ERA Architects

Historic Modern

Modern buildings are funny things. Their proliferation has been accepted as the common typology for city forms, yet they are often perceived as a banal insertion to the city’s skyline and an impediment towards a richer public realm.

Following a recent talk at Heritage Canada’s annual conference on the adaptability of modern buildings, I was asked about the possibility (if any) of “fixing” the maligned relationship between these buildings and the public realm. I perceived this question as one that considered this association over with little chance of reconciliation.

Modernism’s indifference does not sit well with many, and it was evident that an optimistic approach on its structures’ adaptability would not be accepted with immediate enthusiasm.

In their book Collage City, Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter critiqued the city of modern architecture against the built conditions of the traditional city. With the adeptness of the ‘bricoler’, Rowe and Koetter state that these early city builders had the ingenuity to maneuver within and around the city’s built forms and spaces in order to complement and integrate with their surroundings. Referring to existing conditions became a moot point in the Modernists’ agenda and was largely disregarded for an opportunity to begin anew.

With some irony, it is this disregard that opportunistically positions the current generation of city builders. Presented with these latent resources, the buildings and landscapes of the recent past are now prime for reconsideration.

As they move well beyond the years of their life expectancy, the bricolers for this generation need to rethink, react to, interrogate, exploit, and most important, understand these buildings and landscapes in order to reconsider their initial ideals and to fully explore these inherited opportunities.

Urban Design Awards

On Monday September 21st, the Mayor’s Tower Renewal Opportunities Book was awarded the Toronto Urban Design Award of Excellence in the Vision and Masterplan category.

Congratulations go to the full Tower Renewal team, including ERA Architects, The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, the City of Toronto, and countless local and international partners.

In the Tall Buildings in Context – private section an honourable mention was given to Jazz located at 167 Church street. The project team included Burka Architects Inc., NAK Design Group, and ERA Architects.

In the Buildings in Context – public section an honourable mention was given to Artscape Wychwood Barns located at 601 Christie Street. The project team included: Joe Lobko Architect Inc., du Toit Architects Limited, ERA Architects Inc., Stantec Consulting, Blackwell Bowick Partnership Limited, Michael Dixon-University of Guelph, BA Group, Leber Rubes Inc., Gottschalk + Ash International, The Dalton Company Ltd.

Another honourable mention was awarded to Transformation AGO located at 317 Dundas Street West. The project team included: Gehry International, and ERA Architects Inc.

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.

Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archive Opening

The Archive is having an opening of their new home.

Your presence is requested at the Grand Opening of the new home of the

Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives
34 Isabella Street, Toronto
Saturday September 26, 2009
2:00 – 5:00 pm

Reception in George Hislop Park
just west of the Children’s Aid Society (30 Isabella)

Alternate facilities near the Park in case of rain

Please RSVP to events@clga.ca or 416-777-2755
before Friday, September 18 , 2009

ERA has been assisting the Archive in repairing and upgrading 34 Isabella.

The Carlu, before and after

In this line of work, there’s often nothing more satisfying than a juxtaposition of the historic, the as-found (generally neglected and derelict), and the restored. For your viewing pleasure, we present a few of these moments from the rejuvenation of the Carlu.

The Round Room at the Carlu – when it first opened in 1931, as-found before restoration, and after.


Detail of the central fountain, before restoration and after.

Detail of the central overhead light-fixture in the Round Room, before and after. Note the beautiful original grille set into the ceiling above the fixture, which reflects the original space-planning of the room below.  The exposed rivets in the central black band were also (originally) cleverly disguised sprinkler heads.

The main foyer of the Carlu, before and after.

Detail of the Carlu foyer display cases, before and after.  Note the unique, restored decorative air-return grille.

Can’t order those from a catalogue..

The interior of the Carlu is the wealth of small, custom details – from the lights to the central fountain to the return-air grilles. The grilles especially are miniature art-deco treasures, and demonstrate an artful way of elevating a necessary ‘building-systems’ component into an element which helps define the atmosphere of the larger space.

Historic photograph of the foyer of the Carlu, with grilles in place.

The grilles as they were found prior to restoration.

The restored grilles.