses much-needed attention on poverty, equity, and quality-of-life issues experienced by residents of high-rise housing. Continue reading…

Concrete Ideas

The book Concrete Ideas: Material to Shape a City was launched in January, 2012.
Edited by Pina Petricone, the book considers new approaches to concrete architecture by exploring a variety of new technologies and possibilities for the material. First introduced by Pina’s article in Concrete Toronto, the book is a compilation of ideas, articles and interviews assembled over the past several years.

The volume includes exploratory design work by ERA’s Jessie Grebenc, as well as a pair of articles by Graeme Stewart focused on Tower Renewal; one examining the state of concrete tower blocks internationally and the other exploring their potential architectural and urban futures in the Toronto context.

Congratulations to Pina and the publication team on a wonderful and beautiful book.

Read about Concrete Ideas in a John Bentley Mays review in the Globe and Mail here.

Concrete Ideas: Material to Shape a City will be available for order online at Amazon.ca soon.

For more on concrete, Concrete Toronto can be found here.

Tower Neighbourhood Renewal article in the APT International


ERA is featured in the summer edition of the International Journal for the Association for Preservation Technology (APT), in an article examining the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative.

From the introduction:

In 2008 the City of Toronto initiated its Tower Neighborhood Renewal program. The program looks at the significant impact of post–World War II construction in the city and proposes a plan for the rehabilitation of the many apartment towers that had been built during that period in the downtown core and inner suburbs. The scale and ambition of the project is large, and it represents an important departure from previous thinking that had placed little value on the conservation of buildings from this period. The intent of the program is to use the rehabilitation of this postwar building type as the catalyst for creating stronger, more sustainable communities. Recognizing that such a large-scale renewal amounts to a 20-year program, this paper provides an update on current progress.

The full article can be downloaded here.

On mapping

With any exercise in mapping there are a whole series of interesting Borges-like adventures that reveal themselves.  There is the story or stories the map-writer wishes to tell, but to the map-reader there are countless other stories which may appear as unpredictable discoveries beyond the intentional.

As a child, playing the game of ‘connect the dots’ is an early exploration in map reading.   One carefully draws the lines from dot to dot until the little rhinoceros reveals itself, and there is a moment of discovery, recognition and pleasure.   With every map this same moment of discovery lies in wait – and the more complex the map, the greater the pleasure there is in reading it.

In reading any map there are the representational issues between the map and the place on the ground; the real place to which the map corresponds.   The map is a selective recording of some specific data.  The reader must connect the dots between the data, and find the correspondence that tells her more about that place.  Beyond the simplest of storylines the reader’s own experience and knowledge of the place and knowledge of the data can provide a rich, nuanced, synergistic reading.

A map can also be like an architectural drawing – which is a series of visual instructions, or a map for action – in that it can be a delineation of something that does not yet exist.  And in this case, can the reader visualize the impact and understand the potential should this mapped fictional place slip into the real world?

Mapping of places is an act of the imagination, both for the map-maker and the map-reader.  Wellbeing Toronto presents new and different data from what we have seen before and has the potential to reveal patterns of the city that had previously been unreadable.  With this mapping tool the City of Toronto are opening up room for discussion leading to multiple readings, multiple interpretations, and the potential for action.

The image above overlays the 1894 and 2010 built-form maps of Toronto, produced by ERA.

The Millionth Tower

ERA (in association with the Centre for Urban Growth + Renewal) has been working with the National Film Board on their documentary project HighRise, which looks at the experience of living in post war concrete towers around the world.

Currently, ERA, CUG+R, and the National Film Board are working with the Kipling Towers community in north Etobicoke to produce the forthcoming web documentary The Millionth Tower; a follow up to the powerful web documentary, The 1000th Tower.

While The 1000th Tower brings the viewer inside the lives of six tower residents, sharing stories of their present experience, The Millionth Tower will showcase the bold ideas that the residents have in re-imagining what their neighbourhood could become in the future. ERA and CUG+R have been helping to inspire the community to dream big, and providing design guidance to help communicate their ideas. Look for The Millionth Tower to be launched in 2011.

North York Modernist Architecture Forum on Tuesday November 9th

ERA with Heritage Toronto, the City of Toronto and the North York Community Preservation Panel will be hosting an evening of presentations and discussion on the former city’s Modernist stock. The evening will be hosted by Heritage Toronto executive director Karen Carter with presentations by the Globe and Mail’s Dave LeBlanc, Heritage Toronto’s Gary Miedema, the City of Toronto’s Leo deSorcy, North York Community Preservation Panel Chair Geoff Kettel and ERA’s Michael McClelland.

The Forum will be held on Tuesday November 9 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm in the Council Chamber at the North York Civic Centre at 5100 Yonge Street.

ERA will be releasing a document updating the entire inventory of 1997’s North York’s Modernist Architecture. This newly printed document will complement last year’s reprinting and will be available at the event.

Open Doors for Doors Open

Gallery 1313 in Parkdale is hosting an architecturally-themed exhibition to tie in with this year’s Doors Open festival.  The show is curated by Toronto Star urban issues and architecture correspondent Christopher Hume.  In the gallery’s own words;

this exhibition gives artists a unique opportunity to explore the influences of local architecture in their artistic practice. The exhibition pays homage to [Doors Open] and allows the public an opportunity to make a further connection with city architecture by viewing the creative process that has inspired these artists.

ERA’s William MacIvor will have a few pieces on show, including collage-based adaptive reuse studies of the oft-neglected R.L. Hearn Generating Station. Be sure and drop in while you’re out exploring the built environment this weekend.

Open Doors
An Exhibition Inspired by Doors Open
May 26th – June 9th 2010
Reception May 27th 6:30-10pm

Gallery 1313
1313 Queen St. West
Gallery Hours Wed – Sun 1-6pm
www.g1313.org

Above graphic by ERA Architects.

View Points: You’re invited to look inside the City!

Harbourfront Centre regularly hosts a forum series called View Points that “explores issues in contemporary culture and showcases current culture-makers”.

To coincide with the current Community Centred exhibition at the Architecture Gallery, a forum titled “Inside the City” is set for next Thursday February 25th at 7:00 pm at Harbourfront. Ian Chodikoff will be moderating the event that will include Joe Lobko, Helena Grdadolnik, Michael McClelland, and Graeme Stewart.

Photograph by Tom Bilenkey

Harbourfront Centre | Inside the City

People per Hectare _ Installation Documentation


We often talk about density in terms of numerical ratios, or other quantitative abstractions. Our intention here is to try and map the spatial experience of specific densities to their numerical signifiers, and then relate these examples directly to similar conditions in Toronto.

Continue reading the full post below for expanded versions of the neighbourhood and density studies shown at the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibition.

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