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…
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…
If you look closely enough, you’ll notice that every neighbourhood has its own unique colour palette, which helps define its character. Some are strictly uniform and monochromatic, while others are a wildly chaotic patchwork of distinct colours. Many of these shades and swatches stem from the materials used in a neighbourhood’s construction throughout the years. These material sources, over time, create a palimpsest which speaks to the local history. Continue reading…
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…
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…
Ontario’s smaller municipalities are facing a transformation. Many are making the transition from resource-based to diverse, creative economies, fuelled by population growth and an increase in local tourism in Ontario. As these municipalities look to prepare for growth, many farmstead owners are left with swaths of land ripe for adaptive reuse to add to the local economy and fill a community need.
ERA has had the opportunity to work closely with a number of these farmsteads and their owners in recent years. These property owners are looking for innovative adaptive reuse opportunities to help catalyze their local cultural economy by leveraging their heritage asset.
ERA engages with these projects using the framework of the Historic Ontario Farmstead. The Historic Ontario Farmstead typology helps us understand the distinct built and landscape features that characterize a farmstead – what are the visual cues that make a property legible as a farmstead? Do these features contribute to a broader agricultural landscape context? With a baseline understanding of these typological features, we ensure that their conservation or interpretation is top of mind throughout our project work.
ERA Associate Shelley Ludman (OAA OAQ) recently presented at the 2020 APT/National Trust conference on this theme. She spoke about three case studies, where ERA worked with local partners to re-imagine the uses of farmstead sites, relying on the Ontario farmstead typology. Two of these case studies are highlighted here.
Originally established as a hops farm in 2011, the owners expanded their offering in 2017, announcing that they would be opening a brewery on site. This decision was instigated by a local tourism boom, Caledon’s population growth, and a desire to encourage people to get outside and engage with agricultural sites in their vicinity. ERA worked with the owners to renovate one of the barns on their property, converting the vacant building into a brewing facility. Given the barn’s proximity to the road, most of the alterations were limited to the building’s interior, ensuring that it remained legible as a barn from the public realm.
In 2017, ERA was approached by Cambium Farms [link] to upgrade an 1873 barn facility, as the owners wanted to push their site’s potential beyond a seasonal single use. In order to serve a larger market, and draw a variety of users, they needed to upgrade a few key aspects of the site.
ERA considered how we could achieve the programmatic upgrades required while conserving and capitalizing on the cultural heritage value of the existing farmstead configuration. Two contemporary additions were built to accommodate washrooms, a prep kitchen and a formal entry for the lower level and designed with reference to the forms and materiality of farmstead outbuildings. We also worked with the owners to upgrade the bank barn’s lower level, previously used as storage, to create usable space during winter months. The renovated lower level now operates year-round, and the open floor plan facilitates programs such as yoga classes, pop-up dinners with local chefs, intimate concerts, and winter weddings.
These two case studies demonstrate how sensitive adaptive reuse projects can create opportunities for farmstead owners to contribute to an emerging rural cultural economy, while capitalizing on their sites’ historic value and character.
Conservation is a worldwide industry, one rooted in collaboration and shared learning. It’s vital we continue to share our expertise with one another, learning new innovations, techniques and approaches.
ERA is thrilled to continue to be involved in these important conversations. The newly released Heritage Conservation in Hong Kong: A Technical Guidebook was developed in conjunction with training workshops that took place over a year-long period by Hong Kong Institute of Architectural Conservationists (HKICON), which were developed and lead in part by ERA principal Andrew Pruss.
The end result of these workshops is the resulting guidebook that looks to further the conservation industry in Hong Kong, serving as a module for site owners, architects, contractors and students. It looks to support Hong Kong’s heritage community through increased collaboration, and knowledge about heritage sites and conservation best practices. Subjects in the guidebook range from the history of heritage conservation, accessibility for heritage places to repair and maintenance of building materials.
