ERA Architects

Maple Leaf Gardens _ Heritage Interpretation Plan


Alexandra Studio Fonds; 1257, series 1057, item 4737

Built in 1931, Maple Leaf Gardens quickly became a social and cultural hub in the city, and it is no overstatement to say that the wide variety of events held there over the ensuing decades influenced the cultural development of the nation.  Best known as the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team from 1931 to 1999, the Gardens also hosted political rallies, large religious congregations and assemblies, military drills, and pageants.  The large, clear-span arena provided the setting for every conceivable form of musical entertainment, from the Metropolitan Opera to Metallica.  It was also the battleground for boxers, wrestlers and runners, and has hosted innumerable bicycle races, tennis matches, ice follies, basketball games, rodeos, ballets, bingos, and circuses.  The building is widely acknowledged as a local and national landmark, and has been recognized as a National Historic Site.  As part of the on-going Maple Leaf Gardens adaptive reuse project by Loblaws and Ryerson University, ERA is currently developing the Heritage Interpretation Plan to celebrate the rich history of the Gardens as a series of moments and stories distributed throughout both new owner spaces.

In doing our research and combing through the mountains of audio/visual content associated with the building from the past eighty years, we’ve come across some pretty amusing photographs.  This is one of our favorites, found at the City of Toronto Archives.  Who is … The Legionnaire Mystery Man?

 

The Brick Works _ from academia to practice

Here at ERA, we seek to operate at the fine and blurred line between the realms of theory and practice.  Two ERAers are currently teaching design studios at the Daniels School of Architecture at the University of Toronto, and a number of employees in the office have been able to continue working on large-scale projects that they originally investigated at school.   For example, Kirsty‘s masters design thesis Postproduction: the adaptive renewal of industrial-purpose built architecture looked at the rediscovery of Toronto’s Don Valley Brick Works. Her theoretical proposal encompassed sustainable re-use strategies that were developed through an extensive study into the history and current state of the site.

Factory production of the early twenty-first century was generally linear and parochial.  The architecture of these factories was designed to be functional, flexible, and subservient to the processes housed within. Industrial production tended to follow a sequence of gathering resources, mixing the parts, producing the product, and distributing the product.  Process buildings at resource extraction sites were constantly in flux, and for the most part this led to dereliction once the resource was exhausted. Owing to the initiative of Evergreen, the re-imagined complex has now become a vehicle for the propagation of sustainable ideas. Clay is no longer the resource. The Brick Works site itself has become the resource; an amazing landscape and raw space full of opportunity.

ERA has been working on the Evergreen Brick Works project for over a decade now.  Since joining the firm, Kirsty has been able to continue working on the adaptive re-use of these structures, and their transfer from industrial production to cultural opportunity.  The rehabilitation of the Brick Works buildings and artifacts is an on-going process of renewal.  Significant rehabilitation work remains, but this past fall Evergreen were able to move into their new home, and have opened their doors seven days a week to the community.

The Allenby, to the Roxy, to the Allenby

With the historic marquee now back in place, the Allenby has been catching a good bit of attention recently.

From Christopher Hume’s piece Tim does its bit on the Danforth, in the Toronto Star:

Cleaned up and nicely restored, the Allenby looks better than it has in years. The 1930s art deco movie house is no masterpiece, but it has character and exuberance. As is so often the case with these old cinemas, the building is all façade. With its streamlined symmetry and classic marquée cantilevered over the entrance, it is a relic from another age. Though only 75 years old, the Allenby comes from a time when movies weren’t such an industrial pursuit. It also speaks of a moment when architecture was allowed to be entertaining.

The modernists would soon do away with that, another reason why the former Roxy remains one of a tiny handful of architectural highlights on the Danforth. Most of the street is lined with two- and three-storey boxes of the sort that can be found throughout Toronto.

ERA has been working on the restoration and adaptive re-use of the Allenby (aka Roxy) Cinema since 2006.  The façade was entirely restored and greatly re-built, as the cinema had originally been hastily built at the tail end of the great depression.  The entire marquee sign was replaced, as well as the vitrolite glass at the ground floor window storefronts.  The terrazzo floors are being refurbished at the exterior lobby, and the interior lobby has been retained and is being re-used as the new Tim Horton’s component of Esso’s Gas station to the west of the property. The ticket booth is also being reinstated.

