We are happy to announce the release of The Signs That Define Toronto. Published and produced with Spacing, ERA partner Philip Evans and architect Kurt Kraler team up with Spacing’s Matthew Blackett and 20 contributors to reveal the history, culture, and stories of the city through its unique signage. The book is packed full of gorgeous historic and vintage photography and is accompanied by thoughtful essays on the social and cultural value of the city’s signage.Continue reading…
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.
Having access to unique and highly specific books about neighbourhoods, cities, and architecture is a vital aspect of the culture of ERA. Periodically, we will pull books off the shelves of ERA’s library to reveal some of the charming and forgotten publications that shed light on local history.Continue reading…
ERA Architects is proud to announce our firm’s three new principals and the latest staff promotions and hirings. ERA is committed to connecting heritage to wider considerations of urban design and city building, while providing our staff with opportunities to grow their professional careers.
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…
ERA is thrilled to announce that Graeme Stewart and Ya’el Santopinto have been named to the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC)’s College of Fellows. This well-deserved honour is in recognition of outstanding achievement in architecture, and distinguished service to the profession and community. Continue reading…
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy Jesse Colin Jackson
Over time, Canada’s aging mid-century towers have become the backbone of the country’s affordable rental supply, home to hundreds of thousands of low and middle-income households across the country.
There are 2,000 postwar apartment towers located throughout Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe Region alone, representing nearly half of the region’s affordable rental stock. In 2006, more than 40 per cent of tower households in the city are considered low-income, up from 25 per cent in 1981. As the housing crisis continues to mount, it’s only imaginable that this number continues to rise. Maintaining these largely privately-owned buildings to ensure their continued affordability is a vital and necessary part of improving Toronto’s housing ecosystem.
ERA’s Tower Renewal projects focus on rehabilitating these aging and neglected towers, creating comfortable, affordable and healthy homes for residents. These tower renewal projects also include energy-efficient and low-carbon retrofits that help maintain affordability while limiting the impact on the environment.
Through the Tower Renewal Partnership, ERA collaborated with the City of Toronto and ULI Toronto to host a week of events focused on exploring how we can better retrofit our apartment towers in order to create a more resilient city.
The week culminated with an Advisory Panel on Friday, February 28, where experts focused on solutions, providing a series of recommendations to the City to encourage broad investment in the improvement of private apartment towers while maintaining rents at affordable levels.
The recommendations emphasized the importance of acting swiftly when it comes to retrofitting these towers. They include: incentivizing higher levels of affordability and accessibility, accelerating tower renewal with a retrofit program and more. Watch the presentation below, and for the full list of recommendations, visit the Tower Renewal Partnership website.
These conversations could not have been held at a more critical time. This week, residents began to return home to their building at 650 Parliament Street following an August 2018 electrical fire.
The displacement of the building’s more than 1,500 residents paints a clear picture of the potential future of some of our towers if they are not upgraded to ensure they remain safe and affordable for Torontonians. ERA principal Graeme Stewart was interviewed on CBC Radio’s The World at Six about Tower Renewal and 650 Parliament.
Cultural heritage is influenced and shaped by communities and their histories. In Toronto, this means much of the city’s cultural heritage is impacted by the multitudes of different communities that call it home.
One theatrical production is giving this cultural heritage a sound. The Ward Cabaret is back in Toronto after a sold-out run at last year’s Luminato Festival.
Presented by Juno-winning, Grammy-nominated musician and producer David Buchbinder, the first full production of this experience brings together musical influences and sounds from around the globe with a distinctly Toronto twist as it reimagines the vibrant music and stories of a community that was the first home for many Canadians.
St John’s Ward, bordered by Yonge to the east, University to the west, Queen to south, and College to the north, was Toronto’s earliest significant immigrant enclave, from the late 19th to the mid 20th century. With Jewish, Irish, Italian, Chinese, African, and a number of other cultures living side by side in great density, the Ward has incredibly rich cultural stories for Toronto.
Many of these overlooked stories are captured in the books The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood and The Ward Uncovered: The Archaeology of Everyday Life – both edited by ERA’s Michael McClelland — which served as inspiration for The Ward Cabaret.
The Ward Cabaret is a creative reimagining of how it would have sounded to walk the streets of this historic neighbourhood, with songs and melodies from communities around the world intermingling and influencing one another.
ERA is thrilled to be involved with such an amazing production that depicts life in one of Toronto’s first cross-cultural communities. The Ward Cabaret is running December 12-23 at the Harbourfront Centre. Get your tickets on the Harbourfront Centre’s website or find out more at wardcabaret.com. Bonus offer: Buy one ticket, get another free when you use the code WeAreTheWard241. Active until December 6.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 state–of–the–art affordable housing is at the heart of the Hamilton’s growing West Harbour neighbourhood.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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
Just a few steps northwest of Toronto’s city hall is a quiet, empty plot of land and a former parking lot that will soon be the home of the new Toronto courthouse. But long before this site was just a place to park, it was a bustling part of St John’s Ward (The Ward), an area where newcomers to Toronto established themselves for over a century. In 2015, Infrastructure Ontario (IO), on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General, led a complex excavation and archaeological dig of the new Toronto courthouse site which revealed tens of thousands of artifacts from The Ward, providing an unprecedented level of insight into Toronto’s early multicultural history. 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 Architects is no stranger to the histories related to The Ward—Michael McClelland and Tatum Taylor helped to literally write the book. As heritage professionals and editors of ‘The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood’ (Coach House Books, 2015), they were well positioned to approach the exhibition project with a comprehensive understanding of the site context along with the ability to provide powerful interpretations for the subjects reflected by the artifacts. ERA has been pleased to offer our 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 first of many planned exhibit installations was officially opened in February 2017 with the Mayor’s Reception for Black History Month and featured stories and important artifacts focused on Black History in The Ward, including the foundation stones of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, and a rare Black doll’s head.