Congratulations to Andrew, as well as the ERA staff who developed, wrote and edited this guidebook: Diana Roldan, Noah McGillivray, Adam Krop, Ray Lister, Aly Bousfield, Jordan Molnar and graphic designer Carl Shura.
The guidebook is available for all to download. Visit the HKICON website for more.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
 See ‘Romance of the Stone: When metaphor meets technology’ by Patrick Morello in Landscapes Paysages v.19, Winter 2017.
 See ‘Quiet, Green, and Orderly: The History of the UC Quadrangle’ by Jane Wolff
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.
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.
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.
For more on on Toronto’s Estonian modernism, the works of Prii and other Estonian Canadian architects feature strongly in both Concrete Toronto https://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.
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
At ERA we thrive on finding new uses for existing buildings and integrating the heritage fabric of our city into contemporary designs. One of the ways we approach conservation of existing fabric is through modifications to buildings and cultural landscapes that enable all users to enjoy our shared heritage. Many heritage structures are not barrier-free by today’s standards: the main entrances often are only accessible by stairs, they have heavy doors without automatic operators, the washrooms don’t accommodate wheelchair users, the stairs don’t have the tactile and colour-contrasting nosing that aid users with low-vision in navigating them.
Improving upon our heritage fabric to create a more accessible environment requires a careful and sensitive approach. Whereas a barrier-free approach to a new building design is integrated from the very beginning, a barrier-free retrofit requires considering the impact of the alterations on the historical features of the building: How can we position a new entrance ramp to minimize its visual impact? How can we modify existing doors to accommodate power door operators without damaging the existing fabric? How can we renovate an existing washroom to allow for universal access? What materials can we use to provide tactile and colour-contrasting nosing without negatively impacting a historical wood stair?
Two of our most recent projects in downtown Toronto feature smart designs that integrate barrier-free features into the existing fabric of heritage structures: the Sultan Street Development and 330 University Avenue.
The Sultan Street Development features the integration of a row of red brick Romanesque houses with a new office tower development designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA). As the original entries to the heritage houses featured a series of steps up to the doors, they impeded the possibility for barrier-free access from the street. ERA proposed a simple modification to the entrances which lowered the doors to street level and enabled barrier-free access without the need for a ramp or elevating device.
At 330 University Avenue (also known as the Canada Life Building), ERA took a different approach to providing barrier-free access. In this case, the existing steps to this Beaux Arts building were maintained and a ramp was designed to allow barrier-free entry through one of the three main doors off University. In addition, the original bronze and glass doors were equipped with power door operators to ensure a fully barrier-free path of travel to the public lobby.
Post by guest writer Max Yuristy.
All photos courtesy of ERA Architects.
Crazy Dames Share their Innovative Approach to Community Engagement and Design Development
Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs and a desire to use the artist’s studio as a site for fostering creative engagement, Jennie Suddick, and Sara Udow founded Crazy Dames. Their focus is on enhancing the user experience of urban spaces, empowering communities to drive the change they desire through ‘tactical and collaborative approaches’ to city-building. Crazy Dames utilize unconventional, yet playful methods from which innovative ideas evolve.
Their portfolio includes activities as diverse as building a blanket fort as part of a residency at the Gardiner Museum, entitled ‘We Built This City’. There they programmed events over the course of two weeks in the summer of 2016, including workshops, artist-led ‘walkshop’ walking tours, a collaborative art project, and closing event and panel discussion. The pair have also found attentive audiences through public engagement projects at the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre, and Create Your Path initiative.
In each case, they strive to create an experience that will bring broad communities together, break down barriers, and ignite their imaginations to ultimately express their thoughts/feelings about the city they live in, generating ideas for change. At the end of the day, it’s about talking to people, listening to divergent perspectives, and encouraging long-term community involvement and ownership.
Fast forward to August 2018, Jennie and Sara have been invited to participate in a residency in Valletta, Malta, European Capital of Culture. They have also recently been chosen as Varley Art Gallery’s inaugural Community Artists in Residence. This residency will run in 2018 in Markham, ON.
