ERA Architects

TALLINN–TORONTO: The Influence of Estonian Modernism in Shaping Toronto

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

This spring, the exhibition To The New World: Estonian Architects in Toronto launched at the Museum of Estonian Architecture (http://www.arhitektuurimuuseum.ee/en/). Following a smaller exhibition and symposium last fall hosted by Toronto’s Tartu College, the show explores the strong Estonian link in the creation of Toronto’s particular branch of modernism.

Exhibition and Symposium in fall of 2017 at Toronto’s Tartu College with ERA’s Graeme Stewart as presenter.

These exhibitions, and forthcoming book, are a result of years of research by Tallinn Architecture Centre archivist Jarmo Kauge. Following with curiosity the rise in cult status of Estonian-Canadian Uno Prii, whose large cannon of whimsically optimistic modernism have become local icons (and protected heritage properties), Jarmo began to explore the link between Estonian trained architects and the building of modern Toronto. Through a series of study tours, he quickly realized that the connection went well beyond Prii and that an entire generation of Estonian emigres practiced, taught, and transformed Toronto.

The opening of the exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture represents a milestone for the international exposure of modernism in Toronto as well as the transatlantic scholarship that affected architectural and planning practice in post-war Toronto. ERA is proud to have been a collaborator in these efforts and congratulates Jarmo for the tremendous work in making it a reality.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

For more on on Toronto’s Estonian modernism, the works of Prii and other Estonian Canadian architects feature strongly in both Concrete Toronto http://www.eraarch.ca/project/concrete-toronto/

(ERA / Coach House) and the Concrete Toronto Map https://bluecrowmedia.com/collections/architecture-maps/products/concrete-toronto-map (ERA / Bluecrow Media).

Also see an article by the Globe & Mail’s Dave LeBlanc published during the Toronto launch of the exhibition last fall.

ERA Has Moved to 625 Church Street

For two decades, we have called 10 St Mary Street our home, an eight storey modernist office building (1957) designed by the architects Mathers and Haldenby, whose offices were located on the 8th floor of the building. It seems fitting today as we say goodbye and start a new chapter in ERA’s story, that we’d share some of the history of this place that’s grown along with us all these years.

10 St Mary Street, in all its modernist glory, 1957. (Archives of Ontario)

The ground floor suite of 10 St. Mary Street, which faces both Yonge and St. Mary streets, was originally conceived as a retail space with a strong relationship to the public realm. Until recently, this suite has been occupied by a chain of fast food restaurants. The open volume at the base of the building has been partially enclosed as a restaurant terrace.

The original entry to 10 St Mary Street boasted exquisite mosaic tile work. (Archives of Ontario)

The Site sits on land originally owned by the Buchanan and Elmsley families in the early 19th century. In 1848 Captain John Elmsley donated part of his land to St. Michael’s College and St. Basil’s Church and began subdividing the property, naming local streets after his favourite saints. Many of the buildings that presently occupy the block bounded by Yonge, St. Mary, St. Nicholas and Charles streets were constructed during the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, following the extension of Charles Street (formerly Czar Street) westward from Yonge Street in the 1880s. As Yonge Street developed as a commercial strip, cross streets were often developed with row houses. The length of the block along Charles Street West up to the westward addition to 720 Yonge Street is occupied by a row of residential buildings constructed in 1891.

The Yonge Street properties (with the exception of the mid-century building at 10 St. Mary Street) represent the second generation of storefronts along the Yonge Street corridor, which was revitalized with increased commercial activity at the turn of the last century. These were constructed in 1909 as a parade of shops with similar detailing; The mid-block shopfront properties at 710-718 Yonge Street first appear on Fire Insurance Plans in 1912.

The portion of the Site at the corner of St. Mary and St. Nicholas Streets was originally residential, but primary source documents show automotive uses began in the early 20th century and continued until the 1940s. In the 1920s the Holden Vulcanizing Works and Johnson Motors Repair operated at 79 St. Nicholas Street. The Uptown Auto Body and Fender Repair Co. were replaced in the 1940s by General Auto Body and later Pep Boys Garage.

