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ERA Architects


Evergreen Brick Works

View of the Commons area with new landscaping
Brickworks before renovation with pile of building debris in foreground
a ravine terrace with elevated walkway and pond
Inside abuilding with the roof removed and scaffolding exposed
The lobby of Brickworks
large event space at Centre for Green Cities
View of the kilns area before demolition
View of doors to the kilns area before demolition
View of the kilns area before demolition
View of the Commons area with new landscaping
View of people looking at art installation in Commons area

Evergreen Brick Works

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Founded in 1889, the Don Valley Brick Works became one of the largest and most significant brick manufacturers in Canada, relying on locally extracted clay, shale, and sand. Many of Toronto’s landmark masonry buildings, such as Massey Hall, Old City Hall, Casa Loma, and the Royal Ontario Museum, were constructed with Don Valley’s award-winning bricks. In 1989, after one hundred years of operation, the Brick Works closed.

The Evergreen Brick Works project transformed these under-used and deteriorating buildings into an education centre offering programmes based on themes of nature, environmental sustainability, culture, and community. The facility builds on the work of the City of Toronto and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the site owners, who converted its quarry into a large park. This collaborative project elucidates the deep relationships between heritage conservation and sustainability, an increasingly important dimension of ERA’s practice.

ERA’s ongoing stewardship of the Brick Works site includes:

  • A master plan, produced in collaboration with Evergreen and architectsAlliance, creating a framework philosophy of “light touch” and “loose fit”. This framework conserved the heritage fabric as “embodied energy” and intervened only when necessary to make the site safer and ready to be used.
  • Minor interventions such as selective repairs to masonry, woodwork, and rooves; stabilizations and repairs to foundations and trusses; installation of water management features such as new flashing and rainwater leaders.
  • Site-wide collaborations with Diamond Schmidt, DuToit Alsopp Hillier (DTAH), and Claude Cormier to unite heritage conservation and sustainable reuse, including the renovation of Building 12 with energy-efficient envelope, green roof technology, and solar chimneys that draw heat from the building in summer.
  • Adaptive reuse of Building 16, as a national hub of collaboration spaces, learning centres, and exhibit galleries. The intention is to develop a low-carbon, high-efficiency venue, demonstrating sustainable place-making at its best. Read more about this aspect of the project.
  • Implementation of a system of ponds and bio-swales that provide water for site irrigation, washrooms, and cooling technology.
  • An interpretation plan for on-site and online educational resources, exhibits, and content, bringing together concepts of geology, history, industry, community, and sustainability.
City of Toronto and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority


  • Congress for New Urbanism: Charter Award, 2013
  • Toronto Urban Design Awards: Award of Excellence for “Large Places or Neighbourhood Designs”, 2013

Related Projects

The Distillery District Cityscape Development Corporation & Dundee Realty