ERA was delighted to host them for an interactive presentation on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018, when they shared an informative slide presentation. Not wanting to rest solely on traditional methods however, they invited staff to get out of their seats, split into two groups and create a 3D drawing using balls of black yarn. The objective of the exercise was to define the space we were in, how it’s used and how it has evolved. The teams discussed various perspectives before creating two intricate webs. The communication and designs that resulted made for an interesting collaborative experience.
For more information visit: http://www.crazydames.com/
U of T News article: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/these-crazy-dames-want-us-rethink-way-we-engage-city
All photographs courtesy of Crazy Dames.
On December 13th, NXT City visited ERA to engage staff as part of our Wednesday Morning Forum ‘Spark Sessions’, a series of talks presented at ERA’s office by people and organizations who are at the forefront of their respective practices, and pushing the boundaries of design, policy and development in our city.
NXT City is a not-for-profit organization that unites the desire of emerging leaders to make a difference with city builders looking for innovative ideas to program and develop public space. It was established in 2013 by founders Christine Caruso, Mackenzie Keast and Justin Leclair, who have since garnered much attention for their exciting initiatives, such as an annual NXT City Prize, public space symposium, quarterly talks and secret warehouse parties.
In the early days, the team identified a gap in opportunities for Toronto’s current and future city-builders to assemble, in order to network, strengthen partnerships, and synergize ideas. As a result, they devised a strategy to connect various stakeholders whom they admire (Jennifer Keesmat was an early supporter), programming approachable, exciting events that draw people together to brainstorm on methods of reshaping the city in delightful, unexpected ways.
The various platforms compliment and reinforce their objective: the NXT City Prize was initiated as an opportunity to encourage and reward thought leadership on relevant topics. Teams are invited to submit proposals for jury review based solely on the quality of the idea. The NXT City Symposium promotes itself as ‘public space on a global stage’, offering up discussions on civic innovation and ideas by industry leaders challenging the boundaries and limitations of public space. The mix of speakers is a potential tension-builder, arranged as a counter-point to create a more meaningful dialogue. The NXT City Talks are small-scale panels with a ‘how to’ approach to project development. The secret warehouse parties offer an opportunity for the community at large to connect and celebrate all that is exciting and ground-breaking in the Toronto region and beyond.
To gain more insight on NXT City visit: https://nxtcity.ca/
Photos courtesy of Nicky Brunn-Meyer
How does one breathe new life into a building that was once grand but has since ‘lost its lustre’?
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario NextGen designers have put out a public call for ideas that will transform Toronto’s landmark bus terminal on Bay Street, culminating in an all-day on-site event on Saturday, November 11th.
The building was designed by architect Charles B. Dolphin, widely known for designing the Consumers Gas building (at 2532 Yonge St. Building), 1931; the Postal Delivery Building, now forming part of the Air Canada Centre (at 50 Bay St), 1941; and TTC Headquarters (1900 Yonge St), 1958. The architectural style is a classic example of Art Deco/Art Moderne, containing notable interior elements for the period, such as Scagliola plaster, streamline staircase, layout and prominent central skylight.
It opened to the public in 1931 for the purposes of serving the customers of the Gray Coach bus line (in operation from 1927-1991). Service providers changed hands after many years of operation. The terminal underwent one major renovation in 1984 to alter the bus bays and a second minor renovation in 1990 to increase the seating capacity of the passenger room. The terminal may potentially be declared surplus, with the development of new bus terminal at 45 Bay Street.
ERA’s Tatum Taylor toured the group through the building and The Ward to provide context for the day. ERA Principal Scott Weir delivered a talk on the building’s architecture and history, followed by an introduction to examples of adaptive reuse projects, such as Loblaws Warehouse, Postal Station K, Massey Tower, Maple Leaf Gardens, Casey House and the Carlu. The event is timely, as talks have been underway at the municipal government level for months, to determine the future of the site. Change is in the air, and possibilities for conserving the building as a landmark destination for both heritage architectural lovers and community dwellers alike abound.
