ERA Architects

The Star’s Big Ideas: GTA’s future in high-rise suburbs

Throughout the first part of 2014, the Toronto Star is running a series called “Big Ideas“,  asking Torontonians to think big about the future of the region. What type of Toronto do we want to create in the years to come?

For our contribution to this series, we discuss Tower Renewal as the key to realizing the region’s potential. The piece can be found at Here at thestar.com, or below: Continue reading…

Charrette: Healthy Corner Stores

On Saturday January 18, The East Scarborough Storefront hosted a public design charrette with partners United Way Toronto, Toronto Public Health (TPH), Sustainable TO, Architext, and ERA. Saturday’s discussion focused on TPH’s new program “Healthy Corner Stores,” a project that proposes to give suburban communities better access to fresh produce, and other healthy food options, through convenience stores.

Healthy Corner Stores is part of the growing Tower Renewal initiative, which aims to bring new amenities, healthy choices, and life on the street to Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods. Continue reading…

Transformative potential of Tower Renewal: Globe & Mail

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Alex Bozikovic, Toronto-based writer on architecture and design, recently provided an update on Tower Renewal efforts in the GTA. The article describes the uniquely Canadian and Torontonian inventory of high-rise post-war tower apartment neighbourhoods, and recent efforts by local architects, not-for-profits, and city departments to rethink these neighbourhoods. With aging buildings in need of maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades, and zoning laws that see neighbourhoods underserved and undernourished, Toronto is ready for some practical changes.

Bozikovic is optimistic: By his estimation, the Tower Renewal project can truly transform Toronto for the better.

For the full article, which features several quotations from ERA’s Graeme Stewart, please see “Toronto hopes to revitalize its many postwar highrises” in the Globe & Mail.

Micallef: Canada’s identity, modernist architecture

If there is a character that unites Canada across its many regions, says Shawn Micallef of Spacing, it could well be our huge stock of post-war modernist architecture.

From well-known innovations such as Montreal’s Habitat ’67, Toronto’s CN Tower, or Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University; to the thousands of lower-profile urban and suburban low-, mid-, and high-rise buildings that serve as our residences, universities, schools, malls, factories, and corporate headquarters, Canada is a nation stitched together with modernist fabric. Every urban area, it seems, has its share of brutalist concrete slab towers, curtain-glass minimalist icons, geodesic domes, and long elegant bungalows with exaggerated eaves. Continue reading…

Canada Screen Award to NFB’s “Highrise”

Last week the NFB’s Highrise: One Millionth Tower won a Canada Screen Award for “Original Program Produced for Digital Media, Non-Fiction.” ERA and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) had the pleasure of working with the NFB on this remarkable series, directed by Kat Cizek, which examines the current conditions and future potential of post-war high-rise living around the world. Continue reading…

Graeme Stewart on “Imagine a City”

This autumn, United Way’s Imagine a City blog is hosting a series of guest writers to discuss a number of important programs related to Toronto’s future as a livable city. Recently ERA’s Graeme Stewart blogged on his vision for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, a program we have been working on in collaboration with partners including the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R), the City of Toronto, Province of Ontario, Toronto Public Health, and United Way Toronto. Continue reading…

Health and urban design: Two new reports released

The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) is pleased to announce the release of two reports examining public health, urban policy, and neighbourhood rejuvenation in Toronto:

In partnership with United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health respectively, these reports further research, policy development, and practical strategies to help achieve the potential of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal. Continue reading…

Health, zoning and urban design: Two new reports released

The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) has announced the release of two reports examining public health, urban policy, and neighbourhood rejuvenation in Toronto:

In partnership with United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health respectively, these reports further research, policy development, and practical strategies to help achieve the potential of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal.

Continue reading…

Planting for an elevated bioswale in Scarborough

On a recent pleasant day in June, ERA joined green roof expert Atom Cianfarani and a group of community youth to plant a nursery in preparation for the future construction of an unusual green-roof shade structure at the East Scarborough Storefront.

Over the past year, we have been working with the Storefront, Sustainable.TO, ArchiTEXT, various volunteers, and youth participants on an exciting project in the tower neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park. Soon we begin construction of a dynamic new environment including a kitchen garden and patio, a bee and butterfly garden, a small orchard, and a unique green-roof pavilion or “Sky-o-swale.”

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…

East Scarborough Storefront: Wood Inventory Part II

As we have mentioned previously on this blog, ERA Architects is collaborating with ArchiTEXT and Sustainable.TO on the exciting Community.Design.Initiative at East Scarborough Storefront. Over the course of an intensive 19-week mentorship semester we worked with community youth on the design of a kitchen garden and patio, a unique green-roof pavilion, a bee and butterfly garden, and a small orchard. Summer and fall 2012 will see further collaboration with the community as we move toward construction of this dynamic new environment.

Continue reading…

Miles Glendinning Lecture, May 3rd, 2012

ERA Architects and the Toronto Society of Architects present the 2012 Modern Heritage Visiting Lecture, Miles Glendinning: The Hundred Years War: A Century of Mass Housing ‘Campaigns’ Across the World.

Join us May 3rd at the Art and Letters Club at 6:00pm for cocktails and lecture at 6:30. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Miles Glendinning is the director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, University of Edinburgh, and chair of Docomomo International Committee on Urbanism. Miles is also the author of the book Tower Block, a history of mass housing in the UK, and Architecture’s Evil Empire, a critical look at contemporary practice.

Metro Morning on Tower Renewal

Matt Galloway with Priti from the NBF’s HIGHRISE, Image Courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada

This week CBC’s Metro Morning is taking to the Kipling strip north of Finch to talk tower renewal, in an area of aging concrete towers that were typical all across Toronto during the early 1950s and ’60s.

On Wednesday, February 15th Graeme Stewart will appear for an interview on Metro Morning’s live broadcast from the Rexdale building at 2667 Kipling. This building is also the focus of the NFB’s HIGHRISE documentary, One Millionth Tower.

Follow Graeme’s interview Wednesday morning on CBC Metro Morning.

For all things tower renewal, visit ERA’s Tower Renewal blog.

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.

The Millionth Tower

The Millionth Tower web-based documentary has launched! This weekend the project was featured on the highly-respected Wired.com site, and is already making significant waves re-imagining the way emerging web-based technologies can help to tell highly personal stories in our increasingly connected world. We are all very proud to have been involved – please see the making-of mini-documentary embedded above, and be sure and go check out the interactive documentary..

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.

ERA x Sweden

This month a number of ERAers took a trip to Sweden, in order to kick off a neighbourhood rejuvenation project at Semlal Lagerlöfs Torg in Gothenberg. Following the extensive site tour and project brief, the team visited precedent projects in Stockholm, Malmo and Copenhagen to view the latest in housing design and neighbourhood renewal from our Nordic cousins. The following images illustrate the project’s existing context ‘as found’, and future blog posts will expand on both the trip and the on-going project.

Continue reading…