ERA Architects
Top of the MOCA building from the exterior.

MOCA Toronto

A landmark in Toronto’s industrial Junction neighbourhood, the Tower Automotive Building was designed by architect John W. Woodman in collaboration with C.A.P Turner. Completed in 1920, the Sterling Road building is an early example of flat slab construction in Toronto, with ‘mushroom’ columns, whose distinct appearance are integral to both the design of the building and its structural system.

MOCA building "mushroom" columns

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

Like many buildings in Toronto’s Lower Junction neighbourhood, the Tower Automotive Building has an industrial past, functioning as an aluminum foundry and manufacturing plant, later subsumed by Tower Automotive before finally closing its doors in 2006.

Once vacant, the building condition quickly began to erode. But even so, it remained a significant feature in the neighbourhood. It became a place for photographers to document its deterioration, a canvas for graffiti artists, and a gallery for temporary installations.

In 2015, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Toronto announced that it would be relocating to the Tower Automotive Building as part of a larger proposed development anticipated to include a mix of residential, office and open green space.

MOCA building from the exterior

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

As Heritage Consultants, ERA led the restoration work of the building’s exterior, balancing the needs of the museum tenant with the building’s heritage attributes. ERA’s scope included specifying new thermal windows to match the original historic industrial profiles, refurbishing the ground floor wood bi-fold loading doors, and extensive masonry repairs.

In collaboration with lead architects architectsAlliance, ERA worked to ensure that all new interventions would be complementary and sympathetic to the building’s original use and character. This included the retention and highlighting of the mushroom columns and the interpretation of the single storey shed buildings that originally abutted the building’s west elevation.

MOCA and the surrounding Junction neighbourhood.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

The iconic, towering landmark has been brought back to life through collaboration, care and consideration. The restoration and adaptive reuse of 158 Sterling Road allows MOCA Toronto to occupy multiple storeys of the building, while paying homage to Toronto’s industrial past in the Lower Junction Neighbourhood. MOCA’s presence in this growing mixed-use community will contribute to the expansion of downtown Toronto’s collection of galleries, artists, and vibrant creative and cultural spaces.

Learn more about MOCA Toronto on the museum’s website.