Coles Bookstore purchased the Barron properties in the 1940s, using the Yonge Street storefront for retail and the former stables on St. Nicholas for storage. The fine-grained Victorian buildings along the southern portion of the block were replaced in 1957 by the 8-storey office building at 10 St. Mary Street, designed by Mathers & Haldenby. In the latter half of the 20th century, the properties on St. Nicholas Street witnessed a string of tenants and a wide variety of uses, including furniture stores, art galleries, restaurants and discotheques.

The evolution of the block over the past century. (ERA Architects)

Our office will be closed on Friday, June 15, while we pack up and head just down the street to 625 Church Street, and we’ll be back to regular business on Monday, June 18.
OUR NEW ADDRESS IS: #600-625 Church St, Toronto ON, M4Y 2G1

Evergreen Canada Launches An Online Exhibit: Complete Communities

Evergreen Canada has launched an online gallery entitled ‘Complete Communities‘ that showcases several projects within and surrounding the GTA that provide affordable homes, fresh food, clean water, local services, green spaces and great recreation to their residents. Accessibility is made available through walking, biking and public transit.

The Ridgeway Community Court is one of these projects.

Ridgeway has a reputation in the city as being a disadvantaged neighbourhood, but residents who live in the community know Ridgeway as a great place full caring people and strong values. The space it now occupies was once a parking lot before residents rallied together to fundraise for a multi-use sports facility. The court design, and now management, has been community-led. It was an excellent opportunity for the local youth,  to enhance their skills, their drive, and their accomplishments. They worked very hard to achieve this dream, and they relish opportunities to showcase their community.

The youth know that they can¹t change the past but they can change the future. Through the ‘Complete Communities’ initiative the youth of the community have a platform to tell the GTA what it really means to call Ridgeway home.

Other Ridgeway community partners include MLSE, the City of Mississauga, the Mississauga West Rotary Club, and the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program.

Link to promotional video: https://www.evergreen.ca/completecommunities/2/8

 

It’s Symposium Season!

The arrival of spring heralds opportunities to get out and enjoy engaging discourse on topics near and dear to the hearts of heritage conservationists. As a result, ERA has been branching out and sharing our knowledge with audiences in Toronto and Ottawa over the past weekend, participating in two exciting initiatives.

First up, the Toronto branch of the Architecture Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) presented ‘150+’ at the Ontario Science Centre on Saturday. A distinguished roster of speakers presented topics that centered on two architectural periods that helped shape today’s Canadian identity. The morning session focused on the Confederation Era, was moderated by Catherine Nasmith and featured: Michael McClelland, Madeleine McDowell, Sharon Vattay, Carolyn King. The afternoon session focused on the Centennial Era, was moderated by Alex Bozikovic and featured: Eberhard Zeidler, Michael McClelland, David Leonard and Marco Polo.

For his part, Michael McClelland’s first presentation topic was on the exhibition ‘Found Toronto’, one of ERA’s first large-scale public displays. It was presented as part of the ‘Building On History’ exhibit at Harbourfront Centre in 2009. The second presentation, titled ‘Everyday Modern Architecture’ featured a portfolio of modernist buildings that inhabit Toronto’s various environs. He invited ideas on how we can apply heritage principles to buildings that are incorporated in to the historical fabric of the city.

Secondly, Carleton University’s School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies hosted a Heritage Conservation Symposium entitled ‘Dynamic + Mitigating Landscapes: Re-visioning Heritage Conservation. ERA Associate, Lindsay Reid presented ‘Location, Location, (Re)location? Moving Heritage Resources in the Age of Ecological Bias’. She traced the history of building relocation and looked to provincial examples to better understand how attitudes and policies have changed over time, and what factors were taken into decisions to move buildings.

All archival images sourced from the City of Toronto Archives.

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.