As Scott is quoted as saying, ‘Now is the perfect time to start dreaming….’
Link to Toronto Star article: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/09/bay-dundas-bus-terminal-looks-to-recapture-its-sense-of-grandeur.html
Link to NOW magazine article: https://nowtoronto.com/news/toronto-coach-terminal-could-use-some-inspired-ideas/
Photo of original Bus Coach Terminal interior courtesy of City of Toronto Archives.
Photos of current Bus Coach Terminal interior and ACO tour courtesy of ERA Architects.
Dignitaries from the city and province flocked to the grounds surrounding Casey House on a beautiful autumn morning to celebrate the reopening of Canada’s only stand-alone hospital dedicated to those living with HIV/AIDS.
Founded by a group of volunteers in 1988, Casey House was Canada’s first stand-alone treatment facility for people with HIV/AIDS, and the first freestanding hospice in Ontario. At that time, many people were dying alone, cut off from the support of family and friends because of stigma and misplaced fear. The founders’ wise response was to create a home environment in which people with HIV/AIDS could be cared for with dignity and compassion. They created new approaches to palliative care, and played a leading role in both end-of-life care and HIV/AIDS care.
Fast forward almost 30 years, Casey House has been conserved and updated as a warm and welcoming environment; a brand-new state-of-the-art AIDS/HIV healthcare facility that integrates the historic house with a new four-storey extension designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects. The 58,000 ft² addition and restoration of the heritage building commenced in Spring 2015.
As heritage architects, ERA prepared a Master Plan for the property and oversaw the rehabilitation of all exterior and interior heritage fabric. The conservation strategy was to retain and conserve the fabric, replacing deteriorated elements where necessary.
The design of the contemporary facility juxtaposed against the Victorian mansion is distinct but complementary; respecting the existing materiality, preserving its qualities and organizing the day-to-day user experience. Throughout the project, the architects considered how to manifest unifying themes from the AIDS movement such as ‘embrace’ and ‘quilt’ by working the design concept from the inside out.
At its heart, the redevelopment of Casey House was a community-inspired and driven initiative, with stakeholders recognizing the importance of their generous contributions.
Link to Globe and mail article: https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/life/home-and-garden/architecture/torontos-new-casey-house-building-shows-the-medicinal-power-of-light-beauty-anddignity/article36767563/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&
Photos by ERA Architects
Hamilton’s newest live music venue is ready to showcase talent from across the region and beyond. New Vision United Church, the 150-year-old building located at 24 Main St West, formerly known as Centenary Church, is in the process of being transformed to comply with music industry standards while retaining its primary function as a place of worship. In a creative bid to better serve and engage with the wider community, the church congregation is opening their doors to the music industry and its patrons, providing new context to the site as a 1,000-seat live performance venue, ‘The Music Hall’.
The church has already played host to several high-profile entertainment events, such as a ‘Welcome to Hamilton’ benefit concert to raise money for newcomer/refugee youth as a part of Hamilton’s Supercrawl festival, headlined by The National, with performances by Kevin Drew, Hayden, JUNO Fest 2015, with musical guests including Joel Plaskett, Jenn Grant, and Mo Kenney, and a folk-rock performance by musician Terra Lightfoot. There is also an upcoming concert on November 18th with acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Daniel Lanois, with tickets available for sale online now.
The church will be seeking a heritage designation, which will describe the cultural heritage value of the building and guide its renovation work. ERA is working in an architectural consultancy capacity to meet critical building code requirements for fire-rating and washrooms. The next phase of work will include a ticket booth, upgraded seating and acoustics, and a renovated entrance lobby. To garner a sense of the needs of the patrons and discuss what other uses could compliment the building as a concert venue, the firm is attending the New Vision open house on Thursday, October 26th from 5:00 – 7:00pm. The event is free to attend and all members of the public are welcome to attend. Please come with your ideas for transformation!
