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.
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.
ERA has been invited to participate in a parallel commission for the neighbourhood renewal of Selma Lagerlöfs Torg in Gothenburg Sweden. Sharing many similarities to Toronto’s Inner suburbs, the neighbourhood renewal program will incorporate many of the strategies developed in Toronto for Tower Renewal…
Community Design – Image courtesy of Expect Theatre / Spark Productions
The East Scarborough Storefront is a community agency offering multiple services in a tower neighbourhood in East Scarborough. Containing a community kitchen and garden, market, resource centre and access point to over 50 different agencies such as job search support and literacy service, the East Scarbourough Storefront is a significant asset to Toronto. To expand its reach, the Storefront is currently undergoing a long term community lead expansion and revitalization strategy.
ERA has been involved in the neighborhood since 2007 in partnership with the City of Toronto, Jane’s Walk , the National Film Board and the United Way; working with residents to plan a vision for the future.
During this period, several workshops have been held with the community, hosted by ERA, the City of Toronto, Jane’s Walk and an ongoing collaborative process with the National Film Board as part of their remarkable HIGHRISE documentary initiative. A recently published report of one such workshop hosted by the City and DIAC in late 2010 can be downloaded here.
This past weekend, The Toronto Starfeatured highlights of this research as part of an ongoing series looking into the future opportunities of Toronto Community Housing. Featured in the article are selected best practices found throughout the EU related to social housing. These include:
Michael is currently featured on the Yonge Street website, where he discusses postwar Toronto architecture.
Usually, even when people like a building, that initial appreciation declines and it continues to fall for several decades. After 40 years, it hits an all-time low. But if a building can survive past that 40-year period, then there will be a renewed appreciation of the building. Take Old City Hall. Today people think it’s a wonderful Romanesque building but in the 1940s, they said it was fussy and overdone. Our purpose in addressing these concrete buildings is to examine whether that pattern of evolving tastes meant people were dismissing some architectural jewels. Not all these buildings are beautiful or interesting. But we really wanted people to look more closely before jumping to that conclusion.
Graeme is featured on the cover of the brand new Toronto Standard online daily news portal, with an extensive interview covering the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative.
This is a 20-year project. We’re talking about a huge number of buildings, hundreds of neighbourhoods and over a million [residents]. It’s about a gradual process of improvement. For now, it’s working in specific communities with different landowners, asking whether we can take down some fences, rezone for mixed use, introduce some modest demonstration projects regarding community development and building upgrade. Then we can make these new ideas viral, the new status quo. Over the long term, this can provide real opportunities for a more sustainable and livable city-region.
These buildings aren´t going anywhere, but the longer we wait, the more difficult the challenge. It’s time to get going.
Read the full interview here, titled ‘Reinventing Suburbia‘. Half newspaper and half blog, the Standard is beautiful to look at, and is a welcome voice in the ongoing local discourse.
The 2011 Toronto the Good party was a great success! For more details, please visit www.torontothegood.org and stay tuned to our ERA Office Blog for event photos and discussions of the issues raised at the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal symposium.
ERA started the Toronto the Good parties to bring together a broad cross-section of Torontonians who are interested in the city and in city building. We started these parties with Spacing Magazine and [murmur], and they have continued to be involved each year. Other partners have included Heritage Toronto, the Carpenters Union, the Toronto Society of Architects, the Distillery District, Harbourfront Centre, and Cities Centre.
The first Toronto the Good took place at the Distillery District, but there was one at Fort York, when the Mayor shot off a cannon. The 2011 invasion of Hart House was a new venture to celebrate the University of Toronto’s urban research centre.
In compiling the revised inventory for the North York’s Modernist Architecture Revisited publication, ERA staff traveled to each site and photographed the current condition of the building. Through this process a number of projects stood out and became quiet favorites, and over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting a few of these under-appreciated, little-known buildings. These structures represent an undiscovered trove of modernist treasures in Toronto, which we drive, walk, or bike past everyday.
Forest Hills I, II and III, 1971. Architect: Paul Ospolak.
This apartment complex was highlighted as part of the ongoing Tower Neighbourhood Renewal project research. Formally, these structures are of some of the most unique in the inventory – they feature very subtle hyperboloid elevations and plans, contrasting with their rectilinear neighbours. They have also been very well maintained, which retains their visual impact. The stark use of solid white balcony bands clearly define the form, while the black recesses create a building-scaled super-graphic of sorts, striking a distinct silhouette against the sky.
The United Way released a report today outlining the current state of apartment – tower living in the GTA. The report’s finding are based on several thousand interviews with tower residents, and contains important recommendations to improve the livability of apartment neighbourhoods.
CUG+R is a non-profit research organization formed in 2009 to conduct cross-disciplinary research to further knowledge about the creation and renewal of sustainable urban, suburban and rural environments in Canada and elsewhere. CUG+R’s objective is to develop research to enhance public policy and promote private initiatives that foster City Regions and local communities that are: well planned and designed, economically vibrant, socially diverse, culturally integrated and environmentally sustainable.
www.cugr.ca will showcase research work the founding firms have undertaken together and individually, as well as those of partners, collaborators, and increasingly work unique to CUG+R as it expands and evolves.
CUG+R also works in collaboration with the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto; an umbrella organization that combines researchers from the University’s urban focused faculties to engage in projects that affect positive change in the Toronto region and urban Canada.
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.
The Tower Renewal Opportunities Book was awarded a Special Jury Award in the 2010 National Urban Design Awards, presented by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. Congratulations to the project team including ERA Architects Inc., the John H. Daniels faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, and the City of Toronto.
On September 2nd the Executive Committee at the City of Toronto unanimously passed the Mayor’s Report on Tower Renewal as well as the Opportunities Book, prepared for the City of Toronto by ERA Architects and the City of Toronto.
The Canadian Urban Institute presents monthly roundtable breakfast seminars. On Thursday November 8th, Michael McClelland and Graeme Stewart will be discussing “The Tower Renewal Project: New Ideas for Old Buildings”.
This past Monday Graeme Stewart and Michael McClelland of ERA presented their ideas for the renewal and environmental upgrade of Toronto’s neglected suburban high-rise neighbourhoods to Toronto’s executive council committee. They demonstrated how re-imagining these buildings, along with the unused open space around them, can considerably improve the social, economic and environmental sustainability of our city and region.