ERA Architects

Toronto Set in Stone

A guest article by Brendan Stewart—Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph


Stone plays an outsized role in defining many of Toronto’s most beloved and well-used public spaces. Of course there is something singularly enchanting about the material itself, but as important is how it is arranged and put together — the artistry and craft that elevates the average to the exceptional.

Stone and stone work is something I’ve been thinking about more and more, starting with an article I wrote last year in Ground Magazine about dry stone walls, which has led to my involvement as a guest speaker at the upcoming Dry Stone Canada Festival on Amherst Island at the end of the month, and a talk next week at ERA with visiting Scottish stone artist David Wilson (RSVP here), which will explore ideas about the creative use of stone in public spaces.

In Toronto, a recent recurring theme is the importing and re-purposing of ancient precambrian boulders; carefully selected, removed and transported at great expense from northern Ontario’s Canadian shield wilderness, and strategically re-installed in vibrant downtown settings.

Ryerson Image Centre and Devonian Square (photo: Hoice, Wikimedia Commons).

Think of Devonian Square at Ryerson, created in 1978 by landscape architects Richard Strong and Steven Moorhead, which features artistic groupings of massive boulders scattered around the plaza, and is the setting for winter scenes of ice skaters whose silhouettes are dwarfed as they weave in and around the rock.

Then, there’s the giant granite outcropping that defines Village of Yorkville Park, created in the early 90s by US landscape architects Martha Schwartz, Ken Smith, David Meyer and PWP Landscape Architecture. An iconic landscape landmark to match any in Toronto, the experience of emerging from underground at Bay station to meet a friend for coffee on the warm rock is unique to Canadian urbanism.

Sugar Beach by Claude Cormier + Associés, opened in 2010, pays homage to the granite outcropping at Yorkville Park, but integrates playful white and red candy-cane stripes, referring to the active Red Path sugar factory that animates the dramatic, working waterfront views.

And finally, there is the newly opened Trillium Park, designed by lead landscape architects LandInc, which features the 83 metre long ‘Moraine Bluff’ — an artfully sculpted, complex wall of stone that was designed using an innovative combination of digital modelling and in the field craft. Laid out in full on the floor of a quarry in Dwight Ontario, the wall was then transported and re-constructed on the lakeshore at Ontario Place[1].

‘The Ravine with Moccasin Identifier’ Trillium Park (photo: Brendan Stewart).

‘The Ravine with Moccasin Identifier’ Trillium Park, details (photo: Brendan Stewart).

Moraine Bluff, Trillium Park (photo: Brendan Stewart).

These projects, all representing in one way or another the ancient and sublime landscapes of the near north, all go to extraordinary lengths logistically, technologically, and artistically to bring the sensual and intangible resonance of stone into the city to create powerful civic experiences.

Stone, of course, has been used in many other wonderful ways in Toronto’s public realm. From interpreting and commemorating the history of the Irish Famine migrants who landed in Toronto in 1847 at Kearns Mancini’s Ireland Park (2007), to defining tranquil academic courtyards such as the Quadrangle at University College, executed by landscape architect Michael Hough in the mid 1960s[2].

And before this, there is the rich legacy of carved stone, integrated into the great buildings of 19th and early 20th century Toronto, some of which remain in situ, and some of which can be explored, as salvaged and re-constructed artifacts in the unique Guild Park and Gardens at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs. This wonderful and curious place is described and explored in a 2016 article in Ornamentum by ERA alum Tatum Taylor here.

For more fascinating discussion on the topic of creative urban use of stone and placemaking, join us at ERA on Monday, September 24 with Scottish stone artist David Wilson (RSVP here).

 


[1] See ‘Romance of the Stone: When metaphor meets technology’ by Patrick Morello in Landscapes Paysages v.19, Winter 2017.

[2] See ‘Quiet, Green, and Orderly: The History of the UC Quadrangle’ by Jane Wolff

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.

 

Creative Space & Urban Stone: Public Talk

Stone is the most fundamental material but over the last 50 years its creative use has declined in the public realm. Through a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship David F. Wilson aimed to discover how other creatives are exploring the space between tradition & current practice, travelling in the USA & Canada through the summer months of 2017.

Where problems exist, new opportunities open up. Using photos and examples, David’s talk will explore the findings of his North American tour, the challenges posed to creative stone craft through modern building practice, and innovative ways to keep stone craft alive in urban spaces.

