ERA Architects

Announcing the Frank Darling Book Project

Disponible en français ci-dessous.
David Winterton—Sr Associate, ERA Architects

Over the past six years I’ve been researching and occasionally lecturing at SSAC conferences on Canadian architect Frank Darling (1850–1923) and his ultimate firm, Darling & Pearson. A clear narrative has evolved that outlines his leadership in developing an official “Edwardian” architecture in Toronto and beyond, the firm’s tremendous output of bank designs in the early twentieth century and, more generally, that period’s cultural and imperial context in English Canada.

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Une nouvelle vie pour l’ancien hôpital Royal Victoria à Montréal

Read the English version of this feature below

Depuis 2019, le bureau montréalais d’ERA Architectes contribue en tant que spécialiste en patrimoine à la requalification d’un des lieux emblématiques de Montréal, l’ancien hôpital Royal Victoria. La silhouette iconique de l’ensemble, perché sur le flanc du mont Royal, représente un repère visuel autant à partir du centre-ville que du parc du Mont-Royal. Le projet du Nouveau Vic, mené par Diamond Schmitt/Lemay Michaud Architectes, en collaboration avec Claude Cormier et Associés, l’Enclume, Arup, Cima +, Pageau Morel et associés, et Bouthillette Parizeau, vise la réhabilitation de la partie la plus ancienne du complexe pour la convertir en centre de recherche et d’enseignement pour l’Université McGill. 

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Dressing The Webster

Three rows of thumbnail image squares show the overall colour palette of neighbouring buildings on a streetscape

If you look closely enough, you’ll notice that every neighbourhood has its own unique colour palette, which helps define its character. Some are strictly uniform and monochromatic, while others are a wildly chaotic patchwork of distinct colours. Many of these shades and swatches stem from the materials used in a neighbourhood’s construction throughout the years. These material sources, over time, create a palimpsest which speaks to the local history. Continue reading…

ERA annonce ses nouveaux associés à Montréal | ERA Announces New Leadership in Montréal

ERA annonce ses nouveaux associés à Montréal

ERA Architectes est fière d’annoncer la nomination de Ève Wertheimer et de Jan Kubanek en tant qu’associés à la tête du bureau québécois de l’agence. 

ERA Architectes œuvre au Québec depuis 2012 sur des projets de mise en valeur de l’environnement bâti existant, pour plusieurs clients des secteurs privés et publics. La nomination de Ève et de Jan consolide notre engagement à l’endroit de nos collaborateurs locaux, en appui à diverses initiatives architecturales et culturelles. Continue reading…

Canada’s Ken Soble Tower certified as world’s largest residential Passive House EnerPHit retrofit

One of the first of its kind in North America, the 18-storey affordable seniors tower serves as a model for low-carbon, resilient future

Ken Soble Tower, a white-clad 18-storey tower viewed from a vantage at ground level and looking high up into the sky.

January 19, 2022 (Hamilton, ON) – ERA Architects (ERA) and PCL Construction (PCL) announce the Ken Soble Tower in Hamilton, Canada, has become the world’s largest residential building retrofitted to the Passive House standard – achieving the renowned EnerPHit certification – while also marking the first retrofit of its kind in North America. Continue reading…

2021: Honours & Awards at ERA

collage of award-winning projects

As the days get colder and we head into the final days of 2021, ERA is looking back at the recognition and awards we’ve received this year for some very deserving projects, alongside some fantastic teams who are looking forward and building our cities and communities into tomorrow. Continue reading…

The Missing Middle: Toronto’s Historic Building Typologies

Last week, Toronto City Planning brought forward to Council’s Planning and Housing Committee an interim report, Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods: Multiplex Study. The initiative behind the report is exploring the potential to permit a range of low-scale housing types in Toronto’s low-rise neighbourhoods, as a key part of the solution to the city’s years-long housing crisis. Continue reading…

ERA leads the conversation of digital transformation, using BIM, for architectural heritage at the Beijing Urban and Architecture Biennale

Building Information Modeling or Building Information Management (BIM) is the foundation of digital transformation in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry (AEC). It is a highly collaborative process that allows architects, engineers, developers, contractors, manufacturers, and other construction professionals to plan, design, and construct a structure or building within one single 3D model. It can also span into the operation and management of buildings to make informed decisions based on information derived from the model— even after the building is constructed. Continue reading…

Dave LeBlanc for The Globe and Mail: The tower that once topped Toronto shines again

