ERA Architects

PechaKucha of the day

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Recently PechaKucha selected a Graeme Stewart talk as a “Presentation of the Day.” We thought, What better reason to repost the presentation? It’s a great crash course in Tower Renewal, an interdisciplinary program that is reshaping how we think about Toronto’s post-war residential apartment tower neighbourhoods.

This 7-minute talk covers half a century of Toronto’s history, right up to some of the exciting new initiatives taking place in and around the city.

PechaKucha is a simple presentation genre where presenters speak about 20 images for 20 seconds each. The method was devised by Tokyo-based architects Klein-Dytham as a way to facilitate dialog and idea generation between architects, designers, and other creative thinkers.

To see other presentations, please visit pechakucha.org.

For more on Tower Renewal, visit towerrenewal.com

Architecture and value

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This past November at Carleton University’s Forum Lecture Series, ERA’s Michael McClelland presented on how changing cultural values interact with how we practice architecture.

Seeking to expand the range of what we think of as architecture, Michael’s talk asks, What should architects do? According to him, they shouldn’t only make buildings, but conduct research, engage the public, study the world, respond to changing values, and… throw parties.

To read Spacing Ottawa’s review of the talk, see Spacing online.

Or, watch the video of the slide presentation below:

Ontario Place in docomomoUS

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Recently ERA’s Michael McClelland collaborated with Ottawa-based architect James Ashby on an article on Toronto’s Ontario Place, for docomomoUS. The article reviews the history of this unusual site, discusses the significance of its iconic design, and reminds us of the opportunity we now have to enrich our understanding of how to approach modernist architecture as part of a cultural heritage landscape. Continue reading…

University Ave.: A heritage landscape of value?

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The summer edition of Ground Magazine features an article by ERA’s Michael McClelland and Brendan Stewart on the history and design of Toronto’s University Avenue.

When it was first designed in 1829 the Avenue was hailed as “one of, if not the finest in the Dominion.” Over the next century, the tranquil tree-lined promenade fell into some decline and became a desolate and under-maintained roadway.

In the early 1960s, however, the central boulevards were redesigned by Dunington-Grubb & Stensson. This striking modernist redesign has also been left to fall somewhat by the wayside. The article asks us to reconsider its value.

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If we do indeed value this remarkable landscape, could restoration of the islands, coupled with new tree plantings and integrated pavements on the outer boulevards be considered?  Could the islands be linked to each other by pedestrian crossings to restore the opportunity to promenade?

Further examination and discussion of this important project is warranted. We welcome feedback and ideas!

To read the full article, please visit Ground Online (see page 30 of pdf).

Toronto the Good: Great!

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Toronto the Good  2014, our tenth annual public party, was a big success. We had attendance exceeding 1000 people, and, according to accounts, a good time was had by all. Beer and wine flowed, music spun, people danced, and a great deal of urban-minded mingling occurred. Continue reading…

Toronto’s City Hall: An evolving icon

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Monocle recently profiled Toronto’s City Hall, designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell, positioning it as the city’s most distinctive piece of architectural design. ERA’s Graeme Stewart is featured in the discussion of how the building began, and how it has evolved as a central moment in the urban and civic experience of Toronto.

Continue reading…

RAC Zoning Approved for 500 Sites

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This June, Toronto City Council approved the proposed Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) zone. Following a process of nearly two years of research, public consultation, policy development, and advocacy in partnership with United Way, City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health, the RAC zoning will take effect by summer’s end, (barring appeal), in nearly 500 Apartment properties that form dozens of Apartment Neighbourhoods across the city.

The new zoning by-law provides a new and flexible land-use framework for Apartment Neighbourhoods. The goal of this new framework is to enable healthy, complete, and vibrant neighbourhoods better able to respond to local needs and opportunities. The goal is addressed primarily by allowing for a full range of uses within these neighbourhoods: commercial activity, social activity, and community services – amenities that most areas of Toronto take for granted. Continue reading…

1960s Canada: An interview with Vincent Massey Tovell

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Vincent Massey Tovell passed away in May 2014. He was a talented broadcaster, a remarkable thinker, and a tireless supporter of the arts. In 2006, for the publication Concrete Toronto, ERA conducted an interview with Mr. Tovell on the subject of the modernist architecture of Toronto and the nation. Below we re-present this interview as a modest reminder of his contribution to our understanding of culture and the built environment in Canada. Continue reading…

Birnbaum on Toronto’s landscapes

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On Wed. May 21, Charles Birnbaum from The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) spoke at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club. This “Inside the Planner’s Studio” event was sponsored by the City of Toronto and attended by City staff in Parks, Urban Design, and Planning, as well as numerous professionals in architecture and landscape design. Charles introduced the work of TCLF and brought a useful third-party perspective to some of the issues faced by Toronto’s designed landscapes. Continue reading…

Michael McClelland at the Getty: Toronto Towers

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Michael McClelland speaks

Michael McClelland spoke in 2013 to the Getty Conservation Institute’s “Colloquium to Advance the Practice of Conserving Modern Architecture.” The presentation discussed Toronto’s unique development of tower neighbourhoods in the context of modernist planning principles and modern heritage conservation. ERA advocates for an approach to the conservation of these neighbourhoods through a considered process of ‘Tower Renewal’ that understands not just the design value of the modernist buildings themselves, but also the context of the neighbourhoods they support and the progressive ideas they represent.

You can see a video of Michael’s presentation at the Getty Institute, or read an approximate transcript below: Continue reading…

Jane Jacobs Prize to Graeme Stewart & Sabina Ali

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The 2014 Jane Jacobs Prize has been awarded to Graeme Stewart of ERA and Sabina Ali of the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee.

According to the creators of the Jane Jacobs Prize, Ideas that Matter, this honour “celebrates individuals who contribute to the fabric of Toronto life in unique ways that exemplify the ideas of Jane Jacobs. The prize recipients reflect the diverse aspects of city life.” Continue reading…

Ghost wall: casting a heritage façade in concrete

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As part of the development of the Bay Adelaide Centre East Tower, ERA is working with KPMB, Adamson Associates, and Brookfield Properties to conserve and refurbish two facades of an impressive four-storey masonry building constructed in 1850 and heavily renovated in 1910. Part of the interpretation of the history of this site involves making moulds from the heritage masonry and recasting these in concrete to construct additional sections of façade. Continue reading…

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…

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…

Military infrastructure designation, UK

Prior to joining the office, ERA’s Alex Rowse-Thompson spent several years as a Conservation and Design Officer in Gosport, an ancient naval town in the UK. As part of this work, Alex advocated for the heritage designation of an unusual piece of 20th century military infrastructure in Gosport: No. 2 Cavitation Tunnel. Recently, this advocacy proved successful, and the Tunnel was designated by English Heritage. Continue reading…

Infrastructure: new vision for Ontario

Provincial Transportation Minister Glen Murray is proposing exciting changes to the way infrastructure is planned and designed in Ontario.

The proposed “Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act” contains important new criteria including sustainability, greater alignment with existing provincial plans, longer-term and more complete ROI rationales, and, we are pleased to see, the mandated inclusion of architects and designers in infrastructure projects. Continue reading…

Toronto / Sweden: Resilient Urbanism

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Over the past several years we’ve had the pleasure of an ongoing exchange with colleagues in Sweden regarding urban design. This has included a series of research tours, participation in the neighbourhood design project Selma in Göteborg, and various events in collaboration with the Swedish consulate here in Toronto. The aim of the exchange is to tackle the challenge of  achieving sustainable and resilient urbanism in northern locales. Continue reading…