ERA Architects

Big Cities in a ‘small’ Context

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How do cities grow? Do we limit growth or encourage it? Direct it or simply discover its natural rhythms? While municipal planning, land use policies and settlement patterns have shaped the physical aspect of North American cities, often social, cultural and environmental forces leave a firmer mark on our communities.

ERA’s Philip Evans and Heather Campbell were recently invited by Princeton University’s Frank and Deborah Popper to discuss with their land-use planning students how Canadian cities address population growth. This conversation prioritizes the sustainability of communities by rooting development in the broader cultural heritage context: recognizing the diversity of people, places and lifestyles which have both shaped and responded to the growth of buildings, streetscapes and communities. The role of reuse – from buildings and skills, to gathering spaces and local economies – within the evolution of our communities is essential to sustainable growth and a sense and quality of place in both countries.

ERA’s small program shifted the focus to shrinking areas, mainly rural, and the challenges of industry closure, population loss and infrastructure decline. With the Buffalo Commons project, the Popper’s study of American frontier communities addresses questions about longevity and sustainability on environmental, social and economic fronts. Similarly, small’s focus on livable communities within Canada’s unique rural context aims to develop support for small-scale cultural economic drivers, to address the shift and redesign in the rural landscape, from natural resource dependency to a new cultural economy.

These continuing cross-border conversations help us develop a deeper understanding of our possible reciprocal contributions to both sustainable city-building and the sustainability of smaller places, those often overlooked by broader policy supports. It is the conversations of the next generation of leaders, their priorities and principles which need to be reflected in the development of our communities today.

Newfoundland field research (by guest blogger Kathryn Douthart)

nippers

For the past five years, ERA’s Culture of Outports team has been working with rural communities along Newfoundland’s coast to foster liveable communities through research, design, and planning. In the summer of 2014, Culture of Outports worked with Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that builds working relationships between academia and industry by placing research interns with organizations in need of research expertise. Culture of Outports’ Mitacs internship focused on communities in Newfoundland’s Baie Verte Peninsula. 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…

Light show on air field: Botwood, Nfld.

As part of the recent Culture of Outports project, our team of ERAers and Ryerson students has been collaborating with residents of Botwood Newfoundland for several days. In addition to meals, tours, history lessons, and collaborative design charrettes, the team got together to install dozens of ice candles (made by residents especially for our visit) to illuminate a strip of Botwood’s historic airfield. Continue reading…

We’re off to Botwood, Nfld.

As part of the Culture of Outports initiative, ERA’s Andrew Pruss, Alana Young, and Jordan Molnar are heading to Botwood Newfoundland from Feb. 15 to 22. Together with a group of Ryerson Architecture students, we’ll be collaborating with the community on a number of events, as well as the design and construction of an intervention in the local landscape. Continue reading…

Gaspé: Vernacular Architecture Forum

This June, ERA’s Victoria Angel and Michael McClelland attended the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s annual conference “The Ebb and Flow of Religion and Economy in Gaspé Cultural Landscapes.” Victoria and Michael were part of a keynote panel discussing approaches to heritage conservation in smaller communities and rural settings.

Gaspé, Québec is located on the northern tip of the Appalachians just at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The bilingual conference explored two major themes: religious expressions (beyond organized churches), and economic evolution in Gaspé’s cultural landscapes. Continue reading…

Port Union Community Build

The Culture of Outports program has just concluded its third year of “community build” projects in Trinity Bay North, Newfoundland. The project uses planning and design thinking to bring new ideas and energy to outport communities experiencing economic and social change post-fisheries.

This year ERAers Andrew Pruss, Alana Young, Shelley Ludman, Douglas de Gannes, traveled with Ryerson students Madeleine Craig, Ryan Giuricich, Mitchell May, Elijah Sabadlan, and Karl Sarkis to the Trinity Bay North communities of Catalina, Little Catalina, Melrose, and Port Union. Continue reading…

ERA in Nfld.: Update

This week in Trinity Bay North, Newfoundland, the 2013 Culture of Outports project got a great start on its community build process. The community is fantastic and we’re having a great time.

In its first week the team has toured the local landscape and architecture extensively, held several community engagement meetings, mounted a historical slide show in the street, and installed 1000 feet of Christmas lights along Main St. to commemorate an early electrical power station built in Port Union in 1917. Continue reading…

Fundraiser for Kenyan school a success

Recently, ERA Architects sponsored a silent auction and evening of drinks and hors d’oeuvres to raise funds for the continued construction of  Oleleshwa Primary School in Kenya. The January 2013 fundraiser garnered over $14,000, making the total raised-to-date over $50,000, not including labour and in-kind donations, which have also been significant.