Through the lens of his landscape architecture practice and university teaching, Brendan Stewart will respond to the report and extend the conversation, relating these findings, challenges and opportunities to urban spaces in Toronto and Canada.

Report here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/creative-space-contemporary-use-stone-urban-spaces


A public talk by David F Wilson (UK) in conversation with Brendan Stewart (University of Guelph), co-hosted with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada (Dry Stone Canada).
REGISTER HERE VIA EVENTBRITE 

Doors at 6:30pm, Talk begins 7:00pm
625 Church Street, Toronto

3 minute walk from Bloor-Yonge Station (TTC)
Car and Bike Parking at the rear of building (Impark Parking)
This venue has elevator access and an accesible washroom

Reception to follow, generously sponsored by Jonathan Kearns, Founding Principal of Kearns Mancini Architects (B.ARCH., OAA, FRAIC, RIBA, FRIAI, AIBC, AANB, AAA) and Member Dry Stone Canada


David F. Wilson
Artist, Designer, Waller, Maker
Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow and author of Creative Space: Contemporary use of stone in urban spaces

David graduated in 1987 from Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, with a Masters in Public Art & Design. Following a college art degree, he was inspired by a new trend for artists to work outside the traditional gallery system and decided to pursue a creative career in art for a wider public.

Flexibility has always been an asset in David’s practice when creating works in a public space. Every client & every different situation requires a unique design solution. Combining creativity with a playfulness of technique and form has always been at the heart of his process.

Two public projects that display this aspect well are the Edinburgh Airport Interchange and Livingston Landmarks. The latter was awarded the coveted Pinnacle Award from the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain.


Brendan Stewart
Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph; past Associate, ERA Architects, Toronto

Brendan Stewart received his BLA from Guelph, attended Edinburgh College of Art, and received an MLA from the University of California, Berkeley. Brendan’s research focuses on heritage conservation planning and design processes, cultural landscape theory, design history, service learning and participatory design practices.

Throughout his more than a decade of practice experience, Brendan has been actively engaged in the academic, professional, and community spheres. He has been a regular guest lecturer, critic, and instructor at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and the University of Waterloo, and was an editorial board member of Ground Magazine, the journal of the OALA.

In 2015, he was involved in organizing and participating in the ‘Leading with Landscape’ conference in Toronto, hosted by the Washington DC based Cultural Landscape Foundation, which was attended by over 400 landscape practitioners and scholars from around the world. He is a director of the Friends of Allan Gardens a not for profit organization with a mission to revitalize one of Toronto’s earliest designed landscapes. Starting in 2017, Brendan is the University of Guelph’s appointed educator to the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects governing council.

 

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 & CaGBC: Sustainable Development

Late last month, on Thursday April 26th, the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Green Building Council met for their annual Spring Open event. Hosted at the newly opened EY Tower downtown, the event included a series of rapid and informative presentations known as the event’s “Building Blitz” —highlighting the newest and most sustainable buildings in Southern Ontario.

ERA’s Shelley Ludman was invited to speak about the adaptive reuse of 158 Sterling Road, the new home of Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We were honoured to present on the often overlooked importance of adaptive reuse as a strategy for a sustainable future.

Other presentations included: 

  • 80 Atlantic Avenue, Presented by Quadrangle
  • Zero House at the Endeavour Centre, Presented by Ryerson University, Department of Architectural Science
  • Kiln Building at Evergreen Brick Works, Presented by LGA Architectural Partners
  • University of Toronto – The Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Presented by Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc. 
  • York University Student Centre, Presented by CannonDesign

The Legacy Lives On: Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory as an emerging practice in historic urban landscape stewardship

ERA Associate Victoria Angel’s article in Plan Magazine’s Winter Issue ‘Urban heritage: A living legacy’ on the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Recommendation (2011) illustrates its implications and emerging practices, using the City of Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory as a case-study. The recommendation encourages a more holistic, integrative approach to urban heritage conservation, focusing on the urban landscape. It proposes that future considerations around urban development should enhance sustainability, functionality, inclusivity, place-making and local identities. Governments have experimented with its implementation, in spite of the complexity of the various urban systems.

Practices that have emerged as a result include a greater use of community consultation, and the characterization of large urban areas through the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which integrate well with other municipal information systems.

Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory process was adopted by its City Council in the spring of 2014 and was the subject of a paper by Victoria Angel, Angela Garvey and Mikael Sydor that was published by the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The City of Hamilton intends to implement the strategy one neighbourhood at a time, at a citywide level.

