ERA Architects

“Vancouver Matters” Recently Released

During his time in Vancouver, Joey Giaimo’s involvement in a project considering the impact of urban and architectural changes on the city led to the development of the recently released book, Vancouver Matters.

Published by Blueimprint books, Vancouver Matters presents various readings of the city by numerous contributors who teach, live and work there. Representing Vancouver’s history and present materiality through writing, drawing, and photography; Vancouver Matters offers a critical examination of the city’s faults and opportunities.

Additional information can be found at

Preparing for Toronto the Good party

The 2006 invitation to the Toronto The Good party

This coming May will mark our fifth installment of the Toronto The Good party. Back in 2005, ERA teamed up with Spacing and murmur to produce the event in hopes of fostering a greater appreciation of Toronto’s built heritage while bringing together a mix of people from various professional backgrounds. Since the inaugural event, we’ve added other partners like the Toronto Society of Architects, Wireless Toronto, and Heritage Toronto and made the event one of the most popular during the Festival of Architecture and Design held each May. The event has been hosted once at Fort York and three other times at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District. We are currently working on the 2009 location with details to come soon.

We’ve programmed the evening with different themes and games, with the most popular activity being our giant map of Toronto — eight feet high and eighteen feet wide. We ask attendees a question like “where is the heart of Toronto?” and have them place a sticker on the map identifying their preferred location (see photos above and below). The only catch is that the map shows buildings and green spaces, but no street names. It forces people to look at the map in a different manner — in order to find your desired spot you need to understand Toronto in a deeper way by being able to recognize the unique qualities of intersections, like a curve in the road or the shape of specific buildings.

The map also encourages people to talk to the stranger standing beside them, something totally un-Torontonian.

For the last two years, the kind folks from Wireless Toronto have provided us with an interactive feature that allows anyone to text a message to a displayed phone number and have that text projected onto the wall within a few seconds (see photo below). The messages can be provocative, poetic, and, um, immature. Of course, things get a little silly the later the night goes, thanks to the wine and the folks from Mill Street Brewery.

We are now preparing for the 2009 edition of Toronto The Good. We want to hear from you what kind of programming and activities you’d like to see this year. We’ll definitely have the giant map and hopefully the texting game again, but what other fun things can we add to the event?

photos by Yvonne Bambrick

More on Found Toronto exhibit

ERA’s exhibit down at the Harbourfront Centre received some attention recently in the National Post, a mention on Spacing’s blog by Heritage Toronto’s Gary Miedema, and on the blog Her*itage and His*tory. We thought it would be a good time to give readers of the ERA Office Blog a little more background on the exhibit and show off some photos.

One one side of the gallery space are photos captured this winter (shown above) of buildings that existed in 1858 and are still standing today. All the photos show an address and accompanying a number of them is information on who owned and used the building in 1858. On the opposite side of the space is a detailed wall-to-wall map of Toronto, circa 1858, which indicates every building in existence at the time. Each photo has a corresponding pin that is located on the 1858 map (shown below). On the window wall are excerpts from Brown’s Toronto General Directory 1856 that describes the state of the city in that year through statistics and various data.  The historic usage and ownership of many of the buildings were found in this directory.

The choice to use a map from 1858 is not random. The maps, officially known as the Boulton Atlas of Toronto, were produced by brother William Sommerville Boulton and Henry Carew Boulton, and published by John Ellis. Derek Hayes, editor of the Historical Atlas of Toronto ( Douglas & McIntyre, 2008) says the map is historically significant because  “it shows the existence or otherwise of actual buildings in the city, rather than just subdivided lots.” Each building type is categorized by colour: red properties are made of brick, grey properties that are hatched are stone and, grey properties that are solid are wood framed buildings. At the time, almost 80% of all Toronto buildings were constructed of wood.

If you get a chance to visit, you’ll find yourself pacing back and forth between these walls locating photos of interest on the map. But since the map is from 1858, things have changed and places and roads that you know exist today (like the intersection of Yonge and Dundas) did not exist back then. You can also discover Dundas Street has a section that runs north-south on what is now Denison Avenue. Dundas then appears again, for only a few blocks, going east-west between Bathurst and Hope (what is now Claremont) streets.

You might also discover certain urban anomalies, such as how modern-day University Avenue (known as College Avenue in 1858) is actually the combination of two previous streets: one side of the street was owned by the University of Toronto and the other side was owned by the City.

Top photo by Tom Bilenkey, all other photos by Matthew Blackett

Found Toronto Installation in the News

Following a successful opening reception for the Building on History exhibition, ERA Architects’ Found Toronto installation was highlighted in the January 31st edition of the National Post. The photograph above was taken at the reception and the following text is from the newspaper article.

Learn about Victorian Toronto and more at inspiring architecture show
If you appreciate architecture, the Harbourfront Centre is the place to be. Until June 14, Building on History celebrates Toronto and Ontario’s architectural legacy –indeed, we have one and the number and variety of participants in this exhibit is proof. Inspiring installations include works by ERA Architects. The firm has recreated the 1858 Boulton Atlas, one of the earliest maps of the city, on a massive scale, letting the public see the Victorian city that was in order to see how the old Toronto connects to contemporary Toronto. Other contributors include Goldsmith Borgal & Company Architects and Taylor Hazell Architects. And if photography excites you, documentary shooter Peter Sibbald’s photo series and essay, Elegy for a Stolen Land, is a real treat.

Parkdale’s coat of arms — for 10 years

The 1998 creation of the “megacity”, a merger of all of metro Toronto’s cities and boroughs, was the last in a long line of annexations. Places like Forest Hill, Swansea and Parkdale were once independent towns with their own municipal buildings and councils.

I was perusing the book Parkdale In Pictures: Its Development To 1889 by Margaret Laycock and Barbara Myrvold and published by the Toronto Public Library, when I stumbled across the former town’s coat of arms (Parkdale existed only as an incorporated village/town for 10 years from 1879 to 1889). Unlike Toronto’s or other Canadian coat of arms — which usually depict beavers, bears, lions, griffins, etc — the Parkdale version was much more humble and personal (shown above).

The town seal reflected the occupations of the first elected members of the village council. It was made up of five representatives: one reeve and four councillors for each of the wards (St. Vincent’s, St. Martin’s, St. Mark’s, and St. Alban’s). John Gray Jr., elected as Parkdale’s first reeve, was a nurseryman, so he was represented by the maple tree near the top; the scales of justice symbolized the barrister James B. Davis; a book for bookseller Charles Frankish; a bull’s head for butcher Joseph Norwich; and a quill for the local bookkeeper Udney A. Walker.

And just like the massive opposition to the 1998 megacity creation, the annexation of Parkdale created a lot of debate. After the votes were cast on October 27, 1888, the pro-annexationists won. Laycock and Myrvold described the the hours and days that followed: “A victory parade of about 100 annexationists carrying torches or lit brooms was led by the Toronto Bold and Iron Works band. The public arguments continued for days while accusations of cheating spread… Ex-Reeve Hugh McMath even launched an unsuccessful lawsuit to quash the vote….” An editorial cartoon in the local paper The Grip captured the mood of residents (see larger version).