ERA Architects

ERA annonce ses nouveaux associés à Montréal | ERA Announces New Leadership in Montréal

ERA annonce ses nouveaux associés à Montréal

ERA Architectes est fière d’annoncer la nomination de Ève Wertheimer et de Jan Kubanek en tant qu’associés à la tête du bureau québécois de l’agence. 

ERA Architectes œuvre au Québec depuis 2012 sur des projets de mise en valeur de l’environnement bâti existant, pour plusieurs clients des secteurs privés et publics. La nomination de Ève et de Jan consolide notre engagement à l’endroit de nos collaborateurs locaux, en appui à diverses initiatives architecturales et culturelles. Continue reading…

Canada’s Ken Soble Tower certified as world’s largest residential Passive House EnerPHit retrofit

One of the first of its kind in North America, the 18-storey affordable seniors tower serves as a model for low-carbon, resilient future

Ken Soble Tower, a white-clad 18-storey tower viewed from a vantage at ground level and looking high up into the sky.

January 19, 2022 (Hamilton, ON) – ERA Architects (ERA) and PCL Construction (PCL) announce the Ken Soble Tower in Hamilton, Canada, has become the world’s largest residential building retrofitted to the Passive House standard – achieving the renowned EnerPHit certification – while also marking the first retrofit of its kind in North America. Continue reading…

2021: Honours & Awards at ERA

collage of award-winning projects

As the days get colder and we head into the final days of 2021, ERA is looking back at the recognition and awards we’ve received this year for some very deserving projects, alongside some fantastic teams who are looking forward and building our cities and communities into tomorrow. Continue reading…

The Missing Middle: Toronto’s Historic Building Typologies

Last week, Toronto City Planning brought forward to Council’s Planning and Housing Committee an interim report, Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods: Multiplex Study. The initiative behind the report is exploring the potential to permit a range of low-scale housing types in Toronto’s low-rise neighbourhoods, as a key part of the solution to the city’s years-long housing crisis. Continue reading…

ERA leads the conversation of digital transformation, using BIM, for architectural heritage at the Beijing Urban and Architecture Biennale

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…

Dave LeBlanc for The Globe and Mail: The tower that once topped Toronto shines again

Once the tallest building in the British empire, the Royal Bank building at 8 King Street East is a product of the skyscraper phenomenon that arrived in Toronto at the turn-of-the century. More than 100 years after its construction, the building has been renewed. ERA is wrapping up work on this project, which required the full and extensive conservation of the Edwardian skyscraper’s exterior. Continue reading…

Celebrating community-led design with Gordonridge

Gordonridge Done image of the court and tower

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.

Bird's eye drone view of the gordonridge basketball court

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.

Gordonridge's court with basketball nets, seating and storage.

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!

Gordonridge Representative: Nichola shares her perspective on the process. from MLSE Foundation on Vimeo.

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.

A wide view of Gordonridge's court with basketball hoops and walking track.

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.

Conservation of Paradise Theatre wins national and provincial awards

Paradise Theatre

Thanks to its careful conservation, and inclusive and accessible programming, Paradise is once again a space for the community to gather and celebrate. We’re thrilled to see this building reinstated as an important focal point for the local neighbourhood and are pleased to say the conservation community feels the same!

Paradise Theatre has recently won a Peter Stokes Award for Restoration from Architectural Conservancy Ontario. The award was followed by the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals’ (CAHP) announcement the project had won an Award of Excellence in the Conservation – Architecture category. We’re honoured to be recognized by our colleagues provincially and nationally for this amazing project.

We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the entire project team on these achievements:

ERA Staff: Graeme Stewart, Jessie Grebenc, Julie Tyndorf, Shannon Clayton
Site owner: Moray Tawse 
Prime architect: Ware Malcomb
Interior design: Solid Design Creative
Masonry: Clifford Restoration
Stainless Steel: Brascon Stainless Steel Fabricators Inc.
Signage: Pride Signs

Read more about the Paradise Theatre project.

Historic farmsteads drive a new rural cultural economy

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.

Cambium Farms barn and silo

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.

Ontario Farmstead Typology

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.

Goodlot Farmstead Brewery

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.

Goodlot adaptive reuse stages

Cambium Farms

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.

Written by Shelley Ludman + Emma Abramowicz

Remnants of Mid-Century Toronto

 

Spacing’s new book celebrates Toronto’s mid-century architecture, from landmark buildings like City Hall to unique elements of the time, such as the zig-zag roofs that can be spotted atop many of the city’s churches. 

Edited by Spacing’s creative director Matthew Blackett and with photography by Vik Pahwa, much of the writing in the book has been provided by ERA staff. 

Congratulations to Spacing on this beautiful publication. We’re thrilled to have our staff involved in such an evocative project celebrating an often forgotten form of Toronto architecture.

Read more about the book on Spacing’s website or purchase it from the Spacing Store. 

 

ERA talks retrofitting towers (virtually)

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.

