ERA Architects

Gemini House exceeds expectations

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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…

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…

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…

Botwood build: complete

As part of the Culture of Outports initiative, Andrew Pruss, Alana Young, Jordan Molnar, and Shelley Ludman recently collaborated with six Ryerson architecture students and residents of Botwood, Nfld. to design and build an intervention in the local landscape.

The “Viewfinder” is a wood-frame, open-plank pavilion that serves as a shade structure, windbreak, and a frame for significant heritage views of the locale. It is intended as a focal point for community engagement, a landmark to stimulate activity in the community, and a steppingstone toward the cultivation of future cultural and economic opportunities. Continue reading…

Irwin House: Floating in mid-air

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The historic John Irwin House (1873) was moved in 2013 from the west to the east side of this lot on Grenville near Yonge, in Toronto. Today it rests on a concrete slab and two concrete columns, suspended five storeys over solid ground. A new 50-storey condominium designed by architectsAlliance incorporates the John Irwin House into its podium. Continue reading…

Charrette: Healthy Corner Stores

On Saturday January 18, The East Scarborough Storefront hosted a public design charrette with partners United Way Toronto, Toronto Public Health (TPH), Sustainable TO, Architext, and ERA. Saturday’s discussion focused on TPH’s new program “Healthy Corner Stores,” a project that proposes to give suburban communities better access to fresh produce, and other healthy food options, through convenience stores.

Healthy Corner Stores is part of the growing Tower Renewal initiative, which aims to bring new amenities, healthy choices, and life on the street to Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods. Continue reading…

Gemini House in the Globe

In a recent article in the Globe & Mail, Dave LeBlanc explains how Gemini House provides a new, sustainable model for heritage homes.

The Gemini NTED approach, developed by U of T’s Kim Pressnail and Ryerson’s Russell Richman, is a new way to engineer low-energy housing. The idea is to put a box within a box, separating the home into a thermally isolated “core” and “periphery.” Continue reading…

Hamilton Heritage Inventory

Recently, ERA’s Michael McClelland and Victoria Angel spoke to a group of approximately 80 people at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton regarding ERA’s role in Hamilton’s Downtown Built Heritage Inventory (DBHI) project.

The DBHI project is a pilot project to review and update information about 789 downtown properties on the Inventory of Buildings of Architectural and / or Historical Interest (within the area bounded by Wellington, Queen, Hunter, and Cannon streets). A preliminary assessment of the heritage value of these properties is also being carried out. Continue reading…

Gemini green retrofit

Last week, work was completed on the interior of GEMINI House, a collaboration with University of Toronto and Ryerson University. The House is an experiment in retrofitting a historic home with sustainable engineering. The GEMINI approach uses two thermal zones, a core and periphery, to make more appropriate use of heating and energy consumption throughout the year. Continue reading…

Tafelmusik renovations unveiled

Oct. 3th 2013, Tafelmusik held its first public concert in a transformed concert hall at Trinity-St. Paul’s. ERA worked with acoustician Bob Essert and other consultants to restore and repair elements of the space, and improve its sound. According to all involved, the result is a success.

Continue reading…

GEMINI House: Construction has begun

This summer, construction began at GEMINI House, a collaboration in low-energy retrofit research between the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. Professors Kim Pressnail and Russell Richman are the research leads, and ERA is the architect of record. The project explores new approaches to low-energy housing design, with the added complexity of being executed within an 1880s Second Empire-style masonry home, located on the UofT campus. Continue reading…

La Cour d’appel du Québec

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ERA and Kubanek Architecte are pleased to announce a collaboration with the Société immobilière du Québec on heritage conservation work at the Cour d’appel du Québec in Montreal.

The monumental building, located on Notre Dame St. E. in Old Montreal, was designed by Ernest Cormier, Louis-Auguste Amos and Charles J. Saxe, and completed in 1926. Cormier, known for his fine design work and decidedly modern approach to architecture, also designed l’Université de Montréal; St. Michael’s College School, Toronto; the Supreme Court of Canada building, Ottawa; and Cormier House, which for several years served as the Montreal home of Pierre Trudeau. Continue reading…

New video doc on Sharon Temple

Video producer Vanessa Ireson has recently made an excellent short documentary about one of ERA’s favourite projects: Sharon Temple. The Temple was completed in 1832 by the Children of Peace, a group of former Quakers who, among other things, advocated for peace and democracy and created the first credit union in Canada. The building is a masterpiece in wood and a monument to a fascinating part of 19th century Canadian culture.

In the video, curator John McIntyre and ERAer Jan Kubanek introduce viewers to the history of the Temple and its design, as well as the recent restoration and preservation project led by ERA.

Many thanks to Vanessa Ireson, who produced the video through the generous support of Co-op TV at the Co-operators.

ERA in Port Union, Nfld.

ERA has begun consultations with the William Coaker Foundation and Port Union, Newfoundland, as part of the Culture of Outports program, and will be leading an exciting on-site project there in June 2013.

Culture of Outports is a series of projects that uses research, design, and planning to engage and help support livable communities undergoing economic and cultural change after the decline of the Northern Cod Fishery. Continue reading…

Community Art Project at the Riverdale Hub

Over the past few months, ERA has had the pleasure of working with the Riverdale Hub on a community revitalization strategy for the Gerrard Bazaar/Little India neighbourhood. The Riverdale Hub is an innovative model for community revitalization that integrates environmental sustainability and social enterprise in order to provide training for new Canadian women and create opportunities for local economic growth and investment. Continue reading…

Stone Engravings at Soldiers’ Tower

One of the projects we have been involved with for several years is the ongoing masonry conservation of Soldiers’ Tower, a monument built just to the west of University of Toronto’s Hart House. An interesting aspect of the project has been to catalogue and document hundreds of lines of engraved text on several stone faces within and adjacent to the Tower.

The Tower began construction in 1919 and was designed by Sproatt & Rolph Architects. Funded through donations raised by the University’s Alumni Association and benefactor Vincent Massey, the Tower was completed in 1924.  It is a solid stone masonry structure designed in the Late Gothic Revival style and built to honour members of the University of Toronto who lost their lives in World War I. Additional names where later added in the archway after World War II.

While the Tower, which stands 143 feet tall, is architecturally significant in its own right, the carefully cut engravings, which list the names of 1185 fallen members, are arguably the most important element. So when members of the Soldiers’ Tower Alumni Committee told us that the names had never been recorded, we took the opportunity to do so.

What ensued was a process of ladder climbing, photo-documentation, and numerous careful measurements assembled in a graphic catalogue identifying the content, form, location, and dimensions of each line of engraving.

Having been through this process, we now see the monument not only as a record of our collective past, but also as a carefully constructed work of art. Its typesetting and engraving are artfully conceived and finely crafted, while its scale and grandeur convey with appropriate weight the loss of life in war.

A page from the catalogue of documentary photographs.

For information on Soldiers’ Tower and its annual remembrance service, please see University of Toronto’s Soldiers’ Tower webpage. For images and information on ERA’s work with Soldiers’ Tower, please see our portfolio page.

Construction and river valley tour, East Scarborough

Photos: Holly Pagnacco

Progress on the East Scarborough Storefront’s (ESS) soon-to-be grapevine pergola is running on time. We have just completed some 50 trellis modules which will form the roof structure for the grapevines to grow on. The youth spent weeks building these modules and have become confident measuring and cutting wood, along with many other skills.

As part of this ongoing learning process, our youth landscapers recently presented on the transformations the community could expect at ESS, including the pergola and deck, which the team has been working on since early July. Participants were surprised and inspired to see the impressive projects community youth are working on.

Continue reading…