ERA Architects

Construction begins at the Storefront

Over the past couple of years, ERA has been working with The East Scarborough Storefront (ESS) on the Community Design Initiative (CDI), where Scarborough youth are educated in architecture and design by mentors from ERA, Sustainable.TO, and ArchiTEXT. In the current phase, we are working to bring more shade and plant life to the site. This will include several garden and landscape features, a pergola structure for grapevines, and a green-roof pavilion known as the Sky-o-swale.

Beginning earlier in July, five youth from the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community, who have cumulatively dedicated hundreds of hours to the CDI program, were hired by the ESS for a five-week period to physically build an exterior deck for public use (located under the Sky-o-swale), as well as 50 trellis modules that will form the roof structure for the grapevine pergola.

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Repurposed junk: A chicken coop

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk”
–Thomas Edison.

One thing that attracted us to rural living was a sort of environmental frugality: You try to figure out how to accomplish what needs doing with what you’ve managed to save.  (This notion applies to the practice of heritage conservation as well.)  Hoarding is admittedly easier here than it was in the city: Now we have the garage, the barn, the shed, the back of the lot….  But the idea of turning waste into usefulness (central to the practice of farming as we see it) percolates into all manner of rural living, and provides a close and satisfying connection to our practice, whether working in the garden, tending to our beehive, or building a chicken coop.

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Planting for an elevated bioswale in Scarborough

On a recent pleasant day in June, ERA joined green roof expert Atom Cianfarani and a group of community youth to plant a nursery in preparation for the future construction of an unusual green-roof shade structure at the East Scarborough Storefront.

Over the past year, we have been working with the Storefront, Sustainable.TO, ArchiTEXT, various volunteers, and youth participants on an exciting project in the tower neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park. Soon we begin construction of a dynamic new environment including a kitchen garden and patio, a bee and butterfly garden, a small orchard, and a unique green-roof pavilion or “Sky-o-swale.”

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ERA goes to Brigus, Nfld.

We are pleased to announce the second installation of our Culture of Outports project, developed in collaboration with the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal.

ERA’s Andrew Pruss and Alana Young have just arrived in Brigus, Newfoundland, which, dating from 1612, is one of the oldest European settlements in North America. Over the next two weeks, they will lead a “culture lab” with a group of Ryerson University students, collaborating with local residents to reflect on the site’s past and future. This lab examines local culture, built forms, and geography to imagine how architectural thinking can propose innovative ways to manage change and build community.

To learn more, please have a look at ongoing documentation of this year’s project or of last year’s completed project at Burlington.

Evergreen Brickworks film wins Hotdocs award

Crowd the Schoolhouse, a short film inspired by the evolution and regeneration of the Evergreen Brickworks site (a project in ERA’s portfolio), recently received two awards at the International Documentary Challenge. Each film must be 5 minutes long, filmed within the same five days at the beginning of March, and based on the theme of “cycles.” The entry by team Made-in-Toronto received the award for best writing and Best Use of Genre (Social Issue/Political). Congratulations!

See the video at International Documentary Challenge.

East Scarborough Storefront: Wood Inventory Part II

As we have mentioned previously on this blog, ERA Architects is collaborating with ArchiTEXT and Sustainable.TO on the exciting Community.Design.Initiative at East Scarborough Storefront. Over the course of an intensive 19-week mentorship semester we worked with community youth on the design of a kitchen garden and patio, a unique green-roof pavilion, a bee and butterfly garden, and a small orchard. Summer and fall 2012 will see further collaboration with the community as we move toward construction of this dynamic new environment.

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ERA to Revitalize Historic Yonge Street Landmark

The former Canadian Bank of Commerce building at 197 Yonge Street, since abandoned for 25 years, is set to become the focus of a major redevelopment effort led by MOD Developments in collaboration with ERA. Redevelopment will see the restoration and integration of the existing stone edifice at the foot of a new mixed-use tower designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects.

The illustrious stone frontispiece, designed in 1905 by Darling and Pearson, stands as a wonderful example of turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts classicism in Toronto. To this day (and in spite of its long derelict status) the building manages to turn the heads of city-dwellers and tourists alike. Over the coming months ERA will oversee the gradual transformation of this widely revered local landmark into a grand lobby space for the new residential development.

