ERA Architects

Building for the community, with the community

Ridgeway workshop

As an architecture firm with values rooted in how we collectively shape and build better cities and their spaces, it’s important to us to engage deeply with the community on our projects.

“While much of our work starts with assessments of existing buildings, observing their condition and advising site owners on how best to proceed with their conservation, many other projects begin with robust and integrated community engagement.”

As city builders, we and our partners have the opportunity to transform underused spaces into places that better serve the community. Making the most impact requires filling a need, one that is identified by the community itself.  By taking cues from human-centred design principles, we can put the user, whether it be a resident of a tower retrofit or a visitor to a museum, at the centre of our planning and project development.

While human-centred design includes making sure the needs and behaviours of people are understood in order to make the most impact, it also ensures the community is part of the project’s development from the outset.

Opening day at the Ridgeway Community Courts in Mississauga

The transformation of an under-utilized parking lot and sidewalk boulevard into a vibrant multi-sport court and community space in Mississauga was first sparked by the user itself – a local group of youth wanting a space to play.

ERA was thrilled to come on board to help bring this project to reality, leading a collaborative design process with the community to create the Ridgeway Community Courts with support from the MLSE Foundation. This included leading a series of workshops with local youth to develop the identity and vision for the court, guiding the design development process along the way.

Having residents at the centre of this project has impacted more than just the physical space. With operations led by youth, the court has also brought about leadership and skill-building development for the community.

Two youth leaders at Ridgeway Community Courts.

Residents are also at the centre of our work in Ottawa with Stantec and client Canada Lands Company and the development of the Booth Street District Master Plan.

The Booth Street Complex includes seven buildings and 17 individual structures built between 1911 and 1952. Originally the site of the Canadian government’s mining research, the buildings include office spaces, research sites and laboratories. Its redevelopment will transform this area into a space that better serves the neighbourhood and Ottawa as a whole.

Arial view of Booth Street

Community engagement on the project was key and included the creation of a public advisory committee.  Before the start of the first committee meeting, ERA led a walking tour of the redevelopment site, providing participants an opportunity to review and discuss the site’s history, design features and heritage elements.

The feedback we received during successive meetings helped identify what was of value to the community. Among other things, residents identified the smokestack – a structure representing the area’s industrial past – as a visual landmark within the neighbourhood and an important attribute to the complex.

Stantec’s Molly Smith and ERA’s Victoria Angel lead a walking tour of the Booth Street area for Jane’s Walk.

Stantec’s Molly Smith and ERA’s Victoria Angel lead a walking tour of the Booth Street area for Jane’s Walk. Photo courtesy Stantec.

These projects put a spotlight on how putting people at the centre of the development process leads to a greater end result. Creating for the community, with the community sparks a collective impact to make our cities thrive.

Read more about the Booth Street redevelopment project.

Read more about Ridgeway Community Courts.

Announcing Founding Principal Edwin Rowse’s retirement from ERA Architects Inc.

Edwin's headshot.

One of ERA’s two founding principals, Edwin Rowse, is retiring as of October 1.

Edwin and Michael McClelland founded ERA in 1990 with a shared pragmatic, but principled, approach to heritage architecture, planning and conservation. Their ability to provide consistent advice from conception to full implementation of a project became a notable strength of the company and of its growing group of principals. Edwin’s remarkable capacity to combine finely detailed architectural, historical and technical considerations — whether for conservation or adaptive reuse projects — became a driving inspiration behind many of ERA’s projects, from the Distillery District in Toronto to national historic sites such as Parkwood Estate and Ruthven Park, to Trinity St. Paul’s Church for Tafelmusik, and to Ottawa’s Booth Street redevelopment and the recently completed Government Conference Centre.

Under Edwin’s and Michael’s leadership, ERA has grown from a local Toronto enterprise to one of the country’s largest heritage architecture firms. ERA is now a firm with a national reach that includes satellite offices in Montreal and Ottawa.

“ERA will remain forever a seminal experience in my life,” said Edwin at his retirement party earlier this month. “This is a new dawn for me. Retiring is not walking away. I will always work for ERA’s wellbeing and success.”

As Edwin transitions to a Principal Emeritus role with the firm, ERA’s executive team looks forward to continuing to build the firm’s partnership, strongly rooted in connecting heritage conservation to wider considerations of urban design and city building.Edwin will become a consultant to ERA on a part-time basis, after which he will continue to consult on various projects as a sole practitioner.

Uncovering the potential of Toronto’s laneways

A diagram of a coach house typology

Elements of a coach house: A) Simple / utilitarian, B) 1.5 storeys, C) Laneway, D) Inspired by, but in contrast with the components of the main house, E) Defensive, given the exposed setting to lane

Toronto’s laneways are having a moment. For decades, these alleyways were an underused, often neglected, space in a city in need of room to expand and grow. With Toronto City Council approving the adoption of laneway suites across the Toronto and East York district in July after a year-long pilot program, more attention is rightfully being given to these overlooked spaces.

While this is an important step in the right direction to add gentle density and increase the diversity of housing stock in Toronto’s established neighbourhoods, we’re equally excited for the opportunity to conserve and adapt these important pieces of historical infrastructure for reuse.

A historic laneway coach house

Coach Houses, like this one at 10 Madison, were the primary built form along Toronto’s historic laneways.

Toronto’s history is embedded in its laneways – even in many of their names. Some pay homage to local businesses, such as Ice Cream Lane in Danforth Village, named after Maple Leaf Dairy located nearby. Others bear names as an acknowledgement of the original Indigenous peoples of the land, such as Iroquois Lane and Meegwetch Lane. Peperonata Lane in Little Italy even has a more modern, community namesake, inspired by a local resident’s pepper fest, a tradition celebrated with neighbours each year.

The built forms along laneways can also tell us about the history of these spaces and their uses.

Coach houses were the primary built form of laneways. They usually had a large service opening, like a garage door, on the laneway side. Historically, coach houses were utilitarian ancillary structures, subordinate but related to a grander principal residence. Simple and defensive, they had modest elevations, and the side facing the back alley had only small additional openings, to shield their inhabitants. Their ground floors housed carriages and stables; the grooms slept above, in quarters discreetly tucked into mansard or gable roofs.

A map of Toronto's laneways overlapped by the Heritage Conservation Districts.

This map shows Toronto’s laneways in black, overlapped by the city’s Heritage Conservation District’s in yellow. These spaces are where historic laneway structures are most prevalent.

Approximately 10 per cent – or nearly 30 km – of Toronto’s laneways are entirely within or along the boundaries of areas designated under the Ontario Heritage Act as Heritage Conservation Districts. These are the places where historic coach houses are most prevalent.

An example of a laneway home in Toronto.

This Beaconsfield laneway suite by Creative Union Network is an adaptive reuse project of a former carriage house in historic Toronto. It’s a prime example of the kinds of opportunities available to reimagine and restore heritage elements in HCDs. Photo: Andrew Snow Photography.

Distilling the essential built form of coach houses may be a good starting point for designing laneway housing in Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods. “Laneway Suites” says City of Toronto planner Graig Uens, “allow for gradual change and a range of housing while acknowledging the typical low-rise and, in some cases, heritage character of the City’s existing residential neighbourhoods.” Laneway suites are intended to fit within an established context; it stands to reason that an appreciation of their historic predecessors should inform their design.

It can also reach past design and into use and function.

Toronto’s laneways historically were mixed-used.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they housed services, from stables and dairies, to blacksmiths, and were avenues for coal delivery. With that in mind, what role should a 21st century mixed-use laneway play in our city?

A laneway house recently readapted from a carriage house.

Toronto’s new bylaws on laneway suites even require two available parking spaces for bikes, as shown in this photo of Creative Union Network‘s laneway project. Photo: Andrew Snow Photography.