By incorporating the HUL’s recommendations, ‘…Citywide surveys and inventories, landscape characterization, and an understanding of people’s perceptions of the places they inhabit could, in the future, be used by cities to identify a much broader range of conservation opportunities, better understand an area’s capacity to change and evolve, and reposition historic resources to serve as the springboard and foundation for new development….’

Article in CIP’s PLAN Canada Journal: http://www.kelmanonline.com/httpdocs/files/CIP/plancanadawinter2017/index.html
Related content: http://www.eraarch.ca/2017/hamiltons-durand-built-heritage-inventory-project-incorporates-digital-innovation-to-develop-a-citywide-approach-to-heritage-planning/
http://www.eraarch.ca/project/hamilton-downtown-built-heritage-inventory/
http://www.eraarch.ca/2013/9295/

All images courtesy of ERA Architects.

In-House Experts: Barrier-Free Design and Heritage Buildings

At ERA we thrive on finding new uses for existing buildings and integrating the heritage fabric of our city into contemporary designs. One of the ways we approach conservation of existing fabric is through modifications to buildings and cultural landscapes that enable all users to enjoy our shared heritage. Many heritage structures are not barrier-free by today’s standards: the main entrances often are only accessible by stairs, they have heavy doors without automatic operators, the washrooms don’t accommodate wheelchair users, the stairs don’t have the tactile and colour-contrasting nosing that aid users with low-vision in navigating them.

Improving upon our heritage fabric to create a more accessible environment requires a careful and sensitive approach. Whereas a barrier-free approach to a new building design is integrated from the very beginning, a barrier-free retrofit requires considering the impact of the alterations on the historical features of the building: How can we position a new entrance ramp to minimize its visual impact? How can we modify existing doors to accommodate power door operators without damaging the existing fabric? How can we renovate an existing washroom to allow for universal access? What materials can we use to provide tactile and colour-contrasting nosing without negatively impacting a historical wood stair?

Two of our most recent projects in downtown Toronto feature smart designs that integrate barrier-free features into the existing fabric of heritage structures: the Sultan Street Development and 330 University Avenue.

The Sultan Street Development features the integration of a row of red brick Romanesque houses with a new office tower development designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA). As the original entries to the heritage houses featured a series of steps up to the doors, they impeded the possibility for barrier-free access from the street. ERA proposed a simple modification to the entrances which lowered the doors to street level and enabled barrier-free access without the need for a ramp or elevating device.

At 330 University Avenue (also known as the Canada Life Building), ERA took a different approach to providing barrier-free access. In this case, the existing steps to this Beaux Arts building were maintained and a ramp was designed to allow barrier-free entry through one of the three main doors off University. In addition, the original bronze and glass doors were equipped with power door operators to ensure a fully barrier-free path of travel to the public lobby.

Post by guest writer Max Yuristy.
All photos courtesy of ERA Architects.

When Crazy Gets Creative

Crazy Dames Share their Innovative Approach to Community Engagement and Design Development

Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs and a desire to use the artist’s studio as a site for fostering creative engagement, Jennie Suddick, and Sara Udow founded Crazy Dames. Their focus is on enhancing the user experience of urban spaces, empowering communities to drive the change they desire through ‘tactical and collaborative approaches’ to city-building. Crazy Dames utilize unconventional, yet playful methods from which innovative ideas evolve.

Their portfolio includes activities as diverse as building a blanket fort as part of a residency at the Gardiner Museum, entitled ‘We Built This City’. There they programmed events over the course of two weeks in the summer of 2016, including workshops, artist-led ‘walkshop’ walking tours, a collaborative art project, and closing event and panel discussion. The pair have also found attentive audiences through public engagement projects at the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre, and Create Your Path initiative.

In each case, they strive to create an experience that will bring broad communities together, break down barriers, and ignite their imaginations to ultimately express their thoughts/feelings about the city they live in, generating ideas for change. At the end of the day, it’s about talking to people, listening to divergent perspectives, and encouraging long-term community involvement and ownership.

Fast forward to August 2018, Jennie and Sara have been invited to participate in a residency in Valletta, Malta, European Capital of Culture. They have also recently been chosen as Varley Art Gallery’s inaugural Community Artists in Residence. This residency will run in 2018 in Markham, ON.