Passive House Accelerator: Happy Hour

Heroic Concrete: Retrofitting Brutalism A screenshot taken ahead of a webinar, showing the panelists

Celebrating ERA’s 30th anniversary

A flag with ERA 30 on it

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.

Exterior of Cambium Farms

Nathan Cyprys

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.

Senate of Canada

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.

ERA hosted an opening session on affordability and resilience in our tower blocks at the office.

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.

LGA-AP

 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.

To our clients and colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 and ERA Architects: Our Work Plan

Dear Clients and Colleagues,

Arising from the continued spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization’s ‘global pandemic’ declaration, the State of Emergency called for the Province of Ontario and health emergency declaration by the Province of Québec, ERA Architects Inc has been working to adapt our work practices in order to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the potential spread of the virus. These practices will ensure the quality of our work remains high and we are able to continue serving the needs of you, our clients and colleagues.

To achieve this, ERA will be moving primarily into a virtual office mode, with meetings conducted by conference call or video software. As always, our team of architects, planners and specialists are on call and fully mobilized. Required in person meetings, such as architectural site visits, will be conducted following best practices in health, and in partnership with clients and constructors to ensure the health and safety of all parties.

Be assured that ERA’s commitment to you is to keep the caliber of work high; to understand and respond to changes beyond our control as quickly as possible; and work with our clients and colleagues to address these issues on a project-by-project basis. Our shared deadlines and goals are important to us, and we are making the changes needed to both adhere to the advice of Health Canada, the Ontario Health Agency and Toronto Public Health, and keep our workflow moving.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

ERA Architects Inc.

Senate of Canada Building receives international recognition with 2020 Civic Trust Award

Photo: Doublespace Photography

The Senate of Canada Building has been awarded a 2020 Civic Trust Award, the longest-running international awards program recognizing outstanding architecture, planning and design in the built environment.

The award was given to Public Services and Procurement Canada, Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects on Friday, March 6 in Manchester. The Senate of Canada Building was just one of two North American projects to win the award. As heritage architects on the project, ERA is thrilled to congratulate our project partners on such a notable achievement.

Constructed in 1912 as Ottawa’s Union Station, the Senate of Canada Building is one of the most important cultural and historic landmarks in Ottawa. The building is an excellent example of the Beaux-Arts railway station tradition, popular in the early 20th century. In 1966, with the decline of passenger railway travel, the building narrowly escaped demolition and was converted into the Government Conference Centre. The former station has since been refurbished to accommodate the Senate of Canada during the rehabilitation of the Centre Block.

The interior of the Senate of Canada

ERA worked as heritage architects from 2014 until 2018 together with Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects in joint venture. Our work included a full rehabilitation of the building’s exterior and interior, ensuring it could appropriately accommodate the Senate of Canada.

The building was recognized by the Civic Trust Awards Panel for its adaptive re-use: “A bold re-use of an old building which recognises the gravitas of the original can be repurposed for social and environmental benefit, with a strong identity and a real architectural clarity,” read the comments.

We’re thrilled to add the Civic Trust Award to the building’s accolades. Read about the award from Diamond Schmitt and learn more about ERA’s work on the Senate of Canada Building project.

Affordability and resiliency: Renewing Toronto’s towers

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.

A tower

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. 

A group of people in a meeting

ERA hosted an opening session on affordability and resilience in our tower blocks at the office.

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.

Graeme Stewart on CBC Radio.

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. 

A group touring a tower neighbourhood in Toronto

Learn more about the Tower Renewal Partnership, and the Advisory Panel event, and explore more ERA tower renewal projects.

Alexis Cohen presents at the College Art Association (CAA)

1953 aerial photograph from the City of Toronto Archives, annotated by ERA.

1953 aerial photograph from the City of Toronto Archives, annotated by ERA.

Alexis Cohen presented at CAA’s 108th Annual Conference, held in Chicago February 12-15, 2020 as part of a panel exploring zoning in the histories of modern art and architecture. The panel was hosted by Christopher M. Ketcham and Deepa Ramaswamy.

The CAA is the preeminent international leadership organization in the visual arts, and promotes these arts and their understanding through advocacy, intellectual engagement, and a commitment to the diversity of practices and practitioners. CAA (collegeart.org)

Her paper, “An Incremental Urbanism: Zoning Infractions at Toronto’s Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village, 1943-1963,” examines user-driven zoning infractions that led to the incremental creation of Toronto’s most beloved and iconic discount retailer – Honest Ed’s – and the adjacent artists’ colony known as Mirvish Village.

This research emerged from ERA’s work as heritage consultant for the redevelopment of Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village. Special thanks to Amanda Ghantous for her research support.

Hidden house-forms at Honest Ed’s, by ERA.

Hidden house-forms at Honest Ed’s, by ERA.

Celebrating Laskay through Memory’s Gate

Residents and Small artists gather at the opening of Laskay's Gate

Public art has the ability to represent and celebrate the identity of a place. As an architecture firm specializing in built heritage and cultural values, we are increasingly interested in how art and other placemaking interventions can not only represent unique histories but do so in a way that transforms underused spaces into thriving places for community.

