ERA Architects

From Past to Page: Uncovering the Ward

An unidentified man on Centre Avenue, 1937 (City of Toronto Archives).

In 2015, ‘The Ward—The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood’ was published, documenting the area within Toronto known as St. John’s Ward (or simply “the Ward”), home to thousands of immigrants between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. With little of the neighbourhood’s physical fabric remaining, The Ward had largely faded from public consciousness, but following the book’s release it quickly became a topic in public discourse with critical questions about how contemporary cities handle immigration, poverty, urban renewal, and the geography of difference.

At the time of that publication, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and a team of archaeologists had begun digging up a parking lot next to Toronto City Hall on Armoury Street, the site of the new Toronto court house, and uncovered an extraordinarily rich buried history, which provided new material for the editorial team to start compiling a follow-up volume.

The new anthology, ‘The Ward Uncovered—The Archaeology of Everyday Life’ was published in June of 2018, bringing an important urban history to life through the findings of one of North America’s largest urban archaeological digs to date.

Excavation site on Centre Avenue (photo: Holly Martelle).

Assorted glass bottles

A leather shoe and ceramic container.

With a range of essays and images, the latest book further explores the stories of The Ward’s buildings, institutions, communities, and individuals. It aims to inform readers about the history of this neighbourhood, and to provoke discussion about how the Ward’s past informs Toronto’s present and how and why places are determined to be historically valuable and consequently preserved as “heritage.” ERA Architects principal Michael McClelland and heritage planner Tatum Taylor co-edited the book alongside archaeologist Holly Martelle and Toronto journalist John Lorinc, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund. Nearly 30 contributing authors include journalists, politicians, historians, architects, urban planners, archaeologists, artists, and descendants of Ward residents.

Ultimately, the book continues a public conversation that began with the 2015 publication of ‘The Ward’—how history can be conserved and understood into the future. ‘The Ward Uncovered’ highlights the immense importance of urban archaeology in meeting this task, creating for us a tangible link to the past and reclaiming an historic account that accurately reflects the diversity of immigrant experiences in building the City of Toronto.

“The Armoury Street Block is municipally, provincially, and nationally significant on many levels. Representing the remains of most of a city block, the site provides a rare glimpse of a neighbourhood and its evolution over time, as revealed by building remains and objects left behind. Equally rare is the opportunity to visualize intimate details of the daily life of the working class and immigrant families who helped build the city. Descendant communities, researchers, and the public will benefit much from the story-telling and educational opportunities this work has afforded.”
—Holly Martelle, Project Archaeologist, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants)

‘The Ward Uncovered—The Archaeology of Everyday Life’ is the fourth in a series of books published by Coach House Books that Michael McClelland has co-edited. Each book has dealt with a specific role of heritage and architecture within the City of Toronto. The first was called ‘East West—a Guide to Where People Live in Downtown Toronto,’ and focused on the development of Toronto’s neighbourhoods. The second, ‘Concrete Toronto—a guide to concrete architecture from the fifties to the seventies,’ focused on the architecture of the recent past, and the third, ‘The Ward—the Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood,’ (eds. John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg, Tatum Taylor) looked at diversity, immigration, and urban renewal from an historical perspective. The intention of each book has been to highlight the need to continually re-evaluate our perceptions of heritage and cultural value in our urban environments.

In the same spirit of re-evaluating perceptions and understanding cultural heritage value, several Ward-related projects have grown from these books and have captured the city’s collective imagination: from the Mysuem’s walking tours, to an ongoing public exhibition of artifact displays at City Hall in partnership with IO and the City of Toronto, and even to a Ward Cabaret musical, created in collaboration with Juno Award winner David Buchbinder and performed to sold out audiences during Toronto’s 2018 Luminato Festival.

ERA-initiated series of books (CoachHouse Press).

Exhibit space at Toronto City Hall, curated and designed by ERA Architects, 2017.

The Ward Cabaret at Luminato, 2018.

“History is a verb. The passage of time is a constant. But what we seek to preserve from our past and what we choose to cast away has always been a selective process often informed by unexamined motives and biases.”
—Michael McClelland, The Ward (Co-Editor) & Principal, ERA Architects

Is there just one way to understand and interpret the histories of our city? How will we tell these stories into the future? How does a city remember? These collective projects each trace the past conditions of immigration and urban growth in Toronto in their own ways, promoting dialogue and understanding of neglected heritage landscapes. Once we are able to appreciate the history of marginalized areas such as the Ward, we can begin to reclaim an historic account that accurately reflects the diversity of experiences that have built the City of Toronto.