ERA was delighted to host them for an interactive presentation on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018, when they shared an informative slide presentation. Not wanting to rest solely on traditional methods however, they invited staff to get out of their seats, split into two groups and create a 3D drawing using balls of black yarn. The objective of the exercise was to define the space we were in, how it’s used and how it has evolved. The teams discussed various perspectives before creating two intricate webs. The communication and designs that resulted made for an interesting collaborative experience.

For more information visit: http://www.crazydames.com/
U of T News article: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/these-crazy-dames-want-us-rethink-way-we-engage-city

All photographs courtesy of Crazy Dames.

Nothing is Impossible: NXT City defines its strategies for city-building through an inspirational presentation at ERA

On December 13th, NXT City visited ERA to engage staff as part of our Wednesday Morning Forum ‘Spark Sessions’, a series of talks presented at ERA’s office by people and organizations who are at the forefront of their respective practices, and pushing the boundaries of design, policy and development in our city.

NXT City is a not-for-profit organization that unites the desire of emerging leaders to make a difference with city builders looking for innovative ideas to program and develop public space. It was established in 2013 by founders Christine Caruso, Mackenzie Keast and Justin Leclair, who have since garnered much attention for their exciting initiatives, such as an annual NXT City Prize, public space symposium, quarterly talks and secret warehouse parties.

In the early days, the team identified a gap in opportunities for Toronto’s current and future city-builders to assemble, in order to network, strengthen partnerships, and synergize ideas. As a result, they devised a strategy to connect various stakeholders whom they admire (Jennifer Keesmat was an early supporter), programming approachable, exciting events that draw people together to brainstorm on methods of reshaping the city in delightful, unexpected ways.

The various platforms compliment and reinforce their objective: the NXT City Prize was initiated as an opportunity to encourage and reward thought leadership on relevant topics. Teams are invited to submit proposals for jury review based solely on the quality of the idea. The NXT City Symposium promotes itself as ‘public space on a global stage’, offering up discussions on civic innovation and ideas by industry leaders challenging the boundaries and limitations of public space. The mix of speakers is a potential tension-builder, arranged as a counter-point to create a more meaningful dialogue. The NXT City Talks are small-scale panels with a ‘how to’ approach to project development. The secret warehouse parties offer an opportunity for the community at large to connect and celebrate all that is exciting and ground-breaking in the Toronto region and beyond.

To gain more insight on NXT City visit: https://nxtcity.ca/

Photos courtesy of Nicky Brunn-Meyer

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.

Congratulations to Ya’el Santopinto, our new Associate 

As ERA continues to grow and evolve, the Executives and Associates are very pleased to appoint Ya’el Santopinto to our leadership team. Ya’el has demonstrated commitment to our core values of city building, rehabilitation of heritage buildings, and democratic community design, and has used these values to help the firm expand into new areas.

Ya’el is a registered Architect at ERA who specializes in affordable and energy-efficient housing, international housing policy and regulation, and the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings. Ya’el is also the Director of Research and Partnerships with the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, leading work on Tower Renewal — an initiative to catalyze reinvestment and community building in apartment tower neighbourhoods. Her work includes research, advocacy, and implementation of best-in-class practices in energy retrofit, affordable housing and planning policy, green financing, and social inclusion.

We look forward to this new chapter and the exciting work ahead!

ACO NextGen presents the possibility of a new take on an historic building

How does one breathe new life into a building that was once grand but has since ‘lost its lustre’?

The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario NextGen designers have put out a public call for ideas that will transform Toronto’s landmark bus terminal on Bay Street, culminating in an all-day on-site event on Saturday, November 11th.

The building was designed by architect Charles B. Dolphin, widely known for designing the Consumers Gas building (at 2532 Yonge St. Building), 1931; the Postal Delivery Building, now forming part of the Air Canada Centre (at 50 Bay St), 1941; and TTC Headquarters (1900 Yonge St), 1958. The architectural style is a classic example of Art Deco/Art Moderne, containing notable interior elements for the period, such as Scagliola plaster, streamline staircase, layout and prominent central skylight.

It opened to the public in 1931 for the purposes of serving the customers of the Gray Coach bus line (in operation from 1927-1991). Service providers changed hands after many years of operation. The terminal underwent one major renovation in 1984 to alter the bus bays and a second minor renovation in 1990 to increase the seating capacity of the passenger room. The terminal may potentially be declared surplus, with the development of new bus terminal at 45 Bay Street.

