ERA Architects

Gothenburg Renewal

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…

East Scarborough Storefront

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.

Over the past several years, ERA has been aiding the Storefront in this process,  in collaboration with  Sustainable.TO, ArchiTEXT, LoCALe, the Tower Renewal Office at the City of Toronto, and a group of vibrant and active community youth.

A recent article in the Summer 2011 issue of Sustainable Builder Magazine showcasing this ongoing work can be found here, or downloaded in PDF format here.

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Kipling Community Build

In July, ERA got into the building spirit as part of the Tower Renewal project at the Kipling Towers in North Etobicoke.

Kipling Towers is one of the City’s great apartment neighbourhoods, with a cluster of nineteen towers perched along the western bank of the Humber River. Previous posts with more information about the neighbourhood can be found here.

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.


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Learning from Europe

Over the past several years, the Tower Renewal team at ERA and CUG+R have conducted a series of study tours throughout the European Union, visiting numerous cities and neighbourhoods, and meeting with local experts to learn about best practices in tower refurbishment and neighbourhood revitalization. Many of these findings have been compiled in the report Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and its accompanying International Best Practice Research Highlight.

This past weekend, The Toronto Star featured 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:

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Yonge Street

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.

Read the full interview here.

The new Standard

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.

Toronto the Good

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.

North York Modernist Favourites, Volume One.

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.

Vertical Poverty

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.

ERA has long been involved with these Tower Neighbourhoods, and has championed the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative from it’s very inception. For further background on the issue, please visit the Tower Renewal Blog, and the Centre for Urban Growth + Renewal website, which features a related Provincial report: Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: An Analysis of High-Rise Apartment Tower Neighbourhoods Developed in the Post-War Boom (1945-1984), released last month.  ERA participated in the United Way Vertical Poverty report as peer reviewer. Similarly, the tower research team at the United Way was a peer reviewer for ERA and planningAlliance’s recent study.

Visit the Vertical Poverty website, where you can download the full report and/or the executive summary in PDF format.

Read the summary articles in the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star.

The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R)

ERA Architects and planningAlliance have launched the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) website.

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.

CUG+R officially launched in December 2010 with the release of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, a report jointly prepared by CUG+R’s founding partners, ERA Architects and planningAlliance, and the launch of cugr.ca.


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.

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.

National Urban Design Awards


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.

For more information, visit: 2010 National Urban Design Awards

Tower Renewal

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.

For more information, visit Toronto Tower Renewal

Concrete Toronto Launch – November 1

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”.

Tower Renewal

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.

Check out the Globe and Mail article on their presentation at:
http://www.era.on.ca/graphics/articles/pdf/article_20.pdf