Once the tallest building in the British empire, the Royal Bank building at 8 King Street East is a product of the skyscraper phenomenon that arrived in Toronto at the turn-of-the century. More than 100 years after its construction, the building has been renewed. ERA is wrapping up work on this project, which required the full and extensive conservation of the Edwardian skyscraper’s exterior. Continue reading…

Championing resiliency this Earth Day

As we celebrate Earth Day, ERA is reflecting on the shift needed to meet Canada’s 2050 net-zero emissions targets. Our built environment plays an important role in creating a more sustainable future and ERA is committed to being a leader that champions climate solutions through our work. Here’s how: Continue reading…

Celebrating community-led design with Gordonridge

Gordonridge Done image of the court and tower

Working closely with communities to create place-based, local designs is integral to ERA’s approach. In September, we celebrated the completion of Gordonridge’s new multi-sport court. This project was a collaborative effort through-and-through, with our partners at MLSE Foundation and Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, our client at Toronto Community Housing, and its users, the community at Gordonridge.

Gordonridge is ERA’s third project in partnership with MLSE and Jumpstart, developing place-based recreational spaces with community stakeholders, providing youth and adults a safe space to play and access a variety of sports and community events within their neighbourhoods.

Bird's eye drone view of the gordonridge basketball court

The court is positioned at the heart of the tight-knit Gordonridge campus, a post-war apartment complex which is home to more than 800 households. Post-war neighbourhoods can sometimes offer disconnected car-centric, sprawling design. By contrast, Gordonridge’s “town square” is its collection of community-led initiatives: over the years, Gordonridge residents have built an apiary, community garden, market garden, and fruit orchard. The multi-sport court is  designed to be the hub that connects these spokes, tracing accessible routes through the property. Pathways, along with shaded seating and gathering areas, encourage shared multi-generational use of the space — older residents on the way to the apiary, the youth on the basketball courts.

As the Prime Consultant and Landscape Architect, ERA developed and led a series of collaborative community design-workshops, developed a design that responded to what we heard, and provided ongoing communication with the key stakeholders throughout construction to ensure that the outcomes were in line with the neighbourhood’s vision.

Gordonridge's court with basketball nets, seating and storage.

Over the course of a year, ERA listened, tested ideas, shared meals, and played basketball at Gordonridge. We learned the community was selling honey from the apiary, and that residents were learning to cultivate its fruit orchard – but that access to those initiatives was challenging, so we drew paths along those desire lines. We learned from the youth that the senior residents would like a place to walk, and so we incorporated a walking circuit into the court. We found space for the local gardeners to create a small plot in the court. By the time the court opened late last year, the community were both co-designers and co-owners of the new space.

It’s a process that for us is a remarkable and exciting endeavour. We’re thrilled the neighbourhood feels the same!

Gordonridge Representative: Nichola shares her perspective on the process. from MLSE Foundation on Vimeo.

We are patiently awaiting the spring when we hope the court will be in full use. The pandemic has not only delayed the use of the court but has underscored the importance of access to safe outdoor gathering spaces for exercise and fresh air.

A wide view of Gordonridge's court with basketball hoops and walking track.

The Gordonridge Commmunity Multi-Sport Court demonstrates the power of investment in communities, allowing residents of all ages to gather, exercise, play and continue to build local support networks so vital to our thriving cities and neighbourhoods.

MLSE Foundation has pulled together more great content, including the video above, over on their website.

Conservation of Paradise Theatre wins national and provincial awards

Paradise Theatre

Thanks to its careful conservation, and inclusive and accessible programming, Paradise is once again a space for the community to gather and celebrate. We’re thrilled to see this building reinstated as an important focal point for the local neighbourhood and are pleased to say the conservation community feels the same!

Paradise Theatre has recently won a Peter Stokes Award for Restoration from Architectural Conservancy Ontario. The award was followed by the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals’ (CAHP) announcement the project had won an Award of Excellence in the Conservation – Architecture category. We’re honoured to be recognized by our colleagues provincially and nationally for this amazing project.

We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the entire project team on these achievements:

ERA Staff: Graeme Stewart, Jessie Grebenc, Julie Tyndorf, Shannon Clayton
Site owner: Moray Tawse 
Prime architect: Ware Malcomb
Interior design: Solid Design Creative
Masonry: Clifford Restoration
Stainless Steel: Brascon Stainless Steel Fabricators Inc.
Signage: Pride Signs

Read more about the Paradise Theatre project.