We are excited to announce the latest installation of the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ series of exhibits at City Hall has opened this past week. This latest installation focuses on ‘Work in the Ward,’ showing that with the rapid industrialization of the late 19th century, manufacturing moved from homes to factories. In The Ward, this industrial and social shift can be seen clearly, with factories steadily replacing houses between 1895 and 1950. The exhibit is open now and 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 spring of 2018.
In the west exhibit cases, artifacts from the ‘Armoury Street Dig’ highlight two 19th-century household industries that were prevalent on the site: shoemaking and tailoring. The excavation site includes one of the largest archaeological collections of 19th and early 20th-century shoes ever unearthed in Canada, most too fragile to display but documented by photographs and reproduction tools. Other artifacts on display include tools commonly used by tailors and seamstresses in the period: straight pins, buttons made of ceramic and glass, thimbles, wooden spools, and bodkins.
In the east exhibit cases, industry in factories is examined through narratives that range from small-scale family operations such as the Edward Lye and Sons Church Organ Builders which operated first out of their home, to the large-scale T. Eaton Co. Tent and Awning Factory on Chestnut Street. On display are two moulds used in mass production: one small drawer handle mould, likely used in furniture manufacturing on the site, and a large rubber hat mould used to form men’s brimmed felt hats from the Fashion Hat & Cap Company, which occupied the former Eaton’s factory on Chestnut Street from the 1940s to the 1960s.
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 spring of 2018.
Infrastructure Ontario is creating an online archive of past exhibit displays available at infrastructureontario.ca/armourystreetdig
Link to the Toronto Star’s coverage: https://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2018/01/11/new-exhibit-sheds-light-on-torontos-early-immigrant-entrepreneurship.html
Post by guest writer Carl Shura.
All photos courtesy of ERA Architects and TMHC.
As ERA continues to grow and evolve, the Executives and Associates are very pleased to appoint Ya’el Santopinto to our leadership team. Ya’el has demonstrated commitment to our core values of city building, rehabilitation of heritage buildings, and democratic community design, and has used these values to help the firm expand into new areas.
Ya’el is a registered Architect at ERA who specializes in affordable and energy-efficient housing, international housing policy and regulation, and the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings. Ya’el is also the Director of Research and Partnerships with the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, leading work on Tower Renewal — an initiative to catalyze reinvestment and community building in apartment tower neighbourhoods. Her work includes research, advocacy, and implementation of best-in-class practices in energy retrofit, affordable housing and planning policy, green financing, and social inclusion.
We look forward to this new chapter and the exciting work ahead!
Canada faces a growing housing affordability crisis. Now is the time for coordinated action to build a future around more complete, resilient, and affordable cities – and Tower Renewal is a strategy for realizing this change.
Postwar apartment towers are the backbone of Canada’s purpose-built rental stock, and provide affordable housing to millions of Canadians. On October 5th, 2017, international experts and local city-builders came together to explore innovative strategies for transitioning these aging apartment tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities.
The Tower Renewal Action Forum showcased exemplary practices at home and abroad, focused on housing transformation, neighbourhood resilience, and the maintenance of affordability in our apartment tower neighbourhoods.
The Tower Renewal Action Forum took place on Thursday, October 5th at the Evergreen Brick Works. For more information, including the event speakers and program, please visit: http://towerrenewal.com/initiatives/tower-renewal-action-forum-2017/
To learn more about the Tower Renewal Partnership, please visit: http://towerrenewal.com/about-us/
Toronto the Good is back, ushering in a new season at a new venue! It is an annual party presented by ERA Architects (and friends) to celebrate the city of Toronto, and contemplate its history and evolution with fellow architects, designers, and urban-minded people.
For this instalment of our annual party we are supporting the initiatives of the Tower Renewal Partnership, an initiative working to preserve and enhance mid-century apartment tower neighbourhoods through research, advocacy and demonstration. International experts and local city-builders will be meeting at a symposium during the day to explore innovative strategies for transitioning these aging apartment tower neighbourhoods to meet the demands of our 21st century cities. Now is the time for coordinated action to build a future around more complete, resilient, and affordable cities. Tower Renewal is a strategy for realizing this change.
We hope you will join us at the Evergreen Brick Works on October 5th, 2017, in celebration of the Tower Renewal Partnership’s accomplishments at this year’s event. Join us for hors d’ourves, cash bar, and a lively crowd of people passionate about design and civic engagement in Toronto.
Admission is free, but registration is required for entry into the party.
Join us at 5:30pm for a keynote by author and journalist Doug Saunders.
Shuttle buses will be running between Broadview Station and the Evergreen Brick Works throughout the duration of the event.
When: Thursday, October 5th, 2017, 6:00 – 10:00pm.
Where: Evergreen Brick Works
Register here through Eventbrite.
Click here for more information on the Tower Renewal Partnership and its work.