Communities and organizations are looking to revitalize laneways for uses beyond housing. The Laneway Project is helping community groups revitalize their alleys through greening and art projects. The non-profit is also leading a study to test the feasibility of a laneway market in Toronto, and their partnership with the Canadian Urban Institute on the Laneways as Bikeways project is reframing laneways as a potential solution to gaps in the city’s cycling network.

With that in mind, mixed-use structures in laneways have endless possibilities, from bike shops to service cyclists on their commutes, to cafés and restaurants for community gathering. While housing opened up the conversation about activating the city’s laneways, the potential of these spaces to build more mixed-use, complete and walkable neighbourhoods hasn’t yet been fully realized.

Though many historic laneway structures have been lost to time, those that remain can give us valuable information about the creative early history of how we’ve occupied laneways. They may even unlock creative solutions for the future.

An edited version of this article appeared in the Spring-Summer 2019 issue of Spacing Magazine.

WexPOPS: Pop-up Plaza

WexPOPS is a pilot of the plazaPOPS project, an initiative spearheaded by Daniel Rotsztain, aka The Urban Geographer, and Brendan Stewart (OALA, CAHP), professor of landscape architecture at the University of Guelph, and former Associate at ERA Architects.

In an interview supporting his recent book Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure can help fight Inequality, Polarization and the Decline of Civic Life, NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg points to an idea that many urbanists take for granted but that the general public may not: that “the social life we experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum; there’s a context for it. It can be supported or undermined by the places where we spend time”. In other words, there is a relationship between the design of our physical environment, and the social life that it enables or does not.

Klinenberg urges his readers to think about the types of places that foster connections and relationships between people and that build strong communities not as nice to have’s, but as an essential infrastructure that buttresses the foundations of democracy, inoculating society from many of the challenges that define our current moment. He argues that ‘social infrastructure’ will only become more critical as communities are forced to adapt to the challenges associated with climate change.

Closer to home, the Evergreen Foundation’s Towards a Civic Commons Strategy proposes a similar vision for “a network of public places and facilities that enable communities to learn, celebrate, express collective actions, collaborate and flourish, together”.

Inspired in part by these ideas, for the past year and a bit we’ve been working on an experiment to test the potential of creating a type of civic commons / social infrastructure within the ubiquitous strip mall parking lots that define the main streets of post-war neighbourhoods across the country and that are home to millions of Canadians.

Open from July 5th to August 17th at the iconic Wexford Plaza at Lawrence Avenue East and Warden Avenue in Scarborough (the setting of the recent eponymous indie film), WexPOPS is the result of over a year of community consultation, planning, and design work, and a collaboration that involved 19 Master’s of Landscape Architecture (MLA) students from the University of Guelph, graduate business and planning students from U of T’s Rotman CityLAB fellowship program, a 15 member strong local working group, and partnerships with the Wexford Heights BIA, The City of Toronto’s Public Realm Unit, Scarborough Arts, the TRCA, the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, Mural Routes, the Working Women Community Centre and a number of local businesses who supported the initiative in various ways including the Kirakou family — the owners of the Wexford Restaurant, and the entire plaza — who are generously hosting the project.

Funded by Parks People’s Public Space Incubator Grant, generously supported by Ken and Eti Greenberg and the Balsam Foundation, as well as the City of Toronto’s BIA Kickstarter Fund, the big idea of the project is to test the viability of exchanging parking spots for community gathering space, all on private commercial property. It’s a new take on POPS — privately owned public space — experimenting with the city building potential that commercial business owners can exercise by enhancing community life in the neighbourhoods they serve, while hopefully also seeing an uptick in business.

Similar strip malls are found throughout Toronto’s inner suburbs and in post war neighbourhoods all over Ontario and Canada. In many cases, especially in Toronto, the retail remains vibrant and local, serving as important settings for community life, and features numerous restaurants and shops serving food and offering goods from all over the world. The Wexford Heights BIA, a 2 km strip running between Victoria Park and Birchmount along Lawrence Avenue East, features over 60 restaurants, and has been celebrated by food columnists as a major dining destination.

The project grows out of Daniel’s fascination with the strip malls he frequented in his youth, culminating in his 2018 MLA thesis at U of G which was overseen by Dr. Karen Landman and Brendan Stewart. It builds on Daniel’s work as an artist, examining the setting of Toronto’s public life including All the Libraries Toronto, his documentation of all 100 public library branches in the city, and a recent residency at Yorkdale Mall that asserted the centrality of private shopping centres in Toronto’s social geography. It also builds on Brendan’s citizen engagement Tower Renewal work with ERA, including parking lot to community space conversion projects at the East Scarborough Storefront (2010 – 2015) and Ridgeway Community Courts (2015-2017) in Mississauga.

The final design of WexPOPS features a series of modular planters, benches, tables and umbrellas, all clad in marine plywood and trimmed in cedar. Occupying 10 parking spaces, the installation creates a comfortable and sheltered ‘room’ in the middle of the parking lot, and frames dynamic views of the strip mall behind. The carpentry was done by Guelph based Ben O’Hara Design, and all of the components were designed as modules that could be re-configured into different arrangements to suit different future site conditions, and to flat pack for easy assembly and storage.

Six design concepts for the project were developed through a series of community workshops by student teams in a graduate community design studio at the U of G this past winter, and the ideas most favoured by the working group and a wider online engagement were incorporated into the final design. For example, one student team developed the colour scheme for the project, which includes vibrant red, orange and yellow and was inspired by the spice markets of the Middle East. Another student team proposed a space of lush and immersive greenery, an idea that resonated in the community and which dominates the final design.

In all, WexPOPS features over 500 plants, which are planted in colour coded pots: red denoting native perennial wildflowers and grasses, orange for annuals, and yellow for edibles. The pots were created from salvaged recycling pails from the University, and were painted and drilled for drainage. The annuals and edibles were grown in campus greenhouses and donated to the project, and all of the native plants, grown by Native Plants in Claremont, will be donated to the TRCA to be planted in a local stretch of the Meadoway this fall.

12 local youth from an after school program run out of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, located across the street, have been hired as site supervisors, stewarding the site through daily watering, managing waste and setting up and taking down umbrellas.

At night, LED lighting within the benches creates a welcoming atmosphere, and the illuminated strip mall signage creates a dynamic backdrop. During several evenings this summer, including an upcoming event on August 17th, the WexPOPS stage (with a mural designed by Echo Railton and painted by community volunteers) offers music and dance performances by local artists, co-curated by Scarborough Arts as well as urban ecology workshops lead by the TRCA.

WexPOPS is designed to be a hub of social activity for the local community, but also to attract visitors from beyond — a desire articulated by our working group who wanted to “put Wexford on the map”. The space features a neighbourhood business directory which encourages people to patronize the local restaurants and businesses (and eat takeout in the space), and a ‘dot map’ which prompts visitors to place a sticker on a map showing where they live, the idea being that this data will help the team evaluate the impact and reach of the project. The signs were donated in kind by CAS Signs Co, a printer located in Wexford Plaza a few stores down from WexPOPS. The ‘Wexford Wish Tree’, inspired by the shape of the sumac and CNC milled by local AC Waterjet, poses a different question every two weeks and invites visitors to write their answer on a horticultural tag and tie it to the tree for others to read.

WexPOPS may be popping down after August 18, but the proof of concept has already inspired many to reconsider the potential of privately-owned strip mall parking lots as community gathering places, including, perhaps most importantly, the Kirakou family — the property owners and our project hosts. To more concretely determine the impact of the project, the plazaPOPS team is conducting a public life study, modelled on methodologies pioneered by Gehl Architects, and is also studying the impact on parking and local business activity. The Rotman students, guided by Prof. Rafael Gomez, prepared a background study that informed the research design.

Project findings will be published later this year in an exit report, but already, many working in the urban design, community arts, and economic development sectors have noted the potential for applying the plazaPOPS concept beyond Wexford Heights, understanding the value of creating space to support the social life of communities in strip malls across Toronto, Ontario, and Canada.

