ERA Architects

Canada Hair Cloth

ERA is currently working with DSAI to convert the former Canada Hair Cloth factory in St. Catharines, ON, into Brock University’s new school for the performing arts.  We’ve been down to site a few times to survey the conditions of the existing buildings – the oldest of which dates to 1888 – in order to cost and direct the restoration and adaptive reuse work.

Edwin surveying the existing conditions of the exterior masonry.

Exploring, analysing, and understanding old buildings such as these – and then developing strategies to help them adapt to the needs of contemporary society in the interest of the public good and in the service of the larger rejuvenation of the surrounding community is what really gets us excited to be involved in this profession.  A few images the buildings follow after the jump.

Continue reading…

Missed Connections

Inspired by our friends at Coach House, we put out a discrete little Missed Connections box near the entry of the Toronto the Good party this year.  If you met or saw someone interesting, but couldn’t quite muster up the nerve to exchange information, maybe the magic of Missed Connections could help.

Below are a small, curated handful of the best submitted messages. Many were un-printably raunchy, an unfortunate number were self-promotional, and there were even a few entirely inappropriate solicitations of employment (sorry, “up-and-coming Architect – looking 4 a intro job“).

If you think you’re the person mentioned, please contact us at and we can forward your reply to the original author.

“You – tall, dark & handsome. Me – way too drunk.”
“Sweet Baboo, where are you?”
“You look like my boyfriend, but I am taken. If I was single we would have flirted.”
“Sunny, thanks for the company. Let’s meet for a rum.”

And by far our favorite:

“You were a raven haired beauty in a black + white dress. I want you to renew my tower.”

original images from here and here.

Brick work

Andrew and Philip took a group of recent ERAers out for a quick tutorial on assessing the existing conditions of a masonry building, and on how to better understand Toronto’s nineteenth-century architecture.  They discussed the various styles of brick treatment of the period, and the differences between the 1860’s style and 1880’s style.  They also demonstrated typical kinds of deterioration to clay bricks, different mortar mixes of the era, what sandblasted brick looks like, how to recognize step cracks, the different stages of spalling, etc. A good primer for new employees, and a great way to pass along years of experience in a hands-on setting.

Baist’s Detroit

Like Goad’s Fire Insurance Maps in Toronto, the Baist Real Estate Atlases were produced for insurance underwriters who used them to evaluate a site’s degree of risk and establish premiums. These maps were adopted by city planners and local developers to understand the city, as they showed an accurate demarcation of buildings with materials, use, street address (and changes) and subdivisions, along with locations of lamp standards, cisterns, fire hydrants and boundaries. Today we at ERA rely on them to show the prior context of a particular site, and they are invaluable tools to illuminate our work.

Recently Scott W. acquired the complete bound Baist’s for his hometown, Detroit, entitled “Baist’s Property Atlas of the City of Detroit, Michigan, Complete in One Volume, Compiled and Published from Official Records, Private Plans and Actual Surveys”, by G. Wm. Baist, Surveyor and Map Publisher, 1896, and a second smaller printed version from 1916.

Open, the larger book measures 22” x 36”, and consists of 29 linen backed hand coloured lithographs mapping all areas of Detroit at that time. These books were heavily used, and like most of the remaining folios of this type, its condition could be described as “well loved”.

Admit One

A handful of ERAers paid their dues this year (both literally and metaphorically), and attended the OAA admissions course. The OBC, the Construction Lien Act, and a number of other essential components of professional practice were presented and absorbed in short order. A necessary marathon, which brings us all one step closer to accreditation. Get it done, team.

After the (TTG) party it’s the afterparty.

Thanks to everyone who came out to Hart House last Thursday! Toronto the Good 2011 was a huge success, and attracted record crowds. The Tower Neighbourhood Renewal symposium was also packed to the rafters, and over a hundred people unfortunately had to be turned away at the door.  Stay tuned for more photos from the day’s events, and further discussions of the issues raised. Continue reading…

The Millionth Tower Teaser Trailer

At the Toronto the Good party last week, the National Film Board screened a teaser trailer for the upcoming Millionth Tower documentary.  The Millionth Tower is the latest installment in the Highrise project, which looks at the experience of living in post war concrete towers around the world.  As a part of the Millonth Tower, ERA has been working with the Kipling Towers community in north Etobicoke; helping to inspire the community to dream big, and providing design guidance to help communicate their ideas.

The Millionth Tower has evolved away from a linear documentary narrative to become a spatial film experience in HTML 5, built with Popcorn provided by the Mozilla Foundation.  Look for The Millionth Tower to be launched in a few short months..

Measure up

Edwin Heathcote questions the contemporary trend of ranking cities in a very interesting article on the Financial
Ricky Burdett, who founded the London School of Economics’ Cities Programme, says: “These surveys always come up with a list where no one would want to live. One wants to live in places which are large and complex, where you don’t know everyone and you don’t always know what’s going to happen next. Cities are places of opportunity but also of conflict, but where you can find safety in a crowd.
“We also have to acknowledge that these cities that come top of the polls also don’t have any poor people,” he adds. And that, it seems to me, touches on the big issue. Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s hugely influential book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (2009) seems to present an obvious truth – that places where the differential in income between the wealthiest and the poorest is smallest tend to engender a sense of satisfaction and well-being. But while it may be socially desirable, that kind of comfort doesn’t necessarily make for vibrancy or dynamism. If everybody is where they want to be, no one is going anywhere.

Read the rest of the article here.

Photo above of Marzahn, Berlin by Brendan S., ERA Architects.

TTG 2011!

The 2011 Toronto the Good party is this Thursday May 12th at Hart House.
For more details, please visit

ERA started the Toronto the Good parties to bring together a broad cross-section of Torontonians who are interested in the city and in city building. We started these parties with Spacing Magazine and [murmur], and they have continued to be involved each year. Other partners have included Heritage Toronto, the Carpenters Union, the Toronto Society of Architects, the Distillery District, Harbourfront Centre, and Cities Centre.

The first Toronto the Good took place at the Distillery District, but there was one at Fort York, when the Mayor shot off a cannon. The 2011 invasion of Hart House is a new venture to celebrate the University of Toronto’s urban research centre.

Modern Toronto Homes

Modern Toronto Homes maps contemporary residences in and around Toronto. Quite a few important contemporary houses are still missing (KPMB, Superkul, etc), but look forward to checking back as the inventory grows. A great initiative which helps demonstrate that infill housing doesn’t need to be faux-historic or banal by nature.