Historic farmsteads drive a new rural cultural economy

Ontario’s smaller municipalities are facing a transformation. Many are making the transition from resource-based to diverse, creative economies, fuelled by population growth and an increase in local tourism in Ontario. As these municipalities look to prepare for growth, many farmstead owners are left with swaths of land ripe for adaptive reuse to add to the local economy and fill a community need.

ERA has had the opportunity to work closely with a number of these farmsteads and their owners in recent years. These property owners are looking for innovative adaptive reuse opportunities to help catalyze their local cultural economy by leveraging their heritage asset.

Cambium Farms barn and silo

ERA engages with these projects using the framework of the Historic Ontario Farmstead. The Historic Ontario Farmstead typology helps us understand the distinct built and landscape features that characterize a farmstead – what are the visual cues that make a property legible as a farmstead? Do these features contribute to a broader agricultural landscape context? With a baseline understanding of these typological features, we ensure that their conservation or interpretation is top of mind throughout our project work.

Ontario Farmstead Typology

ERA Associate Shelley Ludman (OAA OAQ) recently presented at the 2020 APT/National Trust conference on this theme. She spoke about three case studies, where ERA worked with local partners to re-imagine the uses of farmstead sites, relying on the Ontario farmstead typology. Two of these case studies are highlighted here.

Goodlot Farmstead Brewery

Originally established as a hops farm in 2011, the owners expanded their offering in 2017, announcing that they would be opening a brewery on site. This decision was instigated by a local tourism boom, Caledon’s population growth, and a desire to encourage people to get outside and engage with agricultural sites in their vicinity. ERA worked with the owners to renovate one of the barns on their property, converting the vacant building into a brewing facility. Given the barn’s proximity to the road, most of the alterations were limited to the building’s interior, ensuring that it remained legible as a barn from the public realm.

Goodlot adaptive reuse stages

Cambium Farms

In 2017, ERA was approached by Cambium Farms [link] to upgrade an 1873 barn facility, as the owners wanted to push their site’s potential beyond a seasonal single use. In order to serve a larger market, and draw a variety of users, they needed to upgrade a few key aspects of the site.

ERA considered how we could achieve the programmatic upgrades required while conserving and capitalizing on the cultural heritage value of the existing farmstead configuration. Two contemporary additions were built to accommodate washrooms, a prep kitchen and a formal entry for the lower level and designed with reference to the forms and materiality of farmstead outbuildings. We also worked with the owners to upgrade the bank barn’s lower level, previously used as storage, to create usable space during winter months. The renovated lower level now operates year-round, and the open floor plan facilitates programs such as yoga classes, pop-up dinners with local chefs, intimate concerts, and winter weddings.

These two case studies demonstrate how sensitive adaptive reuse projects can create opportunities for farmstead owners to contribute to an emerging rural cultural economy, while capitalizing on their sites’ historic value and character.

Written by Shelley Ludman + Emma Abramowicz

ERA and Heritage Conservation in Hong Kong

Heritage Conservation in Hong Kong title with building image in the background

Conservation is a worldwide industry, one rooted in collaboration and shared learning. It’s vital we continue to share our expertise with one another, learning new innovations, techniques and approaches.  

ERA is thrilled to continue to be involved in these important conversations. The newly released Heritage Conservation in Hong Kong: A Technical Guidebook was developed in conjunction with training workshops that took place over a year-long period by Hong Kong Institute of Architectural Conservationists (HKICON), which were developed and lead in part by ERA principal Andrew Pruss.

Hong Kong Conservation adaptive reuse examples

The end result of these workshops is the resulting guidebook that looks to further the conservation industry in Hong Kong, serving as a module for site owners, architects, contractors and students. It looks to support Hong Kong’s heritage community through increased collaboration, and knowledge about heritage sites and conservation best practices. Subjects in the guidebook range from the history of heritage conservation, accessibility for heritage places to repair and maintenance of building materials.

Congratulations to Andrew, as well as the ERA staff who developed, wrote and edited this guidebook: Diana Roldan, Noah McGillivray, Adam Krop, Ray Lister, Aly Bousfield, Jordan Molnar and graphic designer Carl Shura.

The guidebook is available for all to download. Visit the HKICON website for more. 

Pandemic effect: ERA Architects for Canadian Architect magazine

A rendering of the exterior and entrance of Ken Soble Tower.

As part of Canadian Architect’s Pandemic Effect series, ERA Architects’ Ya’el Santopinto and Graeme Stewart wrote about how the current pandemic is shining a light on the importance of prioritizing the retrofitting of existing mid-century towers. 