Though Hume’s article mentions that this is just a façade – in reality the first bay of structure was retained, proving to be both a modern engineering feat and a very effective and unique method for preserving  an old cinema that features an exterior lobby and ticket booth.

Katie Daubs also had a story in the Star; Wanted on ‘other’ Danforth: More foot-powered traffic, which focuses on the Allenby as a key component in the neighbourhood’s burgeoning rejuvenation.

The future of Ontario Place

Mark Medley had a piece in the Saturday Post exploring the future of Ontario Place. He quotes a number of local practitioners, including ERA’s Michael McClelland.

Perhaps we should revisit the past when deciding the future. Michael McClelland of E.R.A. Architects thinks we should look at Zeidler’s original blueprint.

“My hope would be that they’d reinvest in the original ideas,” he says, “and figure out how to improve them, rather then go, ‘That’s all crap; we’re going to take it all away.’ ”

McClelland also points to Zeidler’s unbuilt Harbour City project, which would have created a neighbourhood of 60,000 people on what is now the Toronto Island Airport; [project spokesperson Hugh] Mansfield says plans that include residential elements will not be dismissed.

Read the full article ‘Once a gem, now generally forgotten, what could the future hold for Ontario Place?

Narrow Streets

David Yoon has produced a series of retouched photographs illustrating how streets in LA would look and feel at imaginary, narrower widths. One might also think of them as a very effective demonstration of urban priorities – the built reality of the North American prioritization of the automobile versus human-scale livability. See more at his blog.

Oleleshwa Primary School, Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya

This week’s Wednesday Design Forum looked at a project being developed outside of the office. Alec Ring, an assistant architect here at ERA, and his colleague Karl Sarkis presented a design they have been developing for Oleleshua Primary School in Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya. The funding to build the school is through Harambee 4 Humanity a small not for profit organization set up in the town of Gravenhurst, Ontario in order to finance this project.


Traditional Maasai Enkaji (house) near the school grounds.


Some of the students who will attend the new primary school.

The presentation looked at the culture of the Maasai people, their traditionally nomadic way of life, their architecture, and a proposal for the new school and school grounds. Feedback on the design portion of the presentation focused on two key areas of the project, the first being the constructability of the proposed classrooms, and the second being how to respectfully integrate the new site plan and building into the existing and lost cultural heritage of the Maasai people.


Site terrain.


The primary school project is to be realized over several phases and is to include four classrooms, a kitchen, an administration building, a library, 6 pit latrines, and teacher housing. The site itself is a seven acre parcel of land which will also include areas for agricultural and physical education. The first phase will include the two classrooms, two pit latrines and conversion of an existing building into a kitchen.


Preliminary proposal for cluster of classrooms.

Artscape Wychwood Barns


Wychwood Barns under (re)construction


Grand opening weekend

A collection of street car barns constructed between 1913-21, the Wychwood Barns are the oldest surviving carhouses built as part of the Toronto Civic Railway, a transportation system with a significant role in the development of the annexed areas in the City of Toronto. When completed, the facility accommodated 50 cars inside and another 110 outside, with access to the yard via nine tracks.

ERA was the heritage consultant for this project, and was involved from the Building Permit application through to project completion. Services included providing a Conservation Plan, preparing working drawings for the alterations to the Barns, and helping to complete the Heritage Easement Agreement. Additionally, ERA worked with Gottschalk+Ash International on wayfinding and site interpretation, and with David Leinster and the Planning Partnership to convert the remaining land on the site into a new public park.

Tower Renewal

On September 2nd the Executive Committee at the City of Toronto unanimously passed the Mayor’s Report on Tower Renewal as well as the Opportunities Book, prepared for the City of Toronto by ERA Architects and the City of Toronto.

For more information, visit Toronto Tower Renewal

Green Arts Barns Recieves $3 Million

On January 30, 2007 the Honourable Caroline Di Cocco, Minister of Culture announced that the Government of Ontario will invest $3 million in the Artscape Green Arts Barns to redevelop the historic Wychwood TTC streetcar repair barns, in the St. Clair and Bathurst neighbourhood into a 61,000 sq ft multi-tenant arts and environmental centre run by and for the community.

ERA is pleased to be involved in the development of this project. For more information please visit www.torontoartscape.on.ca

Image courtesy of Joe Lobko Architect Inc.