Though many of the interior spaces have been altered significantly over the years, there is still much inside to be celebrated — from the raised wood paneling and carved oak cornice lines in the front lobby, to the intricately detailed plaster ceilings in the office spaces; things are definitely looking up for this long neglected piece of the city.

See the press release from MOD Developments 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…

Remembrance Day @ the Brampton Cenotaph

Brampton Memorial Cenotaph - November 11, 2011

For the past year, ERA has been working on the restoration of one of Brampton’s most cherished monuments – the War Memorial Cenotaph, which stands beside Brampton City Hall. Restoration was completed earlier this month, just in time for this year’s Remembrance Day service. Originally erected in 1928 to honour the sacrifice of Brampton’s fallen in the Great War (1914-1918), the monument has been an iconic part of the city’s Remembrance Day services ever since.

After 83 years however, the Cenotaph is showing its wrinkles. Last year ERA began a condition assessment on the monument and found several signs of deterioration – including rust staining, environmental staining, cracked/damaged pointing, unmatched and damaged sealant. This September the conservation of the Cenotaph began.

The City of Brampton held its Remembrance Day 2011 parade and service at the freshly restored Cenotaph site on Friday. ERA has worked with the city to develop a management plan for the continued preservation of the monument.

Image source: Toronto Archives Fonds 1266, item 14065.

On July 4th, 1928, thousands of residents from the area gathered on the reclaimed land of the old Etobicoke Creek to witness the unveiling of the Cenotaph by Lord Willingdon, then Governor General of Canada. With the help of proper heritage conservation, 83 years from now the Brampton Cenotaph will continue to remind people of the symbols expressed in the granite monument’s roman ornamentation: Service, Sacrifice, and Victory.

Lang Tannery wins not one but two awards!


ERA was awarded the City of Kitchener Mike Wagner Heritage Award, in the rehabilitation & Adaptive Reuse category for the Lang Tannery Project, shared with Cadan, RAW Design and WalterFedy.

Lang Tannery was also awarded a Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Award for the Best Overall Project.

see more about the project here

East Scarborough Storefront

Community Design – Image courtesy of Expect Theatre / Spark Productions

The East Scarborough Storefront is a community agency offering multiple services in a tower neighbourhood in East Scarborough.  Containing a community kitchen and garden, market, resource centre and access point to over 50 different agencies such as job search support and literacy service, the East Scarbourough Storefront is a significant asset to Toronto. To expand its reach, the Storefront is currently undergoing a long term community lead expansion and revitalization strategy.

Over the past several years, ERA has been aiding the Storefront in this process,  in collaboration with  Sustainable.TO, ArchiTEXT, LoCALe, the Tower Renewal Office at the City of Toronto, and a group of vibrant and active community youth.

A recent article in the Summer 2011 issue of Sustainable Builder Magazine showcasing this ongoing work can be found here, or downloaded in PDF format here.

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ERA and Dalhousie Complete Newfoundland Free Lab

As part of the Culture of Outports project, ERA Architects taught an intensive design/build course with six Dalhousie University School of Architecture students in the small outport of Burlington, Newfoundland.

A filled-in pond is currently serving as the only public site on Burlington’s waterfront, allowing for camping and social gathering. The studio course engaged with the local community to formalize this site, with the aim of creating a permanent asset for the city and a new gathering place for the people of Burlington. For more, please see the Free Lab Project Page. To follow the project as it took shape, please see the Culture of Outports tumblr.

Kipling Community Build

In July, ERA got into the building spirit as part of the Tower Renewal project at the Kipling Towers in North Etobicoke.

Kipling Towers is one of the City’s great apartment neighbourhoods, with a cluster of nineteen towers perched along the western bank of the Humber River. Previous posts with more information about the neighbourhood can be found here.

ERA has been involved in the neighborhood since 2007 in partnership with the City of Toronto, Jane’s Walk , the National Film Board and the United Way; working with residents to plan a vision for the future.