“Canada’s affordable apartment towers are the backbone of its purpose-built rental housing system, representing more than half of all high-rise units in the nation. Legacies of the post-war apartment housing boom of the 1960s and 70s, many of these buildings are now a half-century old and in need of critical repair. Months of sheltering in place due to COVID-19 have underscored the inequities of the housing system, and the acute challenges in upgrading this stock are more visible than ever.”

Read more from Ya’el and Graeme, and other articles on how the pandemic is influencing the world of architecture from Canadian Architect.

 

Remnants of Mid-Century Toronto

 

Spacing’s new book celebrates Toronto’s mid-century architecture, from landmark buildings like City Hall to unique elements of the time, such as the zig-zag roofs that can be spotted atop many of the city’s churches. 

Edited by Spacing’s creative director Matthew Blackett and with photography by Vik Pahwa, much of the writing in the book has been provided by ERA staff. 

Congratulations to Spacing on this beautiful publication. We’re thrilled to have our staff involved in such an evocative project celebrating an often forgotten form of Toronto architecture.

Read more about the book on Spacing’s website or purchase it from the Spacing Store. 

 

Passive House: A new way of working with existing buildings

Cities are at the forefront of climate change. In the fight for a low-carbon future, a new wave of building standards is changing how we think about energy-efficiency and environmentally friendly design. One of the top standards is Passive House.

According to Passive House Canada, Passive House is regarded as the “most rigorous voluntary energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today.” Passive House focuses on limiting the energy needed to heat or cool buildings through high levels of insulation around the building envelope, overall airtightness and whole-house mechanical ventilation. A Passive House’s energy use is significantly lower than its conventional counterpart. 

ERA aims to improve the quality and comfort for residents of GTHA’s postwar towers by transforming the buildings and their surrounding areas into more sustainable, resilient and healthy places. This alignment is one of the reasons we were drawn to the Passive House standard and its applicability to our tower renewal portfolio.

Passive House is an ultra-low carbon standard which is focused on human comfort and air quality. It’s a natural fit for tower renewal, which aims to improve housing quality and health outcomes in aging affordable housing

Exterior of the Ken Soble Tower in Hamilton

Built in 1967, the Ken Soble Tower is the oldest high-rise multi-residential building in CityHousing Hamilton’s portfolio and has been in decline for several years. After considering several options, CityHousing opted to retrofit the building, making significant improvements at a fraction of the cost of a new build.

With its completion, the project will provide residents with improved comfort and control of their indoor environments, and with the ability to withstand extreme climate events into the future. At its peak, the total energy needed to heat or cool each unit will be the equivalent of the energy needed to run three incandescent light bulbs. 

Though a Passive House requires a significant reduction in energy use, the principle is driven by human comfort. The airtightness and increase in insulation mean no drafts, no cold spots and no overheating, equaling an overall more comfortable home for residents.  

The project kickstarts a broader Passive House development program for CityHousing Hamilton’s portfolio at large, making it one of the first organizations in eastern Canada to adopt the Passive House target. 

Applying standards such as EnerPHit – the Passive House certification for retrofits –  to existing buildings can be paired with architectural conservation to maintain their historic integrity, merging a low-carbon future with the cultural significance of the past.

For example, Gemini House is a prototype low-energy retrofit project on the University of Toronto campus. The project is using Passive House approaches to low-energy rehabilitation with the added complexity of being executed within an 1880s Second Empire-style masonry home.

The project achieves a high-performance envelope and low intensity mechanical systems based on Passive House principles. The retrofit will thermally isolate the building into two zones: “core” and “periphery.” The core space comprises rooms expected to be in daily use (kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom), and is therefore heated on a daily basis in cooler months. The periphery spaces (formal dining room, guest bedroom, basement) are kept at a minimal level of heat, but can be warmed on demand. By building this box within a box, energy use was reduced by over 90 per cent.

With a focus on the interior to achieve ultra-low energy transformation goals, the exterior of this listed heritage property was conserved and rehabilitated, with historic windows used to create a ‘second skin’ in front of the new triple glazed windows within.

At a time when climate change mitigation, healthy living environments and improved social resilience are increasingly urgent, ERA is committed to bringing these outcomes to existing building fabric across its conservation, adaptive re-use and tower renewal portfolios.

ERA talks retrofitting towers (virtually)

Over the past few weeks, Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto have had the opportunity to participate in webinars to share more about ERA’s tower renewal projects. A large focus of these talks have been about our learnings surrounding the retrofitting of the Ken Soble Tower in Hamilton, which is slated to be one of the largest EnerPHit-certified projects in North America.

We wanted to share these talks with you. For more take a look at the links below.