 

Government Conference Centre: Progress on Heritage Interiors

The heritage interiors and finishes are coming to life at the Government Conference Centre (GCC) in Ottawa. Since the new year, the scaffolding has come down in the General Waiting Room (GWR, as shown here), revealing the rehabilitated suspended ceiling in its entirety and the recently painted imitation travertine wall finishes.

The GWR is an elaborate and significant interior space, part of the formal processional route bringing visitors through the building to some of its grandest interiors. As a visitor enters through the Rideau Entrance Lobby, down the grand stair, they find themselves here: viewing the building’s Beaux-Arts features evident in its monumental use of classical forms such as the columns, entablatures, pilasters, arches and vaults.

The GCC Rehabilitation Project is transforming the former Ottawa Union Station into an Interim Senate Facility for ten years, after which it will revert back to its role as the GCC. The rehabilitation aims to reveal the historical elements of the building that were concealed over time, such as its theatrical qualities and rich palette of materials.

ERA Architects is working as the heritage architects with Diamond Schmitt/KWC Architects in Joint Venture.

Photos courtesy of ERA Architects.

62 – 64 Charles Street: The Lost Craft of Tuck-pointing Returns

Tuck-pointing was developed by the English back in the late 17th century and was practiced all the way up to the early 20th century. Historic preservationist/educator Michael Shellenbarger states in a 1993 essay titled Tuck Pointing History and Confusion the correct definition of tuck-pointing (based on historical precedents) is:

…… a masonry jointing that uses mortar in two colours to simulate the appearance of narrow joints. The actual joint is disguised with a flush mortar tinted to appear similar to the colour of masonry units. A joint like groove (the tuck) is often cut into this flush joint. Then mortar of a contrasting colour is added onto the flush joint and into the groove and is shaped and trimmed into a narrow false joint, which usually projects slightly. This line gives the appearance of a narrow projecting jointing.    

Completed properly, tuck-pointing is the most highly skilled of all pointing finishes. It creates the illusion of finely pointed gauged brickwork, enhancing the quality of appearance of buildings constructed of damaged or irregular bricks.

62 – 64 Charles Street East, an ERA project where recent conservation work has restored the tuck-pointed building to its former glory under the expert hand of Hunt Heritage. This is the largest application of the process that ERA has been involved with, and it’s an exemplar for bringing this lost craft back to the city. The project was undertaken in the late summer of 2015 and completed in late spring of 2017.

As heritage consultants ERA strived to protect the value, significance and integrity of the heritage assets. The work required a full conservation scope on the semi-detached house, that included the rarely-seen craft of tuck-pointing for which National Trust (Aus) award-winning Tuck-pointer Antoni Pijaca was hired to share his expertise and the secrets of his trade.

The Charles Street project was honoured last fall with a 2017 CAHP Award of Excellence —Materials, Craftsmanship and Construction. ERA is continuing to feature this technique prominently through work on the Selby Hotel at 592 Sherbourne, which is set to be completed in the summer.

For more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxPc6_2R-Hc
Article by Dave LeBlanc in the Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/toronto/the-lost-art-of-tuckpointing-reborn-intoronto/article37802073/

Related content: http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/capitalizing-on-heritage-awarding-conservation-materials-craftsmanship-and-construction/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/era-learns-the-fine-art-of-tuckpointing-from-a-melbourne-based-master/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2012/tuckpointing-a-note-on-detail/

 

Archaeology in The Ward: A New Exhibit

Just a few steps northwest of Toronto’s city hall is a quiet, empty plot of land and a former parking lot that will soon be the home of the new Toronto courthouse. But long before this site was just a place to park, it was a bustling part of St John’s Ward (The Ward), an area where newcomers to Toronto established themselves for over a century. In 2015, Infrastructure Ontario (IO), on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General, led a complex excavation and archaeological dig of the new Toronto courthouse site which revealed tens of thousands of artifacts from The Ward, providing an unprecedented level of insight into Toronto’s early multicultural history. As part of the heritage interpretation efforts for the site, IO and the City of Toronto developed a partnership to create opportunities to share the artifacts and their stories in four display cases at City Hall.

Archaeology in The Ward display case, showing a selection of bottles and glassware recovered from the excavation site. An enlarged Goad’s Insurance Map of Toronto shows the site in context.

ERA Architects is no stranger to the histories related to The Ward—Michael McClelland and Tatum Taylor helped to literally write the book. As heritage professionals and editors of ‘The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood’ (Coach House Books, 2015), they were well positioned to approach the exhibition project with a comprehensive understanding of the site context along with the ability to provide powerful interpretations for the subjects reflected by the artifacts. ERA has been pleased to offer our expertise in this unique documentation of Toronto’s history, providing contextual research and interpretation for emergent themes, as well as designing the exhibit spaces in collaboration with City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services.