You can find more information about the project and it’s design and planning process at www.plazaPOPS.ca and follow the project on twitter and Instagram @plaza_pops. You can reach the team at plazapops@gmail.com

This guest article appears courtesy of Brendan Stewart. Photos: Kat Rizza.

 

Affordable, High Efficiency Tower Living

ERA Principal Graeme Stewart addresses a crowd in front of Ken Soble Tower alongside MP Adam Vaughan during the May 21, 2019 National Housing Strategy announcement.

ERA Principal Graeme Stewart addresses the crowd in attendance for the National Housing Strategy announcement at Ken Soble Tower on May 21, 2019, alongside MP Adam Vaughan and Hamilton Mayor, Fred Eisenberger.

ERA is thrilled to be leading the rehabilitation of the Ken Soble Tower which will bring affordable housing options to the city of Hamilton as the first retrofit Passive House tower in Canada. The project recently received $10 million in federal funding which will help transform the tower and set the standard for industry-wide, ultra-low energy retrofits needed to maintain thousands of apartments across Canada.

Built in 1967, the Ken Soble Tower is one of the oldest high-rise multi-residential towers in CityHousing Hamilton’s portfolio. However, the 18-storey post-war tower, which overlooks the Hamilton harbour, has been in decline for several years. In line with our Tower Renewal framework, we are rehabilitating 146 tower units to create accessible and affordable long-term housing for seniors.

ERA’s involvement with the Ken Soble Tower Transformation began two years ago when a feasibility study was conducted for CityHousing Hamilton. The results of this study prompted CityHousing Hamilton to retrofit the building instead of rebuilding which would allow for significant improvements at a much lower cost than a new build. Slated for completion in 2020, the revitalization of the Ken Soble Tower will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 94% while providing residents with accessible, barrier-free living, high-quality housing, and community amenities.

Not only is the Ken Soble Tower Transformation the first retrofit of its kind in North America, it is also one of the largest EnerPHit certified projects in the world. As one of the most ambitious social housing transformations in Canada, the Ken Soble Tower will pave the way for the nation’s aging housing supply – shifting the conversation from aging affordable housing as a liability to affordable housing as a district landmark.

Read Alex Bozikovic’s take on the project in the Globe and Mail:
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/article-a-hamilton-ont-public-housing-tower-gets-a-new-life-as-a-green/#comments

Read more about this project and about Passive House standards:
https://canada.constructconnect.com/dcn/news/projects/2019/03/hamiltons-ken-soble-tower-rebirth-passive-house-first

https://www.chch.com/city-seeks-new-retrofit-for-ken-soble-tower-on-hamilton-harbour/

Accessibility & Heritage Conservation

How do we integrate universal accessibility with heritage conservation principles? ERA explored this topic in a two-day workshop at the Willowbank School in Niagara. ERA Associates Daniel Lewis and Douglas de Gannes worked with the second-year students to develop feasibility reports for two sites: The Laura Secord School and the Battle Ground Hotel Museum.

The workshop gave students a comprehensive overview of the legislation, process, approaches, and examples of barriers to accessibility. Barriers are more than just physical, and often they are rooted in societal attitudes and practices, which can sometimes be addressed through thoughtful design considerations. The students learned about two design solutions: barrier free design (with no physical obstacles) and universal design (accessibility for all people regardless of age, disability or other factors).

The Canada Life Building, 330 University Ave, Toronto.

The Canada Life Building, 330 University Ave, Toronto.

To give the students a better sense of what this design approach could look like, we reviewed ERA projects like the Canada Life Building (330 University Avenue, Toronto). Often, accessible entrances are placed in areas of the building other than the principal entrance, a practice that is now widely regarded as a human rights issue. Adding an accessible ramp to the front of the building, without negatively impacting the existing site’s architecture, demonstrates a commitment to accessibility and heritage conservation. The design has minimal impact and is reversible, a core element of heritage conservation, and the ramp design complements the character-defining elements of the building.

7 St Thomas, Toronto (the Sultan Street houses).

Another great example ERA shared with the students is the Sultan Street houses in Toronto. In this case, the stairs of the front entrance were removed entirely, and the doorways lowered to the ground level. This approach also offers an opportunity for interpretive design. For example, a small sliver of the stairs remains, which creates an ongoing dialogue on improving accessibility.

After reviewing these ERA projects, the students got the chance to apply their knowledge. They conducted their own accessibility audits and conservation assessments on the two historic sites and will use this information to produce a feasibility report as their final project.

This hands-on learning experience for the Willowbank students is part of a larger conversation about the importance and necessity of accessibility when it comes to heritage conservation strategies, and using design as an opportunity to promote equal access for all.

An Award-Winning Heritage Week

This past week, amidst annual #HeritageWeek events, ERA was proud to receive honours from both the City of Ottawa and the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Trust for four significant projects completed in 2018.

 

On Tuesday, February 19, the Ottawa Heritage Awards were presented for “outstanding contributions to the restoration and conservation of Ottawa’s heritage properties.” ERA’s Victoria Angel and Jan Kubanek received recognition for our roles on the National Arts Centre’s addition with Diamond-Schmitt Architects, and the extensive conservation and rehabilitation of the new Senate of Canada Building (formerly the Government Conference Centre) with DSA-KWC.

National Arts Centre,
Ottawa Heritage Award of Excellence 2018

In 2014, the NAC Rejuvenation project was announced in anticipation of Canada’s 150th celebration in 2017. The transformation included improved spaces for performance, new wings for audience and presentation events, and a new entrance on Elgin Street with a glazed addition wrapping around the north side of the complex.

ERA served as Heritage Conservation Advisor for Diamond Schmitt Architects on the project, developing a Heritage Conservation Approach report, which outlined the architectural, historical, and cultural significance of the building and identified heritage conservation goals and strategies to conserve its significance.The core of this approach revolved around preserving the distinct and dramatic features of the exterior and interior.

The rejuvenated NAC establishes new transparency with the city, enhancing its connection to the surrounding symbolic landscape of Confederation Square. The NAC project has both enhanced and sustained the heritage significance of the building, providing an excellent example of thoughtful and innovative heritage conservation planning.

National Arts Centre, 2018.

National Arts Centre, 2018.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC),
Ottawa Heritage Award of Excellence 2018

The project scope included the full rehabilitation of the exterior and interior of the former Ottawa Union Station. ERA Architects worked as the heritage architects with DSA-KWC Architects in Joint Venture, as well as John G. Cooke & Associates Ltd as structural engineers. As part of this multidisciplinary team, ERA was involved in all project phases from Schematic Design through Site Review and Construction Administration.

The rehabilitation project aimed to reveal the original character and historical elements of the building that had been concealed during modifications when Union Station became the Government Conference Centre in the 1960s. The theatrical character of the interior procession, the axial progression of spaces, the dramatic use of natural light, and the rich palette of materials were re-established and, in some cases, uncovered, while meeting the project’s functional and technical requirements for the Senate of Canada. Previous insertions in the significant interior spaces, such as the General Waiting Room and Concourse spaces, that obscured the heritage character of the building were removed.  Interior elements, such as imitation travertine, marble and woodwork, were all repaired and refinished.

A major technical conservation challenge was the rehabilitation of the two suspended plaster ceilings.  Composed of precast coffered plaster panels suspended from the steel structure above, the ceilings were in poor condition at project start-up. As no appropriate North-American plaster conservation precedent existed, experimentation with conservation products and techniques from the United Kingdom was undertaken to determine suitability.  After multiple mock-ups and tests, a conservation strategy was developed and implemented, with no visual impacts from below, serving as a new precedent for plaster conservation in Canada.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC), 2019.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC), 2019.

Senate of Canada Building (GCC), 2019.

