ERA has been named as Toronto’s Best Design Firm as part of NOW Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. We’d like to take the time to thank everyone who voted for us as part of this year’s awards.
As a firm specializing in heritage conservation, it is a privilege to get to work on some of the most beloved buildings in Toronto. We aim to expand our impact to build community through adaptive reuse, placemaking and design. We look forward to many more years of working with you, Toronto.
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.
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:
Click to listen to the audio of CBC Metro Morning, January 24, 2019 episode: in conversation with Graeme Stewart.
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.
For more information on Tower Renewal, visit TowerRenewal.com
For more information on the current Ken Soble Tower Project in Hamilton, visit the link here.
ERA Associate Victoria Angel’s article in Plan Magazine’s Winter Issue ‘Urban heritage: A living legacy’ on the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Recommendation (2011) illustrates its implications and emerging practices, using the City of Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory as a case-study. The recommendation encourages a more holistic, integrative approach to urban heritage conservation, focusing on the urban landscape. It proposes that future considerations around urban development should enhance sustainability, functionality, inclusivity, place-making and local identities. Governments have experimented with its implementation, in spite of the complexity of the various urban systems.
Practices that have emerged as a result include a greater use of community consultation, and the characterization of large urban areas through the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), which integrate well with other municipal information systems.
Hamilton’s Built Heritage Inventory process was adopted by its City Council in the spring of 2014 and was the subject of a paper by Victoria Angel, Angela Garvey and Mikael Sydor that was published by the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The City of Hamilton intends to implement the strategy one neighbourhood at a time, at a citywide level.
By incorporating the HUL’s recommendations, ‘…Citywide surveys and inventories, landscape characterization, and an understanding of people’s perceptions of the places they inhabit could, in the future, be used by cities to identify a much broader range of conservation opportunities, better understand an area’s capacity to change and evolve, and reposition historic resources to serve as the springboard and foundation for new development….’
ERA has been eagerly anticipating the official opening of One Spadina Crescent, the University of Toronto’s new home for the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Our collaboration with NADAAA and Adamson Associate Architects has seen the transformation of the historical landmark that is Knox College, conserved and updated with a beautiful new addition. The history, relevance and inspiring new context of the building is captured in an insightful piece in the Globe and Mail by Dave LeBlanc, including a few words from Michael McClelland (see link below).
The site was originally designed as a garden feature for the Baldwin family, who owned the Spadina park lot that extended from Queen Street West to Bloor. In the 1870s, the Presbyterian Church bought the land and commissioned architects James Smith & John Gemmell to build Knox College. Having been adapted over the years to a number of different uses, the structure survives today as a fine example of Gothic Revival architecture, with a heritage designation (designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act on March 17, 1976).
Beginning in 2006, ERA worked with the University of Toronto and advised on heritage issues related to the site’s re-development. Since 2011 ERA has been working closely with prime architects, NADAAA, on the project. Phase 1 included the conservation of the exterior, and Phase II, the new addition extending from the historic building.
As heritage consultant, ERA prepared the Heritage Impact Assessment, Conservation Strategy and Conservation Plan, and provision of heritage architecture services related to the conservation scope of work (exterior and interior) throughout all phases of the project. The project team includes: Michael McClelland, Andrew Pruss, Julie Tyndorf, Alana Young, and Tatum Taylor.
The article reintroduces the heritage building to the public mindset, reinforcing its position as a work of prominent architecture in its own right, as well as a new asset in Toronto’s evolving cultural landscape.
Pointing, repointing, tuck pointing, ribbon pointing, flush pointing, there are many techniques and they are all different. Tuck pointing is a style of jointing that was predominantly used on English brickwork from the late seventeen century and it continued in popular use through the early 20th century. Done properly, it is the most highly skilled of all pointing finishes and gives the illusion of finely pointed gauged brickwork on principal facades. It helped give the impression of quality to buildings constructed of damaged or irregular bricks. When laid in the normal manner of the day, such bricks produced walls with wide joints of irregular and uneven pattern which appear the sum of their constituent parts rather than as a coherent surface or plane. In the late 17th century the problem was avoided by using soft, rubbed bricks which could then be laid with thin, straight joints, however such work was costly. Tuck pointing was a less expensive alternative which seems to have been particularly popular for use on terraced housing up to the late 19th century. One of the most famous terraced houses in the British empire was tuck pointed: 10 Downing Street. While the technique is no longer in prominent use, knowledge of it is needed to repair those buildings which remain.