The first of many planned exhibit installations was officially opened in February 2017 with the Mayor’s Reception for Black History Month and featured stories and important artifacts focused on Black History in The Ward, including the foundation stones of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, and a rare Black doll’s head.

We are excited to announce the latest installation of the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ series of exhibits at City Hall has opened this past week. This latest installation focuses on ‘Work in the Ward,’ showing that with the rapid industrialization of the late 19th century, manufacturing moved from homes to factories. In The Ward, this industrial and social shift can be seen clearly, with factories steadily replacing houses between 1895 and 1950. The exhibit is open now and on view during regular public hours in city hall’s main floor rotunda, located adjacent to both the east and west elevator bays, and will be on display through spring of 2018.

In the west exhibit cases, artifacts from the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ highlight two 19th-century household industries that were prevalent on the site: shoemaking and tailoring. The excavation site includes one of the largest archaeological collections of 19th and early 20th-century shoes ever unearthed in Canada, most too fragile to display but documented by photographs and reproduction tools. Other artifacts on display include tools commonly used by tailors and seamstresses in the period: straight pins, buttons made of ceramic and glass, thimbles, wooden spools, and bodkins.

In the east exhibit cases, industry in factories is examined through narratives that range from small-scale family operations such as the Edward Lye and Sons Church Organ Builders which operated first out of their home, to the large-scale T. Eaton Co. Tent and Awning  Factory on Chestnut Street. On display are two moulds used in mass production: one small drawer handle mould, likely used in furniture manufacturing on the site, and a large rubber hat mould used to form men’s brimmed felt hats from the Fashion Hat & Cap Company, which occupied the former Eaton’s factory on Chestnut Street from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The exhibit is on view during regular public hours in city hall’s main floor rotunda, located adjacent to both the east and west elevator bays, and will be on display through spring of 2018.

Infrastructure Ontario is creating an online archive of past exhibit displays available at infrastructureontario.ca/armourystreetdig

Link to the Toronto Star’s coverage: https://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2018/01/11/new-exhibit-sheds-light-on-torontos-early-immigrant-entrepreneurship.html

Related content:
http://www.eraarch.ca/2015/the-ward-a-new-book-coming-2015/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2015/the-ward-a-new-book-update/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/coming-up-the-ward-songs-and-sounds-of-a-lost-toronto-neighbourhood/

Post by guest writer Carl Shura.
All photos courtesy of ERA Architects and TMHC.

Eva’s Phoenix wins a Canadian Brownfields Network (Brownie) Award and signals a transformational start to the redevelopment of the Water Works

Both the Broadview Hotel and Eva’s Phoenix were named as finalists for the REBUILD category of the 2017 Brownie Awards, a program of the Canadian Brownfields Network established to promote projects and programs arising from the brownfield community. The REBULD category in particular recognizes ‘excellence in site-specific responses to public policy initiatives that accelerate the pace of regeneration resulting from development’, promote an enhanced public realm and successfully reimagine the adaptive reuse of heritage structures that promote increased health and well-being.

Eva’s Phoenix, located at 60 Brant Street (at the corner of Richmond Street), took home top honours. ERA’s role was of heritage consultant, supporting the work of lead architect LGA Architectural Partners. The scope of work included the photographic documentation of the property; conducting background research on the history of the property and its context, sourcing archival photographs and context maps; determining the impact of the proposed development on the existing heritage fabric; and preparing the Heritage Impact Assessment report, including a Statement of Cultural Heritage Value. The project team was comprised of Michael McClelland and Sydney Martin.

The site was once home to Toronto’s Water Works building, a heritage-designated property that was the site of the St. Andrew’s market from the 1830’s until 1860, when it was destroyed by fire. After an 1873 rebuild, the activity in the market began to decline, forcing it to close in the early 1900’s. The building that stands today was built in the Art Deco-style of architecture in 1932, designed by then City Architect J.J. Woolnough. It’s location between the high-density and thriving neighbourhoods of Queen and King Street West presents an exciting opportunity to redevelop the site as a culturally-rich, inclusive and dynamic resource for the local community. ERA has been brought on board as the heritage consultant to review the heritage approach and specify and review the conservation work. The site will eventually include a new YMCA, a public food hall, affordable housing, and a residential condo development tower that sits atop the conserved heritage base. The project team consists of Michael McClelland, Andrew Pruss, Annie Pelletier, Dan Eylon, Annabel Vaughan, Miranda Brunton, Anna Pavia, Diana Roldan and Peter Pantalone.