ERA’s Tatum Taylor toured the group through the building and The Ward to provide context for the day. ERA Principal Scott Weir delivered a talk on the building’s architecture and history, followed by an introduction to examples of adaptive reuse projects, such as Loblaws Warehouse, Postal Station K, Massey Tower, Maple Leaf Gardens, Casey House and the Carlu. The event is timely, as talks have been underway at the municipal government level for months, to determine the future of the site. Change is in the air, and possibilities for conserving the building as a landmark destination for both heritage architectural lovers and community dwellers alike abound.

As Scott is quoted as saying, ‘Now is the perfect time to start dreaming….’

Link to Toronto Star article: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/09/bay-dundas-bus-terminal-looks-to-recapture-its-sense-of-grandeur.html

Link to NOW magazine article: https://nowtoronto.com/news/toronto-coach-terminal-could-use-some-inspired-ideas/

Photo of original Bus Coach Terminal interior courtesy of City of Toronto Archives.
Photos of current Bus Coach Terminal interior and ACO tour courtesy of ERA Architects.

The RAC Zone is recognized with an Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) Award for Excellence in Planning

The Tower Renewal RAC Zone, a partnership between ERA Architects, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, United Way Toronto & York Region, Toronto Public Health and the City of Toronto, has this week been honoured with an OPPI Award of Excellence.

Through research, advocacy, and collaboration, this new zoning framework has been developed and is poised for implementation in hundreds of Toronto’s vertical neighbourhoods, that will remove barriers for a range of exciting small-scale businesses and community services. A City-wide zoning change of this type is a first for Toronto, and would not have been possible without this diverse group of collaborators and stakeholders working together. It is a testament to what is possible through collaboration, and perhaps the start of new way for social agencies, local communities, architects, and the City to work together towards a brighter Toronto.

The OPPI Award for Excellence in Planning – Municipal Statutory Planning Studies, Reports and Documents award ‘recognizes excellence in all aspects of the profession and the high caliber of work by professional planners within communities across the province’, as stated by their Director of Public Affairs, Loretta Ryan.

To learn more about the RAC zone, visit www.raczone.ca and www.towerrenewal.com

Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) award details: http://ontarioplanners.ca/Knowledge-Centre/Excellence-in-Planning-Awards

Letters to the Mayor: An outlet for expressions on city-building set amidst a developmental blank canvas

PARTISANS and Storefront for Art and Architecture present ‘Letters to the Mayor’ during the EDIT Festival, which challenges visitors to consider how we can make the world a better place. EDIT also brings life back to the abandoned Unilever Detergent factory in Toronto’s Port Lands, a 150,000sqft abandoned factory set on 60-acres of brownfield. This area will be reimagined as ‘East Harbour’ in the coming years, branded as Toronto’s newest commercial and cultural district.

The ‘Letters to the Mayor’ exhibit is presented as an international letter-writing campaign from architects to their local public officials and/or developers, installed and presented for public consideration of architects as inspired city-builders. It presents a range of communications, from formal written statements to graphic representations of design problems. ERA’s founding principal, Michael McClelland responded to an invitation to participate with a focus on heritage conservation as an evolving practice that should prioritize design over decree, form over formula; shifting the emphasis to site-specific, use-oriented design.

Produced by Design Exchange, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, this inaugural EDIT festival examines the theme of “Prosperity For All” through an array of curated pavilions, talks, and installations. It runs for 11 days, from September 28 – October 8, 2017.

For more information on ‘Letters to the Mayor’ visit the exhibition website: http://editdx.org/exhibition/installations/insta-letters-to-the-mayorletters-to-the-developer-partisans

Update: RAC Zone Launch Event

On Wednesday, July 19th, leaders in the development of Toronto’s Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) Zoning by-law gathered at York University to celebrate and explore challenges and next steps in empowering communities to utilize Toronto’s newest zone. The esteemed panel had representation from property owners, entrepreneurs, community members, academics and city builders with Graeme Stewart, Principal at ERA Architect and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal as the Panel Moderator.

Panelists included:

  • Michael Mizzi Director, Zoning and Secretary-Treasurer Committee of Adjustment, City Planning Division at the City of Toronto
  •  Jason Thorne, General Manager Planning and Economic Development, City of Hamilton
  •  Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto
  •  Doug Saunders, Author, and Journalist
  •  Maurine Campbell, Coordinator, 2667/2677 Kipling Avenue Tenant Association
  •  Gobal Mailwaganam, Managing Director, Municipal Affairs & Housing and Operations  CAPREIT

The evening provided a platform for the celebration of Toronto’s new Zone as well as a discussion about the next steps in rolling out the RAC Zone on a large scale.