On Friday, February 22, ERA’s Michael McClelland, Andrew Pruss, and Doug de Gannes were invited to Queen’s Park for the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards and received the Award of Excellence in Conservation for One Spadina Crescent, the new home for the Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design, and for the University of Windsor’s School of Creative Arts in the former Windsor Armouries.

One Spadina Crescent, Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape & Design,
Lt Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award of Excellence in Conservation 2018

One Spadina Crescent is one of Toronto’s most prominent architectural sites. The historical building, site rehabilitation, and new addition re-establishes One Spadina as a gateway to the University campus and reintroduces it to the public perception. Beginning in 2006, ERA Architects worked with the University of Toronto to advise on heritage issues related to the site’s redevelopment. Since 2011, we’ve worked closely with the project’s prime architects, NADAAA.

The recent renewal of the south-facing 19th-century Gothic revival building and contemporary addition – home to the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design – is a showcase for the city and an international focal point for education and research on architecture, art and the future of cities. The rehabilitation and new addition at One Spadina Crescent provides a significant expansion to the heritage building for use by the faculty and its students as design studios, fabrication shops, a multi-functional principal hall, library programs, social spaces and offices. The addition was conceived to fill in the “U”-shaped space vacated by demolition of previous additions to the original 1874 Knox College on its north side, thereby preserving the original heritage structure and integrating existing and new program space for optimal use of the finite site.

One Spadina Crescent (DFALD), 2018

One Spadina Crescent (DFALD), 2018

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts,
Lt Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award of Excellence in Conservation 2018

The University of Windsor transformed the 1901 Windsor Armouries, once home to the Essex Fusliers, into a state-of-the-art learning centre for the creative arts. The transformation was made possible by the collaboration and co-operation of both the Government of Ontario and the City of  Windsor.

Over a four-year construction period, the rehabilitation of the Windsor Armouries was carefully undertaken to pay homage to the building’s historical military past. In 2015, ERA began working with CS&P Architects to restore the existing masonry building and insert within the existing fabric a brand-new purpose-built facility. The original brickwork was successfully restored, allowing for exposed brick on the interior and the exterior windows were also carefully restored to resemble the original arched windows. The original floor, which once supported tanks, was removed for the new construction of a three-storey interior structure, fully contained within the Armouries, which now houses 6,224 square metres of new space for students, including classrooms, performance spaces and a theatre.

This repurposed building now serves an active student community and as a dynamic space for creative arts: students, faculty, and staff moved into the restored Armouries and an adjacent building in January 2018. Its restoration is playing a key role in the revitalization and diversification of Windsor’s downtown, has given a new focus to Windsor’s military history, and has provided significant additional learning space for the creative arts. The project serves as an excellent example of adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of existing heritage buildings, connecting the city to its cultural past while instigating urban renewal.

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts, 2018.

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts, 2018.

Windsor Armouries, University of Windsor School of Creative Arts, 2018.

New Approaches to Old Housing

For the past decade, Tower Renewal has been defined by research, policy design and action. Through multi-sectoral partnerships, best-practice and primary research, our work has evolved into program design, capacity building, and on-the-ground project implementation with a wide range of stakeholders.

This ongoing program of ‘research to action’ was featured in Architectural Design Magazine special issue: Calling All Architects: New Approaches to Old Housing. The issue showcases international leaders who are pushing the boundaries of traditional architectural practice in rethinking housing and shares the experiences of architects who have been expanding their practices to provide innovative housing solutions by revitalizing old buildings—instead of the typical process of demolition and building anew.

“Can architects be more than passive participants in a broken [housing] system?”
AD Magazine

This issue builds from the practices showcased at the “Tower, Block and Slab” Symposium hosted by the New York Architecture League in 2016, featuring among others Karakusevc Carson Architects, Frederick Druot Architect, and Architects for Social Housing who have become ongoing collaborators in Tower Renewal.

The issue showcases how architects and organizations across the world are shaping and developing a new medium of practice in tackling issues of housing. Through the Tower Renewal Partnership, CUG+R, and ERA, architects Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto engage in work ranging from advocacy and policy development to technical development to create the context to make Tower Renewal a reality—something Stewart calls a “one-two punch”. “We have a research arm though a non-profit [CUG+R] as well as a practice arm [ERA] where we build things,” Stewart explains. It is this structure that has helped advance and implement building retrofits and site-wide renewal. “It’s those kinds of activities that are really outside the framework of a traditional practice, but are actually exploring the nuts and bolts of land-use planning, building codes, zoning, taxation and other barriers that have made Tower Renewal effective,” adds Santopinto.

Featured as one of the books designers should read in 2019, we are thrilled to have been included in Architectural Design Magazine’s “Housing as Intervention” Issue 4, Volume 88.

Guest post by Andrew Cohrs for the Tower Renewal Partnership.

Tower Renewal Solutions on CBC Radio

As aging apartment buildings begin to contribute to the housing crisis, (exposed this week in the infrastructure failure at 260 Wellesley, Toronto) the clear response is system-scale reinvestment — and it’s underway right now across Canada.

Of particular note, the Ken Soble Tower Project is one of the most significant and precedent-setting tower retrofit projects in North America, and it’s happening in Hamilton, Ontario:

Listen to ERA’s Graeme Stewart talk about Tower Renewal solutions on CBC’s Metro Morning, January 24, 2019 (the conversation begins around the 4-minute mark).

Click to listen to the audio of CBC Metro Morning, January 24, 2019 episode: in conversation with Graeme Stewart.


A Tower Renewal Primer:
Postwar apartment towers are the backbone of Canada’s purpose-built rental stock, and provide affordable housing to millions of Canadians. Now is the time to explore innovative strategies for transitioning these aging apartment tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities.
Tower Renewal is a strategy for action.


For more information on Tower Renewal, visit TowerRenewal.com
For more information on the current Ken Soble Tower Project in Hamilton, visit the link here.

 

Immigration and Daily Life in the Ward

We are very excited to announce the latest installation of the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ series of exhibits at Toronto City Hall. Commemorating and interpreting the histories of St John’s Ward, one of Toronto’s first points of settlement for many newcomers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the exhibit “Immigration and Daily Life in the Ward: Addresses and Artifacts” opens Wednesday December, 19th 2018 and will be on public view in the main floor rotunda until mid-2019.

This continuing exhibit focuses on immigration and daily life in the Ward neighbourhood explored through unearthed artifacts from the Armoury Street dig site, city directories, fire insurance plans, tax assessment rolls, and census records to provide a view of The Ward between 1840–1970. The research in this new installation seeks to understand the movement of people into The Ward, paired with objects reflecting the relationships that individuals form with their places of origin. In the words of Holly Martelle, principal archaeologist at TMHC,

“The presence, abundance, and patterning in artifacts over space and time often hint at various aspects of the identity and culture of a site’s occupants. By itself, archaeology paints a picture of the past, albeit a slightly blurry one. Historic and archival records help bring that picture into sharper focus by adding the details that archaeologists may never be able to visualize in their data.”

These exhibits follow from the excavation and archaeological dig in 2015 of the new Toronto courthouse site led by Infrastructure Ontario (IO), on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General. As part of the heritage interpretation efforts for the site, IO and the City of Toronto developed a partnership to create opportunities to share the artifacts and their stories in four display cases at City Hall. ERA has been pleased to offer expertise in this unique documentation of Toronto’s history, providing contextual research and interpretation for emergent themes, as well as designing the exhibit spaces in collaboration with City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services.

The exhibit is on view during regular public hours in City Hall’s main floor rotunda, located adjacent to both the east and west elevator bays, and will be on display through to Spring 2019.


