ERA Architects

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).

Michael McClelland at the Getty: Toronto Towers

Michael McClelland speaks

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…

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…

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…

Charles Birnbaum talk: Thurs. May 23

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Thursday May 23, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., U of T’s Daniels Faculty, 230 College St., Rm. 103, Toronto

Thursday May 23, join us for an exciting lecture by Charles Birnbaum of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Charles will be discussing the interpretation and conservation of modernist landscapes as a part of how we continue to build and evolve the public realm of the city. We look forward to how this conversation will allow us to think productively about the past and future of Toronto’s built fabric. Continue reading…

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…

On Scarpa’s Castelvecchio

Having returned from a trip to Verona, ERAer Ryan Love recently presented to the office on his experience of the amazing Castelvecchio, a fine example of medieval Gothic architecture, completed in 1355. The castle was built as a fortified home for the Lord of Verona, Cangrande II della Scala, and has over the years seen many occupants and undergone many adaptations, the most recent in the 1960s by Carlo Scarpa. The result is an incredibly complex and subtle approach to heritage conservation and adaptive reuse. Continue reading…

Toronto to Detroit

Selection of photos by Lara Herald, Scott Weir, Alana Young, Sydney Martin, Graeme Stewart, Jordan Molnar, Julie Tyndorf, Alec Ring, and Brent Wagler.

Recently a large group of us here at ERA spent a weekend exploring the amazing city of Detroit, Michigan. Founded in 1701, Detroit became a huge industrial and economic engine from the mid-19th century through the automobile boom of the early 20th century. During the 1920s and ‘50s especially, a great deal of stunning modernist architecture was constructed and many of these amazing buildings still stand today. 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.

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.

Maple Leaf Gardens marquee restoration

The very public face of the on-going Maple Leaf Gardens adaptive reuse project was installed this morning. The restored marquee recreates the historic character of the iconic building signage, which was in place for decades. It was a recognized priority for both Loblaws and Ryerson to honour and evoke the rich and varied history of the former arena, which is also a National Historic Site. Continue reading…

The Donald Standard Chemical Building

Rural architectural heritage extends beyond farm houses and small towns. Last summer, ERA helped the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario in support of the Green Step Project, an initiative to rehabilitate an abandoned industrial site east of Bancroft as showcase for environmental stewardship, heritage, and building technologies. Continue reading…

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…