For coverage of the event see:

– “Changes coming to business and social services for apartment towers“, Graeme Stewart’s interview on Metro Morning

– “Towering Ambitions, article by Globe and Mail

– “Zoning changes give new life to Toronto’s ‘apartment neighborhoods’: Hume“,  article by Toronto Star

For more information on RAC zoning, visit http://www.raczone.ca

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)

Launching the RAC Zone

 

 

Property owners, entrepreneurs, community members, academics and city builders will gather at York University in celebration of Toronto’s newest zone: the Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) (www.raczone.ca). Moderated by Graeme Stewart, Principal of ERA and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, this event hosted by the City of Toronto will centre discussions on the zone’s implementation as well as its economic and social opportunities.

Topics will touch on:

  • Where does the zone apply?
  • What new things can be done there?
  • Why is this a great idea?
  • How does RAC zoning make it easier to implement sensible changes?
  • Who can benefit from these changes?

And Panelists will include:

  • Jennifer Keesmaat, Executive Director and Chief Planner City Planning, City of Toronto
  • Jason Thorne, General Manager Planning and Economic Development, City of Hamilton
  • Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto
  • Doug Saunders, Author and Journalist
  • Maurine Campbell, Coordinator, 2667/2677 Kipling Avenue Tenant Association
  • Gobal Mailwaganam, Managing Director, Municipal Affairs & Housing and Operations CAPREIT

 

The RAC Zone was initiated through a long term collaboration between a group of partners including the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, United Way Toronto & York Region, Toronto Public Health and the tower Renewal Office at the City of Toronto. Approval of the RAC zone ushers in a new era for communities within Toronto to emerge as a more healthy, resilient and vibrant places.
For more coverage on the RAC Zone, check out the CBC’s article “How a zoning bylaw could transform 500 apartment sites across the city”.
Illustrations by Daniel Rotsztain

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 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

 

Temporary, but Impactful: Michael McClelland Discusses New Creative Project Initiatives at The Drake Hotel

NXT City and Pavilion Project are teaming up to present ‘Short Term, Lasting Impact’, a panel discussion about the value of temporary projects at The Drake Hotel Underground.

The event takes place on the evening of March 23rd, and features STACKT founder Matt Rubinoff, Layne Hinton + Rui Pimenta from in/future and Michael McClelland from ERA Architects + the Portlands Project.

Be part of the conversation animating Toronto’s public spaces!

Sabina Ali & Graeme Stewart Speak to ‘Modern Tower Blocks and the 21st Century City’

Harlyn Thompson Lecture Series – Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba
Thursday, March 16, 2017
6PM Lecture
Eckhardt Gramatte Hall
University of Winnipeg

Speakers:
Sabina Ali – Chair, Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee
Graeme Stewart – Principal, ERA Architects, Co-Founder/Board Member, Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) and Co-Editor, Concrete Toronto: A Guidebook to Concrete Architecture from the Fifties to the Seventies

Graeme Stewart and Sabina Ali will introduce the case of Toronto’s built legacy: upwards of 2,000 modernist tower blocks that define its urban landscape. Hidden in plain sight on the political radar for decades, they have experienced an extended period of neglect, however a season of change has recently emerged.

‘Tower Renewal’ sprang forth as a resolution to engage policy-makers and members of the public through research, development and calls-to-action. It shone a light on the under-estimation of the importance of these towers as vast, vertical communities whose social and structural preservation are imperative in meeting the challenges of the city’s demand for greater density and enhanced quality of life amid dwindling resources.

Toronto’s Tower block urbanism is ubiquitous, complex and contentious in nature for its physical and cultural landscape. Conservation solutions refuse to be pigeonholed, requiring a multifaceted and customized approach. The Tower Renewal initiative is nimble and dynamic in approach, successfully and sensitively addressing each project as separate and unique.

Promotional poster

Photo credit: Chloë Ellingson

The (Lane)way Forward: Exploring the Potential of Under-Served Public Space

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As Toronto’s population increases in density, it places more pressure on ever-shrinking resources, including public space. The use of laneways in the city to increase public space offers the opportunity to release some of this pressure.