During this period, several workshops have been held with the community, hosted by ERA, the City of Toronto, Jane’s Walk and an ongoing collaborative process with the National Film Board as part of their remarkable HIGHRISE documentary initiative. A recently published report of one such workshop hosted by the City and DIAC in late 2010 can be downloaded here.


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Culture of Outports: Burlington Freelab

ERA’s Culture of Outports project, through the Centre for Urban Growth + Renewal, and sponsored by TD Canada Trust, is now taking shape in Newfoundland.

The team includes Principals-in-charge Michael McClelland and Philip Evans, Project Architect Will MacIvor, and Assistant Laila MacDougall-Milne, as well as six students from Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture in their design build project in the outport of Burlington, on the Baie Verte peninsula. Continue reading…

ERA wins a PUG Award!

ERA, in association with Rounthwaite Dick Hadley Architects, Shoalts and Zaback Architects recieved the Paul Oberman Award for Adaptive Reuse and Heritage Restoration, in the commercial category.

The PUG Awards, this year in their 7th edition, are the people’s choice awards for architecture in Toronto.

For more on the Bloor Gladstone Library, please click here.

Building a ship in a bottle

The exterior masonry restoration work at MLG is progressing well, and will be complete by the end of the summer. Work has begun on the restoration of the historic Carlton marquee, which will be a wonderful public face to this adaptive reuse project.

Inside, the floor slabs are almost all poured, and the internal spaces are really starting to shape up… Loblaws is set to open late this year, and the Ryerson spaces on the new floor levels above will open early spring 2012.

Auchmar Estate

Since 2006, ERA has been engaged in a series of conservation and repair projects at Auchmar Estate in Hamilton, Ontario.  Most recently we have been examining and recording the finishes on both the exterior of the house and on the interior walls of the main front hall.

Working with specialist paint analysts, we have identified two main decorative schemes on the interior plaster.  The oldest scheme is a faux ashlar stone finish dated to the building’s origin in the 1850s.  The second scheme is a golden-coloured marbling application probably dating from the 1880s.  Uncovering these schemes gives us a better understanding of the historic timeline of the house and gives insight into the lives and values of the people who once lived there.

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Out East

Philip and Will recently took a trip out to Halifax, to give a public lecture at the Dalhousie School of Architecture and to introduce the Culture of Outports Free Lab project to the students and faculty. Continue reading…

Canada Hair Cloth

ERA is currently working with DSAI to convert the former Canada Hair Cloth factory in St. Catharines, ON, into Brock University’s new school for the performing arts.  We’ve been down to site a few times to survey the conditions of the existing buildings – the oldest of which dates to 1888 – in order to cost and direct the restoration and adaptive reuse work.

Edwin surveying the existing conditions of the exterior masonry.

Exploring, analysing, and understanding old buildings such as these – and then developing strategies to help them adapt to the needs of contemporary society in the interest of the public good and in the service of the larger rejuvenation of the surrounding community is what really gets us excited to be involved in this profession.  A few images the buildings follow after the jump.

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ERA at the Drake

Toronto Life magazine this month features a little teaser article about the forthcoming expansion to the Drake Hotel, led by ERA.  The project has just been officially announced, though we’ve been hard at work behind the scenes for a good long while.  Watch this space for more information soon…

The animals of the Coliseum

As one small component of the interior restoration of the East Annex vestibule in the Coliseum Complex at Exhibition Place, ERA was asked to remove the wooden wall assembly and install new stair handrails. We considered a number of options and found that the most economical and appropriate for the space was a steel handrail with a solid metal panel to meet the code requirements.

An initial concern was that the design of the railing would have no relation to other elements in the building.  Looking for references and precendents, the design team drew inspiration from the animal-head reliefs on the sculpture wall outside the Heritage Court.  Since 1922, the buildings have been used for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and were primarily designed to hold animals.  The historic reliefs were translated into vectors, and the digitally-interpreted silhouettes were laser-cut into the railing panels – paying tribute to the building’s programming and history.  Note that the panels will be site-painted green to match the other historic steel elements, including the refurbished original steel industrial windows.