The effect is achieved by filling joints with a base mortar which has been coloured to match the surrounding brickwork. Where necessary, it covers the rounded or damaged brick edges in order to finish flush with the wall face. Over this is a narrow ribbon of fine, vernally white or cream coloured pointing material of well-sifted lime mixed with fine silica sand. This is skillfully applied or ‘tucked’ onto the regular grooved centres of the prepared joints and precisely trimmed to size.
Walking through neighbourhoods such as Cabbagetown, lower Rosedale and Parkdale, you still see the remnants of original tuck pointing on old brick buildings. This was a prominent aesthetic element throughout the city. However, it can be difficult to determine whether an historic building had been tuck pointed originally, mainly because of the sand blasting practice in recent decades.The abrasion of the sand on the surface removes paint and staining, but also often erodes the surface of the brick, mortar, and adjacent materials, including the tuck pointing ribbon if present, effectively removing any evidence of the brick building being tuck pointed.
Such a specimen can be seen at 62-64 Charles Street, where recent conservation work has restored the tuck pointed building to its former glory, under the expert hand of Hunt Heritage. This is the largest application of the process that ERA has been involved with and it’s an exemplar for bringing this lost craft back to the city.
Property owners, entrepreneurs, community members, academics and city builders will gather at York University in celebration of Toronto’s newest zone: the Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) (www.raczone.ca). Moderated by Graeme Stewart, Principal of ERA and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, this event hosted by the City of Toronto will centre discussions on the zone’s implementation as well as its economic and social opportunities.
Topics will touch on:
Where does the zone apply?
What new things can be done there?
Why is this a great idea?
How does RAC zoning make it easier to implement sensible changes?
Who can benefit from these changes?
And Panelists will include:
Jennifer Keesmaat, Executive Director and Chief Planner City Planning, 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 RAC Zone was initiated through a long term collaboration between a group of partners including the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, United Way Toronto & York Region, Toronto Public Health and the tower Renewal Office at the City of Toronto. Approval of the RAC zone ushers in a new era for communities within Toronto to emerge as a more healthy, resilient and vibrant places.For more coverage on the RAC Zone, check out the CBC’s article “How a zoning bylaw could transform 500 apartment sites across the city”.Illustrations by Daniel Rotsztain
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 Magazineonline 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.
The 53,000-square-foot kiln building at Evergreen Brick Works is set for a conversion that will create a collaboration zone to aid in building sustainable cities, with a target of developing systems and technologies for reducing carbon emissions. To set the standard, project partners EllisDon, Brookfield Global Integrated Systems, CRH Canada, Levitt Goodman Associates Architectural Partners and ERA Architects will strive to attain a carbon neutral design target for the site, a first in Canada. Once completed, the doors will be open to citizens, the public/private sectors and thought leaders to contribute to the initiative.
The heritage adaptive design approach was created in consultation with the City of Toronto’s Preservation Services, Ontario Heritage Trust and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to support the preservation of heritage features in the building. ERA was directly involved in the conservation of the unconditioned kiln building, one of 16 historically significant buildings on the campus of Evergreen Brick Works. This structure houses a large collection of industrial brick firing kilns that are currently subject to flooding and freeze-thaw cycles. Enclosing the open west wall of the building, raising the floor, and conditioning the building will be a significant contribution to stabilize these artefacts, while continuing to highlight the heritage aspects of the historic space.
The Brick Works have become a notable destination for locals and tourists alike, drawn to the consistently eco-friendly programming housed within the walls of its LEED platinum-certified building. It will be a gathering place for interactive workshops and community programs that focus on working collaboratively, and will strengthen networks, inspiring action through new and enhanced gallery and meeting spaces. This latest endeavour will catalyze advancements in renewable energy technologies, while preserving the heritage features.
Congratulations to the ERA project team: Philip Evans, Shelley Ludman and Eunice Lam!
To review the Canadian Architect-published press release, click here.
To review the related Globe and Mail article by Alex Bozikovic, click here.
To review the Blog TO article by Amy Grief, click here.
Feature rendering courtesy of LGA Architects.
Photos courtesy of ERA Architects.
In the November issue of Canadian Architect author Jay Pitter investigates how spatial issues contribute to community challenges such as isolation, despair and violence in urban social housing communities.
Using the community where she grew up in Toronto as a case study, Pitter explores the design deficiencies of the Corbusian “Towers in the Park” style favoured by Robert Moses in the 1930s. In this piece she reaches out to a group of design leaders from Toronto and Vancouver to discuss how to develop an approach that integrates design, policy and social development by cultivating trust, engagement and collaboration with communities to build social housing for a new generation.