Passive House Accelerator: Happy Hour

Heroic Concrete: Retrofitting Brutalism A screenshot taken ahead of a webinar, showing the panelists

Celebrating ERA’s 30th anniversary

A flag with ERA 30 on it

On May 1st, ERA is marking 30 years of heritage conservation, community building, and catalyzing change both in urban and rural settings. While we may not be able to celebrate together physically this year,  we thought we’d take a virtual walk down memory lane to mark some of the themes behind our projects that have made ERA who we are today.

Urban transformation through adaptive re-use

One of the first widescale projects we took on as ERA was the Distillery District. As the Architect-of-Record for the overall Distillery District project and Heritage Architect for a series of the tenant spaces, we’ve seen how adaptive reuse of historic buildings can spark urban transformation.

The potential for this type of renewal extends beyond Toronto. The Booth Street Masterplan in Ottawa looks to apply the lessons learned through the Distillery District project, scaling these approaches for the local context to celebrate Ottawa’s heritage and provide new opportunities for growth.

Exterior of Cambium Farms

Nathan Cyprys

Supporting transitioning and rural economies

Many smaller communities across Ontario and the country are struggling with the transition away from resource-based economies. While our Small initiative helps support these towns through engagement and community building, other architecture projects like Cambium Farms and Goodlot Brewery in Caledon and the Drake Devonshire in Wellington have helped cultivate new local economies fuelled by small businesses.

Senate of Canada

A national approach to heritage

In recent years, ERA has looked beyond Toronto, and even beyond Ontario, to bring a national approach to our work. Our offices in Ottawa and Montreal, where we have a partnership with Kubanek Architecte, have been growing, and we’ve taken on new and exciting work in Alberta. These projects range from largescale architecture work at the University of Alberta, to more community-based placemaking and adaptive re-use projects in Banff.

ERA hosted an opening session on affordability and resilience in our tower blocks at the office.

Resource sharing and collaboration

At its centre, heritage conservation is a collaborative process. We learn best practices, new techniques and innovative ideas from our heritage colleagues across the globe. This collaboration extends beyond the heritage field and into how we approach all our projects. We work closely in collaboration with our teams to better understand the challenges and needs of our projects in order to reach our full potential.

LGA-AP

 Resiliency in the 21st century

Building more resilient communities requires a collaborative effort, from low energy retrofit of existing buildings, to off-the-grid new homes. Evergreen Brick Works in the heart of the Don Valley floodplain is a shining example of the success of this work. The challenges of updating the buildings on site for 21st century use while incorporating innovative flood management and response solutions could only be accomplished by working across industries.

Our Tower Renewal work has resulted in the retrofit of thousands of units of housing as healthy, resilient and low energy homes. This includes the Ken Soble Tower, North America’s first Passive House tower retrofit, now under construction.

Resiliency doesn’t just mean preparing for a changing climate, but also building infrastructure that allows for support networks to flourish. Upgrading the existing spaces for accessibility in all our projects is core to our practice. Many of our Tower Renewal projects include building accessible community spaces like sport courts and mixed-use rooms to encourage connection between residents, many of whom are elderly and at an increased risk of social isolation.

While these themes may encapsulate some of our work from the past 30 years, they also provide a look into what the next 30 years may have in store. We look forward to building upon these approaches and continuing to celebrate our cultural heritage and values with you — our collaborators, clients and community.

To our clients and colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 and ERA Architects: Our Work Plan

Dear Clients and Colleagues,

Arising from the continued spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization’s ‘global pandemic’ declaration, the State of Emergency called for the Province of Ontario and health emergency declaration by the Province of Québec, ERA Architects Inc has been working to adapt our work practices in order to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the potential spread of the virus. These practices will ensure the quality of our work remains high and we are able to continue serving the needs of you, our clients and colleagues.

To achieve this, ERA will be moving primarily into a virtual office mode, with meetings conducted by conference call or video software. As always, our team of architects, planners and specialists are on call and fully mobilized. Required in person meetings, such as architectural site visits, will be conducted following best practices in health, and in partnership with clients and constructors to ensure the health and safety of all parties.

Be assured that ERA’s commitment to you is to keep the caliber of work high; to understand and respond to changes beyond our control as quickly as possible; and work with our clients and colleagues to address these issues on a project-by-project basis. Our shared deadlines and goals are important to us, and we are making the changes needed to both adhere to the advice of Health Canada, the Ontario Health Agency and Toronto Public Health, and keep our workflow moving.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

ERA Architects Inc.