We’re seeing this idea come to fruition through Small, which works with communities to express cultural heritage in a tangible way.

In November, local residents, the Township of King and Small celebrated the opening of Memory’s Gate, a new public art installation in Laskay, a rural village located northwest of Toronto. 

Together with the Township of King’s Parks, Recreation and Culture department and the public art committee, Small created an architectural installation that recognizes the heritage of the village – both intangible and tangible.

Memory’s Gate is a weathered steel archway etched with lines from the poem that served as its inspiration – “Musings at Memory’s Gate” by King City’s Reverend Martin Jenkinson. The poem, written in 1953 and included in the Laskay Women’s Institute 60th Anniversary Portfolio in 1968, speaks to community connectivity across generations.

The Memory's Gate structure in Laskay.

The Gate connects tangible and intangible heritage of the village with the ever-changing landscape of the Humber River Valley. The artists hope to inspire contemplation and reflection for those who take rest upon the bench, which is fastened to a boulder that once sat outside the historic Laskay hall.

We’re thrilled the piece is already sparking conversation and remembrance for the Laskay community. At the unveiling, community members gathered to hear about the piece and to share their own memories of the village from decades past.

ERA and Small would like to thank those who helped shape the project along the way, as well as the Township of King for the wonderful placemaking opportunity. A special thank you to the Laskay Women’s Institute, who granted the reproduction rights of the poem on the gate and bench, and to FILOTIMO for providing excellent collaborative approach to Memory Gate’s fabrication and installation.

Finally, congratulations to the artists who brought this work to life: Stuart Chan, Jasmine Frolick, Max Yuristy, Carl Shura and Heather Campbell.

Learn more about Small, a initiative developed by ERA that works with rural and remote communities across Canada to express their unique cultural values, whether that be through artistic installations like Memory’s Gate, or with the revitalization of local main streets and creation of visionary masterplans. 

The Ward Cabaret: The sound of Toronto’s first cross-cultural community

Ward Cabaret

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.

Ward Cabaret performers

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.

Ontario Place and the value of cultural heritage sites

Opened in 1971, Ontario Place was created to be a hub for Torontonians to experience the waterfront and take part in entertainment activities, from the open-air amphitheatre and the Cinesphere, the world’s first permanent IMAX theatre, to the Children’s Village play area and exhibit space.

Ontario Place was the embodiment of the province’s economic and cultural prosperity of the time — a response to Montreal’s Expo67 four years earlier, and an example of the Modernist design principles of the day.

In the following decades, Ontario Place saw a decline in visitors and investment. In 2011, the province closed large portions of the site, and the disbanding of its governing board followed in 2018. The province has now made it known they’re seeking a long-term lease for the space, moving Ontario Place away from public governance to private ownership and development.  

World Monuments Fund is now calling for it to be saved, and importance as a site with heritage and cultural value to be recognized. 

Every two years, the Fund releases a list of cultural heritage sites around the world deemed as at-risk of being lost. This year after a successful campaign by a Ontario group, Ontario Place has joined 24 other sites on their 2020 World Monuments Watch list.

A view of Ontario Place over the water.

Heritage isn’t just exclusive to the oldest buildings in a city or a country, it can also pertain to places with an important cultural value to the experiences and histories of its community.

Many times, this kind of social importance is combined with a more traditional heritage value, and a site has design, historic and cultural significance. Ontario Place is one of these spaces.

In 2014, Ontario Place was added to the List of Provincial Heritage Properties. At the time, the province approved its statement of cultural value that detailed its significance.

“The site in its entirety — integrating innovative approaches to planning, landscape, architecture, engineering and educational programming — represents a bold visionary statement of its time realized at a scale and quality that earned international recognition and admiration,” reads part of the statement. “As an entertainment, educational and recreational centre serving the entire province, Ontario Place has attracted millions of visitors since its opening in 1971 and has remained a familiar and iconic landmark for many Ontarians and visitors.”

Ontario Place

How can Ontario Place continue to a valuable public space? The World Monuments Fund recognizes this in their write up on the site, outlining the vision of what Ontario Place can once again become.

“Through free and public access to the waterfront, Ontario Place can continue to foster interaction and exchange across population groups and fulfil the potential envisioned by its creators,” the site reads.

As an architecture firm rooted in work that connects heritage to urban design, city building and larger conversations of cultural values, we truly believe Ontario Place has the ability to once again, through investment, public engagement and design centred on community, become a thriving public space for Toronto – its residents and its visitors.

Read more on WMF’s statement on Ontario Place

Building for the community, with the community

Ridgeway workshop

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

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

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

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

Opening day at the Ridgeway Community Courts in Mississauga

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

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

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

Two youth leaders at Ridgeway Community Courts.

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

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

Arial view of Booth Street

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the Booth Street redevelopment project.

Read more about Ridgeway Community Courts.

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

Edwin's headshot.

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

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

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

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

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