The group consisted of: Michael Gellar: Vancouver based Architect, Planner and Real Estate Consultant Gregory Henriquez, FRAIC: Managing Partner of Henriquez Partners Architects Michael McClelland, FRAIC: Founding Principal of ERA Architects Graeme Stewart, MRAIC: Principal at ERA Architects Sheila Penny: Toronto based Architect and VP of Facilities at Toronto Community Housing
Out of this discussion emerged thoughtful ways of building more complete social housing communities by considering the lived reality of residents made up by the systems and structures that shape their daily experiences. The group emphasized the importance of developing trust through a more collaborative process and providing the tools to allow residents to shape their own neighbourhoods and respond to community needs.
Mission Point Resort been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Survey as the best resort in Michigan and one of the top ten resorts in the US Midwest.
ERA was brought on as prime design consultants in 2014, when new ownership began an ambitious scope of improvements to upgrade guest experience and comfort requirements. Working alongside local architects of record The Architect Forum, ERA has overseen renovations to the spa, salon, athletic centre and public retail space. Architectural upgrades are ongoing.
Mackinac Island has long held historic significance as a site of peace-making and commerce for the Ottawa, Chippewa, Huron, Menonminee and Potawomi peoples. Colonized by French Jesuit Missionaries in the 1670s, the island’s strategic location led it to become the centre of the Great Lakes fur trade. Later captured by the British, Mackinac and its fort became a focal point of the war of 1812. It was taken by the US in 1814.
Today Mackinac Island is a national historic landmark and a state park. The island is rich in Victorian architecture having become a popular summer resort throughout the 19th & 20th centuries. One of the only communities in the United States to still forbid the use of automobiles, the island’s preferred mode of transport is horse-drawn buggy.
Located on 18 acres of the Island’s southern lakefront, Mission Point Resort’s original buildings date back to the 1820s, with the majority of the resort being built in the 1950s & 1960s. Collectively they reference a wide array of architectural styles including classical, colonial revival, Adirondack and Michigan Modern.
After much awaited anticipation, Heritage Toronto held its awards ceremony on Tuesday, October 13th, 2015. The event was held at the Koerner Hall in Toronto and was hosted by the host of CBC Radio’s Fresh Air, Mary Ito. This year’s Kilbourn Lecturer was Rahul K. Bhardwaj, President and CEO of the Toronto Foundation. The awards ceremony was preceded by a special Mayor’s Reception, where Mayor John Tory spoke about the importance of heritage conservation in architecture. Continue reading…
Calvin D. Evans’ Master Shipbuilders of Newfoundland and Labrador: Volume Two, Notre Dame Bay to Petty Harbour magnificently captures the rich maritime history spanning the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The NFB project A Short History of the Highrise recently won the “News and Documentary” category of the Emmy Awards. ERA and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) had the pleasure of working with director Kat Cizek on this project, which examines the current conditions and future potential of post-war high-rise living around the world. Continue reading…
Recently, Cottage Life Magazine published a feature on Ardshona Cottage, summer home to builder David Ballantine and his family. ERA worked with the family to refurbish their wonderful historic cottage and the surrounding landscape at Pointe au Baril, Ontario. Continue reading…
Monocle recently profiled Toronto’s City Hall, designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell, positioning it as the city’s most distinctive piece of architectural design. ERA’s Graeme Stewart is featured in the discussion of how the building began, and how it has evolved as a central moment in the urban and civic experience of Toronto.
Monday March 24th, ERA’s Graeme Stewart will be joining Christopher Hume and guests for a forum on the future of Toronto. The discussion begins at 6:30 pm, Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave, Toronto. Continue reading…
Throughout the first part of 2014, the Toronto Star is running a series called “Big Ideas“, asking Torontonians to think big about the future of the region. What type of Toronto do we want to create in the years to come?
In a recent article in the Globe & Mail, Dave LeBlanc explains how Gemini House provides a new, sustainable model for heritage homes.
The Gemini NTED approach, developed by U of T’s Kim Pressnail and Ryerson’s Russell Richman, is a new way to engineer low-energy housing. The idea is to put a box within a box, separating the home into a thermally isolated “core” and “periphery.” Continue reading…
Monocle Radio recently interviewed ERA’s Graeme Stewart on The Urbanist, a weekly program on the people and ideas that shape urban life. In this week’s edition, Andrew Tuck speaks with Graeme about Toronto’s modernist legacy and the Tower Renewal program.