Brownie Award details: https://canadianbrownfieldsnetwork.ca/brownfield-awards/brownies
Water Works Development details: http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2017/09/work-begins-waterworks-building-heritage-preservation

Photos courtesy of Nathan Cyprys.

The Broadview Hotel Opens its Doors to the Public

Since it first opened as Dingman’s Hall in 1891, the Broadview Hotel has been a landmark east of the downtown in the Riverside neighbourhood. Originally a venue for public meetings and commercial businesses, it first opened as a hotel in 1908. With the recent renewal, it has once again become a community hub for events and the hotel will host many new visitors to the area: we are pleased to announce that the building has its public opening on July 27, 2017.

Although the original architect is unknown, the building’s architecture is in the same style as Toronto’s Old City Hall, with unique and ornate exterior terracotta panels depicting animals and allegorical figures. The twenty-one individually sculpted panels are probably the most distinctive features of the building, fabricated with the same quality materials and craftsmanship that defined the city’s 19th century construction.

The repair of the historic building, and the contemporary glass addition achieve a balance that’s a welcome contribution to the evolution of this neighbourhood, and the newly created restaurants, hotel and rooftop bar and terrace reanimate this key corner site. It seems appropriate that the Broadview Hotel is at the intersection of two 24 hour streetcar lines.

The project was led by Streetcar Developments with ERA Architects, Atkins+VanGroll Engineers and Design Agency.

Link to project profile: http://www.eraarch.ca/project/the-broadview-hotel/

Link to Streetcar’s website, for more event information: https://streetcar.ca/

(photos: Marcus Mitanis)

The Lost Craft of Tuck Pointing

Pointing, repointing, tuck pointing, ribbon pointing, flush pointing, there are many techniques and they are all different. Tuck pointing is a style of jointing that was predominantly used on English brickwork from the late seventeen century and it continued in popular use through the early 20th century. Done properly, it is the most highly skilled of all pointing finishes and gives the illusion of finely pointed gauged brickwork on principal facades. It helped give the impression of quality to buildings constructed of damaged or irregular bricks. When laid in the normal manner of the day, such bricks produced walls with wide joints of irregular and uneven pattern which appear the sum of their constituent parts rather than as a coherent surface or plane. In the late 17th century the problem was avoided by using soft, rubbed bricks which could then be laid with thin, straight joints, however such work was costly. Tuck pointing was a less expensive alternative which seems to have been particularly popular for use on terraced housing up to the late 19th century. One of the most famous terraced houses in the British empire was tuck pointed: 10 Downing Street. While the technique is no longer in prominent use, knowledge of it is needed to repair those buildings which remain.

The effect is achieved by filling joints with a base mortar which has been coloured to match the surrounding brickwork. Where necessary, it covers the rounded or damaged brick edges in order to finish flush with the wall face. Over this is a narrow ribbon of fine, vernally white or cream coloured pointing material of well-sifted lime mixed with fine silica sand. This is skillfully applied or ‘tucked’ onto the regular grooved centres of the prepared joints and precisely trimmed to size.

Walking through neighbourhoods such as Cabbagetown, lower Rosedale and Parkdale, you still see the remnants of original tuck pointing on old brick buildings. This was a prominent aesthetic element throughout the city. However, it can be difficult to determine whether an historic building had been tuck pointed originally, mainly because of the sand blasting practice in recent decades.The abrasion of the sand on the surface removes paint and staining, but also often erodes the surface of the brick, mortar, and adjacent materials, including the tuck pointing ribbon if present, effectively removing any evidence of the brick building being tuck pointed.

Such a specimen can be seen at 62-64 Charles Street, where recent conservation work has restored the tuck pointed building to its former glory, under the expert hand of Hunt Heritage. This is the largest application of the process that ERA has been involved with and it’s an exemplar for bringing this lost craft back to the city.

Refreshing Allan Gardens

The Friends of Allan Gardens (FOAG) are leading efforts to ensure that this historic public garden remains relevant and integrated into its ever-evolving surrounds. ERA’s Tatum Taylor, who also sits on FOAG’s Board of Directors, has published an article in the Summer/Parks issue of Spacing Magazine that describes the process for renewal. In her words:

‘…For decades, Allan Gardens has struggled to maintain its identity and integrity within Toronto’s rapidly evolving downtown core. The diversity of its uses sets it apart within the City’s parks system, but also imposes competing demands on its aging infrastructure. The newly released Allan Gardens Refresh, produced by the Friends of Allan Gardens (FOAG) in collaboration with the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department, envisions a future for the park that evokes its former grandeur. In keeping with Allan Gardens’ traditions of horticulture innovation and social activism, the Refresh initiative is an inventive approach to planning, stewardship, and revitalization – shaking up the existing model of master planning for Toronto’s parks…’

To read the article in its entirety, please pick up a copy of Spacing Magazine online or at your local newsstand outlet.