ERA would like to give a special thanks to our project partners:
Ainsley Davidson, Infrastructure Ontario
Abbey Flower, Infrastructure Ontario
Geoff Woods, Infrastructure Ontario
Wayne Reeves, City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services
Christophe Jivraj, City of Toronto Museums and Heritage Services
Holly Martelle, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants
Nicole Brandon, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants


*SAVE THE DATE*

Upcoming performances from The Ward Cabaret this winter:
February 4, 2019 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto Reference Library
February 5, 2019 at Hugh’s Room (link to tickets here)

JUNO Award-winning musician and composer David Buchbinder is joined by a collaborative team of musicians, singers, and actors for an abridged version of The Ward Cabaret, a musical event based on the songs and sounds of Toronto’s first cross-cultural community.

Heritage at Home

ERA Associate and Architectural Conservation Lead, Jan Kubanek, has managed and consulted on immense, complex projects like the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa and Toronto’s Union Station—and like so many other Canadians has also faced the unforeseen complexities of his own home renovation.

It’s hard to find a more capable person to offer advice on renovating your heritage home.

Jan got in front of the camera this fall to help Héritage Montréal spread the word about their Home Renovation course held every year and that he has been a part of since 2012.  The course is intended to assist home owners in understanding the heritage value of their homes and assist them in planning and undertaking sympathetic renovations.  Organized around eight evening sessions, subjects include residential building typologies, building inspections, planning sustainable renovations, and how to deal with issues of and repairs to foundations, structure, roofs, windows and doors. Jan’s lecture focused on planning and undertaking successful home renovation projects.

Watch the Héritage Montréal video below (en français)
https://www.facebook.com/heritagemontreal/videos/249081312363741/

or catch his “All in a Weekend” interview on CBC Radio (in english)
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/all-in-a-weekend-montreal/segment/15611249  

ERA at Passive House Canada Conference

Last week, ERA’s Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto joined City Housing Hamilton CEO Tom Hunter to present on the Ken Soble Tower Transformation at Passive House Canada’s National Conference in Vancouver. 

The Ken Soble Tower Transformation project kicks off a groundbreaking program by CityHousing Hamilton to use the ultra-low energy Passive House standard for the retrofit of their existing buildings and as the standard for their new construction. ERA is thrilled to be working with CityHousing Hamilton realize this vision. Built in 1967 as modern affordable housing, the building’s rehabilitation will preserve 146 units of affordable seniors’ housing and ensure that stateoftheart affordable housing is at the heart of the Hamilton’s growing West Harbour neighbourhood. 

Ken Soble Tower Transformation: diagram overview of Envelope, Systems, and Modernization.

The project is poised to be the first Passive House high-rise retrofit in North America and it will demonstrate the tremendous potential for aging affordable housing in Canada to be modernized through Tower Renewal. 

What is Passive House?
Common in Europe, the Passive House approach is centred around high-performance building envelopes, achieving nearly twice the insulation value of building code requirements, which drastically reduces required heating and cooling loads.

The Ken Soble Tower Transformation will:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90%
  • Reduce energy intensity by 70%
  • Reduce resource consumption through a 45% reduction in utility costs
  • Improve indoor air quality for resident health and comfort
  • Extend the life of the building and its systems for another generation

The 2018 Passive House Canada Conference in Vancouver opens up this discussion to a broad audience of builders, contractors, architects, city-builders, and policy-makers, and ERA is proud to be part of the growth of this approach in Canada, sharing best practices with our colleagues and collaborators. A highlight of the conference included a tour of Dockside Green, a master planned community with affordable housing, district energy, and low carbon buildings.

An idyllic urban setting shows the courtyard of Dockside Green with pond and a number of balconies overlooking.

Touring #docksidegreen, a master planned community with affordable housing, district energy, and low carbon buildings on par with the best of Sweden or Germany. Lessons for the rest of Canada in the city of Victoria!

Dockside Green interpretation panels explaining the water treatment systems in use.

Interpretive panels at Dockside Green help to educate and inform about water treatment and usage.

 

Our Growing Leadership Team

As ERA continues to grow and evolve, the Executives and Associates are very pleased to welcome Sydney Martin to the leadership team as our newest Associate.

Sydney has been with ERA for nearly a decade as a heritage conservation specialist whose expertise in architectural history, historic construction techniques and materials, and material repair has been a tremendous and integral asset to our team. Her portfolio of work at ERA has included all stages of the project lifecycle, from assessment and evaluation to conservation strategy, development and implementation, interpretation, and long term management plans for significant projects, including the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, Maple Leaf Gardens, Osgoode Hall, and the Senate of Canada’s temporary new home, the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa.

Sydney is a member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) and is a graduate of the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, and of Fine Art History & Architecture at the University of Toronto.

We look forward to this new chapter and the exciting work ahead!

 

 

 

Toronto Set in Stone

A guest article by Brendan Stewart—Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph


Stone plays an outsized role in defining many of Toronto’s most beloved and well-used public spaces. Of course there is something singularly enchanting about the material itself, but as important is how it is arranged and put together — the artistry and craft that elevates the average to the exceptional.

Stone and stone work is something I’ve been thinking about more and more, starting with an article I wrote last year in Ground Magazine about dry stone walls, which has led to my involvement as a guest speaker at the upcoming Dry Stone Canada Festival on Amherst Island at the end of the month, and a talk next week at ERA with visiting Scottish stone artist David Wilson (RSVP here), which will explore ideas about the creative use of stone in public spaces.

In Toronto, a recent recurring theme is the importing and re-purposing of ancient precambrian boulders; carefully selected, removed and transported at great expense from northern Ontario’s Canadian shield wilderness, and strategically re-installed in vibrant downtown settings.

Ryerson Image Centre and Devonian Square (photo: Hoice, Wikimedia Commons).

Think of Devonian Square at Ryerson, created in 1978 by landscape architects Richard Strong and Steven Moorhead, which features artistic groupings of massive boulders scattered around the plaza, and is the setting for winter scenes of ice skaters whose silhouettes are dwarfed as they weave in and around the rock.

Then, there’s the giant granite outcropping that defines Village of Yorkville Park, created in the early 90s by US landscape architects Martha Schwartz, Ken Smith, David Meyer and PWP Landscape Architecture. An iconic landscape landmark to match any in Toronto, the experience of emerging from underground at Bay station to meet a friend for coffee on the warm rock is unique to Canadian urbanism.

Sugar Beach by Claude Cormier + Associés, opened in 2010, pays homage to the granite outcropping at Yorkville Park, but integrates playful white and red candy-cane stripes, referring to the active Red Path sugar factory that animates the dramatic, working waterfront views.

And finally, there is the newly opened Trillium Park, designed by lead landscape architects LandInc, which features the 83 metre long ‘Moraine Bluff’ — an artfully sculpted, complex wall of stone that was designed using an innovative combination of digital modelling and in the field craft. Laid out in full on the floor of a quarry in Dwight Ontario, the wall was then transported and re-constructed on the lakeshore at Ontario Place[1].

‘The Ravine with Moccasin Identifier’ Trillium Park (photo: Brendan Stewart).

‘The Ravine with Moccasin Identifier’ Trillium Park, details (photo: Brendan Stewart).

Moraine Bluff, Trillium Park (photo: Brendan Stewart).

These projects, all representing in one way or another the ancient and sublime landscapes of the near north, all go to extraordinary lengths logistically, technologically, and artistically to bring the sensual and intangible resonance of stone into the city to create powerful civic experiences.

Stone, of course, has been used in many other wonderful ways in Toronto’s public realm. From interpreting and commemorating the history of the Irish Famine migrants who landed in Toronto in 1847 at Kearns Mancini’s Ireland Park (2007), to defining tranquil academic courtyards such as the Quadrangle at University College, executed by landscape architect Michael Hough in the mid 1960s[2].

And before this, there is the rich legacy of carved stone, integrated into the great buildings of 19th and early 20th century Toronto, some of which remain in situ, and some of which can be explored, as salvaged and re-constructed artifacts in the unique Guild Park and Gardens at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs. This wonderful and curious place is described and explored in a 2016 article in Ornamentum by ERA alum Tatum Taylor here.