ERA’s Annabel Vaughan moderated a panel discussion on November 30th on just this subject. Organized by The Laneway Project, panellists included Jake Tobin Garrett of Park People, Jessica Myers of the Junction BIA, Jonathan Morrice of Toronto Police Service’s 55 Division, Mark van Elsberg, Public Realm Section, City of Toronto, and Monica Wickeler, a visual artist who works in street art and murals.

The Laneway Project – a not-for-profit corporation – champions change, initiating action through a grassroots approach, specializing in ‘tweets to shovels’ social media activism in the realms of planning, urban design, architecture, landscape, communications, research, community engagement and public policy. They would like to see a time-based sharing of spaces: to push laneways to offer an ebb and flow as dynamic, multi-purpose community spaces over a 24-hour cycle.

Laneways lie on the marginal edge and are often associated with crime, however they are vital as potentially thriving public spaces. Toronto often lags behind other international centres when it comes to optimizing our public space. An interesting precedent is Detroit’s TAP (The Alley Project), where garages host street art workshops and animated laneways are adorned with graffiti, creating spaces to engage youth, ultimately changing the focus of their use.

The City of Toronto aims to facilitate stakeholder-driven, incremental interventions of a similar nature, seeking out opportunities to revitalize and enliven existing laneways. This has included limiting parking to enable restaurants to set up licenced patios in alleys, reinventing micro-retail environments, developing parking spot parklettes, retaining historic laneway networks, developing guidelines for housing, and supporting laneway innovations hosted by BIAs and communities as part of the public realm.

The panel successfully fleshed out these opportunities; for Toronto, the conversation is just getting started.

For more information please click here.

‘Tower, Slab, Superblock: Social Housing Legacies and Futures’ Sparks the Imagination on Postwar Design and Construction

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Participants included: Geraldine Dening, Co-Founder, Architects for Social Housing, Simon Elmer, Co-Founder, Architects for Social Housing, Phineas Harper, Deputy Director, The Architecture Foundation, Paul Karakusevic, Founder and Partner, Karakusevic Carson Architects, Jean-Louis Cohen – Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at New York University, Javier Arpa, Research and Education Coordinator of The Why Factory at Delft University of Technology,
Kenny Cupers, Associate Professor in the History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Basel, Frédéric Druot, Founder and Partner, Frédéric Druot Architecture, Susanne Schindler – Architect, writer, and housing columnist for Urban Omnibus, Martine August, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, and Graeme Stewart, Principal, ERA Architects.

“Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform and reuse!”
– Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal

On December 10th a group of international guests will assemble at the Cooper Union Rose Auditorium in New York City to share thoughts on policy and design improvements to enhance the existing stock of postwar social hosing in North America and Europe, reflecting on the need for creating solutions to reimaging this housing stock.

Hosted by the Architecture League of New York, the focus of the symposium will be the approaches and best practice of three cities: London, Paris, and Toronto. ERA’s Graeme Stewart will speak of the Toronto experience and emerging opportunities through our ongoing work on Tower Renewal.

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When: 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM Saturday, December 10, 2016
Where: Rose Auditorium, The Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square, New York

For background event information please click here.
For event information please click here.

New Visions for Social Housing in Canadian Architect Magazine

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In the November issue of Canadian Architect author Jay Pitter investigates how spatial issues contribute to community challenges such as isolation, despair and violence in urban social housing communities.

Using the community where she grew up in Toronto as a case study, Pitter explores the design deficiencies of the Corbusian “Towers in the Park” style favoured by Robert Moses in the 1930s. In this piece she reaches out to a group of design leaders from Toronto and Vancouver to discuss how to develop an approach that integrates design, policy and social development by cultivating trust, engagement and collaboration with communities to build social housing for a new generation.

The group consisted of:
Michael Gellar: Vancouver based Architect, Planner and Real Estate Consultant
Gregory Henriquez, FRAIC: Managing Partner of Henriquez Partners Architects
Michael McClelland, FRAIC: Founding Principal of ERA Architects
Graeme Stewart, MRAIC: Principal at ERA Architects
Sheila Penny: Toronto based Architect and VP of Facilities at Toronto Community Housing

Out of this discussion emerged thoughtful ways of building more complete social housing communities by considering the lived reality of residents made up by the systems and structures that shape their daily experiences. The group emphasized the importance of developing trust through a more collaborative process and providing the tools to allow residents to shape their own neighbourhoods and respond to community needs.

Click here to view the article.

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.