To learn more about the Allan Gardens Refresh – a vision document produced by FOAG in partnership with the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division – visit friendsofallangardens.ca

Allan Gardens feature image courtesy of Brent Wagler.
Workshop image curtesy of ERA Architects.
Spacing cover image courtesy of spacing magazine.

 

Evergreen Brick Works Demonstrates How Revived Heritage Spaces Create Sustainable Cities

The 53,000-square-foot kiln building at Evergreen Brick Works is set for a conversion that will create a collaboration zone to aid in building sustainable cities, with a target of developing systems and technologies for reducing carbon emissions. To set the standard, project partners EllisDon, Brookfield Global Integrated Systems, CRH Canada, Levitt Goodman Associates Architectural Partners and ERA Architects will strive to attain a carbon neutral design target for the site, a first in Canada. Once completed, the doors will be open to citizens, the public/private sectors and thought leaders to contribute to the initiative.

The heritage adaptive design approach was created in consultation with the City of Toronto’s Preservation Services, Ontario Heritage Trust and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to support the preservation of heritage features in the building. ERA was directly involved in the conservation of the unconditioned kiln building, one of 16 historically significant buildings on the campus of Evergreen Brick Works. This structure houses a large collection of industrial brick firing kilns that are currently subject to flooding and freeze-thaw cycles. Enclosing the open west wall of the building, raising the floor, and conditioning the building will be a significant contribution to stabilize these artefacts, while continuing to highlight the heritage aspects of the historic space.

The Brick Works have become a notable destination for locals and tourists alike, drawn to the consistently eco-friendly programming housed within the walls of its LEED platinum-certified building. It will be a gathering place for interactive workshops and community programs that focus on working collaboratively, and will strengthen networks, inspiring action through new and enhanced gallery and meeting spaces. This latest endeavour will catalyze advancements in renewable energy technologies, while preserving the heritage features.

Congratulations to the ERA project team: Philip Evans, Shelley Ludman and Eunice Lam!

To review the Canadian Architect-published press release, click here.
To review the related Globe and Mail article by Alex Bozikovic, click here.
To review the Blog TO article by Amy Grief, click here.

Feature rendering courtesy of LGA Architects.
Photos courtesy of ERA Architects.

76 Howard Street’s Moving Day – Video Update

It’s one thing to pack and move house, and quite another to move a house!

William Whitehead House, at the ripe old age of 130 years, was relocated under exacting circumstances to allow for the development of 1000 condos units in the St. Jamestown neighourhood. The team at ERA was on hand to supervise and document the process as it unfolded on Saturday, November 26th. The images that follow represent a chronological photo-essay by Daniel Lewis, Project Manager and Scott Weir, Principal.

Check out the article by the Globe and Mail’s Dave Leblanc. Click here.

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Regent Park’s Commemoration Strategy

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How do you commemorate the heritage of a complex, evolving neighbourhood that is still in the throes of change? How do you interpret the vibrancy of a neighbourhood while considering the significance of its buildings, most of which no longer exist? ERA Architects is addressing these questions through the establishment of a Commemoration Strategy for Regent Park. We are collaborating with Swerhun Facilitation, Toronto Community Housing, and (most importantly) past and current residents of Regent Park to develop recommendations for safeguarding and promoting the community’s heritage. Continue reading…

Holcim Award to 1 Spadina Cresc.

view to north

Recently the Holcim Foundation Awards recognized 1 Spadina Crescent under the category “Heritage Reframed.” ERA is working with the University, NADAAA, and Adamson Associates to repair and refurbish the spectacular gothic revival building from 1875, and redevelop the site to accommodate a new addition designed by NADAAA to be occupied by the University’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Design.

Continue reading…

Gemini House exceeds expectations

turret

Recent data shows that Gemini House, a green retrofit of an 1880s Second-Empire home, is a real success, with energy savings up to 72% reduced from current Ontario standards. For this project, ERA collaborated with University of Toronto and Ryerson University to transform a poorly performing heritage home into a model for sustainable design. The project challenges a common misconception that heritage architecture and sustainable design do not mix.­ Continue reading…