For more fascinating discussion on the topic of creative urban use of stone and placemaking, join us at ERA on Monday, September 24 with Scottish stone artist David Wilson (RSVP here).

 


[1] See ‘Romance of the Stone: When metaphor meets technology’ by Patrick Morello in Landscapes Paysages v.19, Winter 2017.

[2] See ‘Quiet, Green, and Orderly: The History of the UC Quadrangle’ by Jane Wolff

From Past to Page: Uncovering the Ward

An unidentified man on Centre Avenue, 1937 (City of Toronto Archives).

In 2015, ‘The Ward—The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood’ was published, documenting the area within Toronto known as St. John’s Ward (or simply “the Ward”), home to thousands of immigrants between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s. With little of the neighbourhood’s physical fabric remaining, The Ward had largely faded from public consciousness, but following the book’s release it quickly became a topic in public discourse with critical questions about how contemporary cities handle immigration, poverty, urban renewal, and the geography of difference.

At the time of that publication, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and a team of archaeologists had begun digging up a parking lot next to Toronto City Hall on Armoury Street, the site of the new Toronto court house, and uncovered an extraordinarily rich buried history, which provided new material for the editorial team to start compiling a follow-up volume.

The new anthology, ‘The Ward Uncovered—The Archaeology of Everyday Life’ was published in June of 2018, bringing an important urban history to life through the findings of one of North America’s largest urban archaeological digs to date.

Excavation site on Centre Avenue (photo: Holly Martelle).

Assorted glass bottles

A leather shoe and ceramic container.

With a range of essays and images, the latest book further explores the stories of The Ward’s buildings, institutions, communities, and individuals. It aims to inform readers about the history of this neighbourhood, and to provoke discussion about how the Ward’s past informs Toronto’s present and how and why places are determined to be historically valuable and consequently preserved as “heritage.” ERA Architects principal Michael McClelland and heritage planner Tatum Taylor co-edited the book alongside archaeologist Holly Martelle and Toronto journalist John Lorinc, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund. Nearly 30 contributing authors include journalists, politicians, historians, architects, urban planners, archaeologists, artists, and descendants of Ward residents.

Ultimately, the book continues a public conversation that began with the 2015 publication of ‘The Ward’—how history can be conserved and understood into the future. ‘The Ward Uncovered’ highlights the immense importance of urban archaeology in meeting this task, creating for us a tangible link to the past and reclaiming an historic account that accurately reflects the diversity of immigrant experiences in building the City of Toronto.

“The Armoury Street Block is municipally, provincially, and nationally significant on many levels. Representing the remains of most of a city block, the site provides a rare glimpse of a neighbourhood and its evolution over time, as revealed by building remains and objects left behind. Equally rare is the opportunity to visualize intimate details of the daily life of the working class and immigrant families who helped build the city. Descendant communities, researchers, and the public will benefit much from the story-telling and educational opportunities this work has afforded.”
—Holly Martelle, Project Archaeologist, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants)

‘The Ward Uncovered—The Archaeology of Everyday Life’ is the fourth in a series of books published by Coach House Books that Michael McClelland has co-edited. Each book has dealt with a specific role of heritage and architecture within the City of Toronto. The first was called ‘East West—a Guide to Where People Live in Downtown Toronto,’ and focused on the development of Toronto’s neighbourhoods. The second, ‘Concrete Toronto—a guide to concrete architecture from the fifties to the seventies,’ focused on the architecture of the recent past, and the third, ‘The Ward—the Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood,’ (eds. John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg, Tatum Taylor) looked at diversity, immigration, and urban renewal from an historical perspective. The intention of each book has been to highlight the need to continually re-evaluate our perceptions of heritage and cultural value in our urban environments.

In the same spirit of re-evaluating perceptions and understanding cultural heritage value, several Ward-related projects have grown from these books and have captured the city’s collective imagination: from the Mysuem’s walking tours, to an ongoing public exhibition of artifact displays at City Hall in partnership with IO and the City of Toronto, and even to a Ward Cabaret musical, created in collaboration with Juno Award winner David Buchbinder and performed to sold out audiences during Toronto’s 2018 Luminato Festival.

ERA-initiated series of books (CoachHouse Press).

Exhibit space at Toronto City Hall, curated and designed by ERA Architects, 2017.

The Ward Cabaret at Luminato, 2018.

“History is a verb. The passage of time is a constant. But what we seek to preserve from our past and what we choose to cast away has always been a selective process often informed by unexamined motives and biases.”
—Michael McClelland, The Ward (Co-Editor) & Principal, ERA Architects

Is there just one way to understand and interpret the histories of our city? How will we tell these stories into the future? How does a city remember? These collective projects each trace the past conditions of immigration and urban growth in Toronto in their own ways, promoting dialogue and understanding of neglected heritage landscapes. Once we are able to appreciate the history of marginalized areas such as the Ward, we can begin to reclaim an historic account that accurately reflects the diversity of experiences that have built the City of Toronto.

 

Creative Space & Urban Stone: Public Talk

Stone is the most fundamental material but over the last 50 years its creative use has declined in the public realm. Through a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship David F. Wilson aimed to discover how other creatives are exploring the space between tradition & current practice, travelling in the USA & Canada through the summer months of 2017.

Where problems exist, new opportunities open up. Using photos and examples, David’s talk will explore the findings of his North American tour, the challenges posed to creative stone craft through modern building practice, and innovative ways to keep stone craft alive in urban spaces.

Through the lens of his landscape architecture practice and university teaching, Brendan Stewart will respond to the report and extend the conversation, relating these findings, challenges and opportunities to urban spaces in Toronto and Canada.

Report here: https://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/creative-space-contemporary-use-stone-urban-spaces


A public talk by David F Wilson (UK) in conversation with Brendan Stewart (University of Guelph), co-hosted with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Canada (Dry Stone Canada).
REGISTER HERE VIA EVENTBRITE 

Doors at 6:30pm, Talk begins 7:00pm
625 Church Street, Toronto

3 minute walk from Bloor-Yonge Station (TTC)
Car and Bike Parking at the rear of building (Impark Parking)
This venue has elevator access and an accesible washroom

Reception to follow, generously sponsored by Jonathan Kearns, Founding Principal of Kearns Mancini Architects (B.ARCH., OAA, FRAIC, RIBA, FRIAI, AIBC, AANB, AAA) and Member Dry Stone Canada


David F. Wilson
Artist, Designer, Waller, Maker
Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow and author of Creative Space: Contemporary use of stone in urban spaces

David graduated in 1987 from Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee, with a Masters in Public Art & Design. Following a college art degree, he was inspired by a new trend for artists to work outside the traditional gallery system and decided to pursue a creative career in art for a wider public.

Flexibility has always been an asset in David’s practice when creating works in a public space. Every client & every different situation requires a unique design solution. Combining creativity with a playfulness of technique and form has always been at the heart of his process.

Two public projects that display this aspect well are the Edinburgh Airport Interchange and Livingston Landmarks. The latter was awarded the coveted Pinnacle Award from the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain.


Brendan Stewart
Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, University of Guelph; past Associate, ERA Architects, Toronto

Brendan Stewart received his BLA from Guelph, attended Edinburgh College of Art, and received an MLA from the University of California, Berkeley. Brendan’s research focuses on heritage conservation planning and design processes, cultural landscape theory, design history, service learning and participatory design practices.

Throughout his more than a decade of practice experience, Brendan has been actively engaged in the academic, professional, and community spheres. He has been a regular guest lecturer, critic, and instructor at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and the University of Waterloo, and was an editorial board member of Ground Magazine, the journal of the OALA.