The schedule for the evening:
5:00pm – Doors open
5:15pm – Welcome and prayer offering, organ fanfare and showcase by Shawn Grenke
5:25pm – Greetings from City Econ. Dev. Director Glen Norton and Ward Councilor Jason Farr
5:45pm – Violin performance by Lance Ouellette
6:15pm – Hamilton Community Choir performance
6:40pm – Words from music industry spokesperson
6:45pm – Performance by Steve Strongman
7:00pm – Wrap-up
Check out Rev. Ian Sloan’s interview with host Doug Farraway on Cable 14’s City Matters: https://cable14now.com/video-on-demand/video/?videoId=2287
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.
On Wednesday, July 19th, leaders in the development of Toronto’s Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) Zoning by-law gathered at York University to celebrate and explore challenges and next steps in empowering communities to utilize Toronto’s newest zone. The esteemed panel had representation from property owners, entrepreneurs, community members, academics and city builders with Graeme Stewart, Principal at ERA Architect and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal as the Panel Moderator.
- Michael Mizzi Director, Zoning and Secretary-Treasurer Committee of Adjustment, City Planning Division at the City of Toronto
- Jason Thorne, General Manager Planning and Economic Development, City of Hamilton
- Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto
- Doug Saunders, Author, and Journalist
- Maurine Campbell, Coordinator, 2667/2677 Kipling Avenue Tenant Association
- Gobal Mailwaganam, Managing Director, Municipal Affairs & Housing and Operations CAPREIT
The evening provided a platform for the celebration of Toronto’s new Zone as well as a discussion about the next steps in rolling out the RAC Zone on a large scale.
For coverage of the event see:
– “Changes coming to business and social services for apartment towers“, Graeme Stewart’s interview on Metro Morning
– “Towering Ambitions“, article by Globe and Mail
– “Zoning changes give new life to Toronto’s ‘apartment neighborhoods’: Hume“, article by Toronto Star
Forget laneway housing. This is the Toronto re-zoning story of the year. https://t.co/sY98Tazq2D
— Jeff Ranson (@jeffranson) July 18, 2017
— Richard Joy (@RichardJoyTO) July 19, 2017
— Jason Thorne (@JasonThorne_RPP) July 19, 2017
— UrbanToronto (@Urban_Toronto) July 19, 2017
A meeting on the" Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) Zone" might sound like very nerdy urbanism, but here's proof that zoning matters: pic.twitter.com/MshYA1ufMq
— Stefan Novakovic (@NovakovicTO) July 19, 2017
For more information on RAC zoning, visit http://www.raczone.ca
The Friends of Allan Gardens (FOAG) are leading efforts to ensure that this historic public garden remains relevant and integrated into its ever-evolving surrounds. ERA’s Tatum Taylor, who also sits on FOAG’s Board of Directors, has published an article in the Summer/Parks issue of Spacing Magazine that describes the process for renewal. In her words:
‘…For decades, Allan Gardens has struggled to maintain its identity and integrity within Toronto’s rapidly evolving downtown core. The diversity of its uses sets it apart within the City’s parks system, but also imposes competing demands on its aging infrastructure. The newly released Allan Gardens Refresh, produced by the Friends of Allan Gardens (FOAG) in collaboration with the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department, envisions a future for the park that evokes its former grandeur. In keeping with Allan Gardens’ traditions of horticulture innovation and social activism, the Refresh initiative is an inventive approach to planning, stewardship, and revitalization – shaking up the existing model of master planning for Toronto’s parks…’
To read the article in its entirety, please pick up a copy of Spacing Magazine online or at your local newsstand outlet.
To learn more about the Allan Gardens Refresh – a vision document produced by FOAG in partnership with the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation Division – visit friendsofallangardens.ca
Allan Gardens feature image courtesy of Brent Wagler.
Workshop image curtesy of ERA Architects.
Spacing cover image courtesy of spacing magazine.