Continue reading…

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…

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.

Continue reading…

Community project in Brigus, Newfoundland

Recently Alana Young and Andrew Pruss returned from Brigus, Newfoundland where they worked with a group of Ryerson students to study the interaction of culture, place, history, and landscape. This project was part of an ongoing initiative by ERA and Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) called Culture of Outports, which investigates how architectural thinking can help re-imagine changing economies and cultures.

For more information and detailed documentation of the Brigus project, please see CUG+R’s website.

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.

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…

Culture of Outports _ Burlington design/build

As part of the Culture of Outports project, ERA taught an intensive two-week design/build course in the small outport of Burlington, Newfoundland. The course was run through Dalhousie, and began with a lengthy road-trip from St. John’s, where students had the opportunity to study and immerse themselves in the local and material culture. Then, working with the full support of the Burlington community and assisted by a range of craftspeople, ERA led the six architecture students in the design and construction of a small-scale intervention bred from site-specific conditions, drawing upon vernacular building techniques and traditional craft practices, and making use of local materials. Continue reading…

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.

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…

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…

Picton Main Street

Meandering this morning through the Archives of the Ontario  I came across these  great pictures of Picton’s Main Street at the turn of the century.

Parade (1905)

H. B. Wright & Co. storefront (between 1898-1920)

Picton Methodist Church and tourist office (between 1898 and 1920)

Hidden Architectural Gems

As part of our exploration of the County and surrounding areas, we recently had the opportunity to visit a few true architectural gems – Otto Roger’s artist studio by architect Siamak Hariri and the Bata Residence (in Batawa) by architect John B. Parkin.

The Bata residence (currently being documented by Carleton University students) is a remarkable and well preserved example of Parkin’s residential work.  Located up on the hill, the residence boats an incredible view overlooking the Town of Batawa.  And though it is modest in size, it is clear that every detail was considered.  A few memorable attributes include the family shoe closet (but of course), the bathroom colours, and the custom designed dining table.

The artist studio by Hariri was another fantastic discovery.  Here we found a building, again modest and finely articulated, quietly nestled into the woods.  But what was breath-taking was how the intimacy with nature extended into the studio with the light and the glow of the autumn coloured leaves.

Both these visits, unique and inspiring in their own ways, confirmed to me there is indeed a special ‘sense of place’ here.  And that it is exemplified not just in our loyalist building stock, but also in our more recent architectural contributions.

 

Our First Stop: 2335 County Road 10

2335 County Rd. 10 circa 1898

Circa 1898

Summer 2010

Summer 2010

Before we dive into the Settler’s Dream, however, it seems that we should begin by “writing what we know”: our own house on County Road 10, located almost exactly between Cherry Valley and Milford.

 

The eastern portion of our house (currently the office) is thought to be some 150 years old, and the central and western portions thought to have been added about 50 years later. Kitchen and dining functions occupied the centre, while the west was used as a wood shed (ground floor) and a chicken coop (second storey). The western third was fully incorporated as an interior space in 2004, when its then new owners renovated inside and out. The first photo shows the house c.1898, “on occasion of new drive shed” (demolished 2004) in the foreground, and if one squints, one can see some young locust trees that eventually come to their modern prominence.

The Settler’s Dream

The ERA Prince Edward County office is up and running (and running and running). And running.

ERA PEC is a whole new adventure, and everywhere we look there is something new (or old) and beautiful and unique. We can’t turn around without seeing something we haven’t seen before. This blog will be a record of our discoveries, our projects, and provide a snapshot of local life through an architectural lens.

But first – a little background how it all began.

Ontario’s only island county, “The County” (as it is locally referred to) would first have been occupied by indigenous peoples as soon as retreating glaciers allowed, and evidence of these early occupiers dates back some 11,000 years. The County was originally a peninsula, only gaining island status with the construction of the Murray Canal in the late 1880s, fully 100 years after settlement by United Empire Loyalists, mercenaries, and other immigrants from (predominantly) the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The information above was taken from The Settler’s Dream, the local authority on the built heritage of the County. To help us explore our new home (and all its wonders), we will use this as our guide — visiting the places described in the Settler’s Dream to see how (or if) they have changed.