In 2015, he was involved in organizing and participating in the ‘Leading with Landscape’ conference in Toronto, hosted by the Washington DC based Cultural Landscape Foundation, which was attended by over 400 landscape practitioners and scholars from around the world. He is a director of the Friends of Allan Gardens a not for profit organization with a mission to revitalize one of Toronto’s earliest designed landscapes. Starting in 2017, Brendan is the University of Guelph’s appointed educator to the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects governing council.

 

TALLINN–TORONTO: The Influence of Estonian Modernism in Shaping Toronto

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

This spring, the exhibition To The New World: Estonian Architects in Toronto launched at the Museum of Estonian Architecture (http://www.arhitektuurimuuseum.ee/en/). Following a smaller exhibition and symposium last fall hosted by Toronto’s Tartu College, the show explores the strong Estonian link in the creation of Toronto’s particular branch of modernism.

Exhibition and Symposium in fall of 2017 at Toronto’s Tartu College with ERA’s Graeme Stewart as presenter.

These exhibitions, and forthcoming book, are a result of years of research by Tallinn Architecture Centre archivist Jarmo Kauge. Following with curiosity the rise in cult status of Estonian-Canadian Uno Prii, whose large cannon of whimsically optimistic modernism have become local icons (and protected heritage properties), Jarmo began to explore the link between Estonian trained architects and the building of modern Toronto. Through a series of study tours, he quickly realized that the connection went well beyond Prii and that an entire generation of Estonian emigres practiced, taught, and transformed Toronto.

The opening of the exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture represents a milestone for the international exposure of modernism in Toronto as well as the transatlantic scholarship that affected architectural and planning practice in post-war Toronto. ERA is proud to have been a collaborator in these efforts and congratulates Jarmo for the tremendous work in making it a reality.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

Toronto in Estonian: Section of exhibition at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

For more on on Toronto’s Estonian modernism, the works of Prii and other Estonian Canadian architects feature strongly in both Concrete Toronto http://www.eraarch.ca/project/concrete-toronto/

(ERA / Coach House) and the Concrete Toronto Map https://bluecrowmedia.com/collections/architecture-maps/products/concrete-toronto-map (ERA / Bluecrow Media).

Also see an article by the Globe & Mail’s Dave LeBlanc published during the Toronto launch of the exhibition last fall.

ERA Has Moved to 625 Church Street

For two decades, we have called 10 St Mary Street our home, an eight storey modernist office building (1957) designed by the architects Mathers and Haldenby, whose offices were located on the 8th floor of the building. It seems fitting today as we say goodbye and start a new chapter in ERA’s story, that we’d share some of the history of this place that’s grown along with us all these years.

10 St Mary Street, in all its modernist glory, 1957. (Archives of Ontario)

The ground floor suite of 10 St. Mary Street, which faces both Yonge and St. Mary streets, was originally conceived as a retail space with a strong relationship to the public realm. Until recently, this suite has been occupied by a chain of fast food restaurants. The open volume at the base of the building has been partially enclosed as a restaurant terrace.

The original entry to 10 St Mary Street boasted exquisite mosaic tile work. (Archives of Ontario)

The Site sits on land originally owned by the Buchanan and Elmsley families in the early 19th century. In 1848 Captain John Elmsley donated part of his land to St. Michael’s College and St. Basil’s Church and began subdividing the property, naming local streets after his favourite saints. Many of the buildings that presently occupy the block bounded by Yonge, St. Mary, St. Nicholas and Charles streets were constructed during the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, following the extension of Charles Street (formerly Czar Street) westward from Yonge Street in the 1880s. As Yonge Street developed as a commercial strip, cross streets were often developed with row houses. The length of the block along Charles Street West up to the westward addition to 720 Yonge Street is occupied by a row of residential buildings constructed in 1891.

The Yonge Street properties (with the exception of the mid-century building at 10 St. Mary Street) represent the second generation of storefronts along the Yonge Street corridor, which was revitalized with increased commercial activity at the turn of the last century. These were constructed in 1909 as a parade of shops with similar detailing; The mid-block shopfront properties at 710-718 Yonge Street first appear on Fire Insurance Plans in 1912.

The portion of the Site at the corner of St. Mary and St. Nicholas Streets was originally residential, but primary source documents show automotive uses began in the early 20th century and continued until the 1940s. In the 1920s the Holden Vulcanizing Works and Johnson Motors Repair operated at 79 St. Nicholas Street. The Uptown Auto Body and Fender Repair Co. were replaced in the 1940s by General Auto Body and later Pep Boys Garage.

Coles Bookstore purchased the Barron properties in the 1940s, using the Yonge Street storefront for retail and the former stables on St. Nicholas for storage. The fine-grained Victorian buildings along the southern portion of the block were replaced in 1957 by the 8-storey office building at 10 St. Mary Street, designed by Mathers & Haldenby. In the latter half of the 20th century, the properties on St. Nicholas Street witnessed a string of tenants and a wide variety of uses, including furniture stores, art galleries, restaurants and discotheques.

The evolution of the block over the past century. (ERA Architects)

Our office will be closed on Friday, June 15, while we pack up and head just down the street to 625 Church Street, and we’ll be back to regular business on Monday, June 18.
OUR NEW ADDRESS IS: #600-625 Church St, Toronto ON, M4Y 2G1

ERA & CaGBC: Sustainable Development

Late last month, on Thursday April 26th, the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Green Building Council met for their annual Spring Open event. Hosted at the newly opened EY Tower downtown, the event included a series of rapid and informative presentations known as the event’s “Building Blitz” —highlighting the newest and most sustainable buildings in Southern Ontario.

ERA’s Shelley Ludman was invited to speak about the adaptive reuse of 158 Sterling Road, the new home of Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). We were honoured to present on the often overlooked importance of adaptive reuse as a strategy for a sustainable future.

Other presentations included: 

  • 80 Atlantic Avenue, Presented by Quadrangle
  • Zero House at the Endeavour Centre, Presented by Ryerson University, Department of Architectural Science
  • Kiln Building at Evergreen Brick Works, Presented by LGA Architectural Partners
  • University of Toronto – The Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Presented by Montgomery Sisam Architects Inc. 
  • York University Student Centre, Presented by CannonDesign

National Housing Strategy Forwards Tower Renewal

This month ERA Principal Graeme Stewart joined federal, provincial and municipal leaders at the launch of the first round of National Housing Strategy programs, kicking off a new era for housing in Canada.

As a major step in catalyzing Tower Renewal, the National Housing Co-Investment Fund’s ‘Repair and Renewal’ stream targets the repair of 240,000 units, with $2.26 billion in capital contributions and $3.46 billion in low-cost, long-term loans. This stream will help to catalyze Tower Renewal across the country, benefiting Canadians living in both public and privately-owned housing.

These programs represent significant investments toward the preservation of existing housing, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through retrofits, and the crucial maintenance of this stock’s affordability and ongoing social sustainability.

The Tower Renewal Partnership, a collaborative led by the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, welcomes these new programs and their potential to catalyse major shifts nation-wide toward the renewal of Canada’s aging housing stock. In the coming months, the TRP will continue to work with a broad cross-section of stakeholders — including residents, owners, industry, nonprofits, and governments — to demonstrate the potential of renewal projects to lead the way in envisioning healthy, secure, and affordable housing for all Canadians.

Concrete Toronto Map available now!

In partnership with Blue Crow Media, ERA is excited to present the Concrete Toronto Map, now available in stores and online.

A companion to Concrete Toronto, the map offers a guide to the City’s longstanding concrete architecture, showcasing a collection of over 40 well-known landmarks and smaller projects built from the 1950s to 1980s. The Map has been highlighted for its celebration of this mid-century building stock.

London-based Blue Crow Media,  specializes in architecture maps from around the world and has released maps from major cities such as Paris, London and New York. See more on the Toronto Concrete Map and others here.

Copies of the new Concrete Toronto map are now available at the U of T Bookstore “Toronto” section, near the concrete buildings on campus, and Spacing Magazine.

Concrete Toronto is available from Coach House books at https://chbooks.com/Books/C/Concrete-Toronto

Government Conference Centre: Progress on Heritage Interiors

The heritage interiors and finishes are coming to life at the Government Conference Centre (GCC) in Ottawa. Since the new year, the scaffolding has come down in the General Waiting Room (GWR, as shown here), revealing the rehabilitated suspended ceiling in its entirety and the recently painted imitation travertine wall finishes.

The GWR is an elaborate and significant interior space, part of the formal processional route bringing visitors through the building to some of its grandest interiors. As a visitor enters through the Rideau Entrance Lobby, down the grand stair, they find themselves here: viewing the building’s Beaux-Arts features evident in its monumental use of classical forms such as the columns, entablatures, pilasters, arches and vaults.

The GCC Rehabilitation Project is transforming the former Ottawa Union Station into an Interim Senate Facility for ten years, after which it will revert back to its role as the GCC. The rehabilitation aims to reveal the historical elements of the building that were concealed over time, such as its theatrical qualities and rich palette of materials.

ERA Architects is working as the heritage architects with Diamond Schmitt/KWC Architects in Joint Venture.

Photos courtesy of ERA Architects.

Our Expanding Leadership Team

As ERA continues to grow and evolve, ERA’s executive and associate team is thrilled to announce the appointment of seven new associates: Alexis Cohen, Dan Eylon, Samantha Irvine, Shelley Ludman, Jordan Molnar, Annie Pelletier, and Janice Quieta.

We’re very pleased to recognize the leadership of these new associates and their commitment to ERA’s core values. We also appreciate the energy they bring to their work, their individual perspectives on city-building and cultural planning, and the professional expertise they offer our clients and their colleagues at ERA.

Congratulations to all!

 

Alexis Cohen is trained as an architectural historian and brings her research background to a range of heritage planning projects at ERA. She works collaboratively with complex project teams using historical research and analysis to inform the conservation of evolving urban environments.

 

Annie Pelletier possesses nearly a decade of work experience on projects between New York and Toronto, managing project types from residential to institutional, on a mixture of new-build, adaptive re-use, extensions and conservation work.

 

Dan Eylon collaborates with differing levels of government, engaging in a broad range of conservation and planning projects. He is driven to make a meaningful contribution to the quality of urban development and heritage resource management.

 

Janice Quieta has studied and worked in Toronto, Halifax, Dusseldorf, and Koln and participated in a number of national and international design competitions in Canada and Germany. She is interested in sustainable technology at the intersection of new and existing materials.

 

Jordan Molnar’s project experience is both broad and deep, including heritage conservation, adaptive-reuse, and renovations/additions. He compliments his architecture portfolio with interests in small community development through Culture of Outports and Small, participating in community feasibility studies, community workshops and design-build projects.

 

Samantha Irvine oversees projects that impact culturally significant buildings, neighbourhoods and landscapes. She is committed to creating opportunities for historic buildings to enrich urban life. Her perspective is informed by the uncommon combination of a legal background and experience in both heritage conservation and community planning.

 

Shelley Ludman has been involved in significant conservation and adaptive re-use projects within the cities of Montreal and Toronto, including additions to existing heritage designated properties, drawing inspiration from existing buildings and their surrounding context.

Kensington Market Lofts Presents a Gateway of Colour to the Neighbourhood

The scaffolding has finally come down to reveal the brilliant collection of 17 colours featured on the east façade of the Kensington Market Lofts building, a public art piece created by notable local artist and area resident An Te Lui! Inspired by the culturally-diverse public realm in which it is located, it as a gateway to the neighbourhood.

Located at 160 Baldwin Street, the Kensington Market Lofts was built in 1952 by George Brown College to house their technical school, was and attached to an older red brick school building dating from 1923. The new addition was clad in glazed yellow terra-cotta blocks, which over time had begun to allow water to infiltrate its steel support structure. ERA has worked with the condo board on a long-term multi-stage revitalization of the buildings, including interior finish upgrades and wayfinding, as well as developing an extensive program of façade remediation.

It was determined that the east façade was at particular risk of future infiltration, and that a robust over cladding strategy would be required to protect the steel structure once remediated. Simultaneously the remaining terracotta blocks could be salvaged for use in preserving the original features of the building on the remaining facades. In addition to its functional necessity, ERA and the condo board viewed the proposed over cladding as a unique opportunity for the building to contribute to the public realm, and asked An Te Liu to develop a pattern that could speak to the building’s important context within Kensington Market.

An Te Liu’s concept for the colour configuration was based a pattern depicting the neighbourhood’s historic diversity, the distribution of the colours being drawn from an analysis of the percentage of those present in the world’s national flags. The significance of the approach is that the material sits comfortably within its bohemian context as it complements the existing vibrant-coloured awnings, shops and graffiti that energize the streetscape. The project faces one of Toronto’s most important thoroughfares, providing a landmark that will invite people into the market at one of its primary entrances. It is a physical manifestation and embodiment of the eclectic spirit and energy of the market.

Congratulations to ERA’s project team: Graeme Stewart, Max Berg, and Leah Gibling!

To access the recent Globe and mail article on this project by David LeBlanc, click here.
To access recent CODAmagazine coverage on this project, click here.

Images by An Te Liu and Vik Pahwa.

Tower Renewal in 2017

The Tower Renewal strategy has had significant impact over the past year. Across all levels of government, there is a growing consensus: Tower Renewal can have a scalable impact nation-wide as a means to meet climate change, affordable housing, poverty reduction, smart growth, and economic development objectives. Some highlights include:

1. Announcement of $15.9B Co-Investment Fund, committing to the rehabilitation of 240,000 units of existing affordable housing as part of Canada’s landmark National Housing Strategy.

2. $350M allocated towards apartment retrofit through Ontario’s Social Housing Apartment Retrofit Program (SHARP) and Social Housing Apartment Improvement Program (SHAIP) with the first round of projects underway.

3. Release of Transform TO, a strategy adopted by Toronto City Council that will require every multi-unit residential building (MURB) to undergo deep energy retrofit by 2050.

4. Intermunicipal Working Group convened with representatives from Ontario’s four largest cities: Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga and Ottawa working toward a collaborative Tower Renewal framework. 

5. Provincial collaboration toward Tower Renewal action. Initiated in 2017, five provincial ministries are coordinating to tackle the question of enabling Tower Renewal in Ontario through housing rehabilitation and neighbourhood growth planning.

6. The Tower Renewal Action Forum brought together international experts and local city-builders to explore innovative strategies for transitioning aging tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities with welcome remarks from Mayor of Toronto,  John Tory and the Minister of Housing, Peter Milczyn.

7. 500 tower sites in the City of Toronto rezoned through the launch of the RAC Zone, removing barriers to Complete Community objectives being met on tower sites. CUG+R, the Tower and Neighbourhood Revitalization UnitUnited Way Toronto and York Region, and Toronto Public Health won the 2017 OPPI Excellence in Planning Award for the implementation of this work.

8. New primary research underway towards a comprehensive Tower Renewal framework: Retrofit Finance Analysis for a nation-wide retrofit program prepared by the Tower Renewal Partnership and the National Housing Collaborative, and a study on Housing Quality and Standards prepared by CUG+R and Transsolar in partnership with Maytree identifying standards to ensure healthy, safe, and resilient retrofits.

9. University Research Network established, harnessing applied graduate student research on Tower Renewal at five academic institutions across Ontario.

10. Unit Retrofit Challenge initiated, creating a prototype to engage owners and industry in research, development, monitoring, and verification of local best practices on a single-unit basis.

In 2018, work continues by a diverse set of partners to continue to enable Tower Renewal and the Tower Renewal Partnership continues to be a catalyst for this progress through ongoing research, policy advocacy, and action.