ERA Architects

People per Hectare _ Installation Documentation

We often talk about density in terms of numerical ratios, or other quantitative abstractions. Our intention here is to try and map the spatial experience of specific densities to their numerical signifiers, and then relate these examples directly to similar conditions in Toronto.

Continue reading the full post below for expanded versions of the neighbourhood and density studies shown at the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibition.

Continue reading…

People per Hectare _ Toronto by Numbers

Density is one of the key tools currently used for planning cities. Architects, planners, and policy makers all use density as a calibration of the city.

We want to make our cities better, more vital, more full of possibilities. As our cities change, we want to propose change intelligently. To change intelligently, we need to understand density.

For the ERA installation at the Harbourfront Centre, as part of the COMMUNITY CENTRED exhibition, we asked our office to contribute examples of places they had recently visited. How did density affect built form? How did density affect the quality of the environment?

We often discuss density in terms of numerical ratios, or other quantitative abstractions. Our intention with this installation is to try and map the spatial experience of specific densities to their numerical signifiers, as free of imported bias (culture, context, etc) as possible.

By assembling this information we are now able to consider: how do Toronto’s neighbourhoods compare?

Please join us for the opening reception:

Friday January 22, 2010
6:00 to 10:00pm

York Quay Centre
235 Queens Quay West

Union Station Train Shed Renewal

The interior of the Union Station Train Shed, shortly after opening.

Completed in 1930, the Union Station Train Shed was designed by Toronto Terminals Railway Assistant Bridge Engineer A.R. Ketterson. The design was a variation on the Bush train shed, invented by American Engineer Lincoln Bush in 1904. Bush sheds replaced the expensive and difficult to maintain, large balloon-framed train sheds that were common in 19th century Europe. Linear smoke ducts directly above the tracks would permit the evacuation of smoke from locomotives while protecting passenger platforms from the elements. Other Bush sheds include: Chicago Union station 1925, Hoboken NJ 1906, Winnipeg 1911, and Montreal Windsor Station.

The western end of the Union Station Train Shed, currently.

ERA, as Heritage Consultant, is responsible for the conservation of the Train Shed as part of Union Station Train Shed Rehabilitation. The Train Shed Rehabilitation is a major part of the 10-year program of repair, restoration and upgrading of the Metrolinx facility and railway corridor.

Original structural steel drawings, above, and portions of the proposed rehabilitation work by ERA, below.

The Train Shed is designated a National Historic Site and is subject to a heritage easement agreement between Parks Canada and Go Transit. The project includes the construction of a new central atrium (designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects), the restoration of the shed over Tracks 1 and 2, and the rehabilitation of the remainder of the shed. Construction is to begin shortly, and is set to last 5 years.

The Union Station Train Shed, before and after revitalization. Prominent features include a large, elevated central atrium space, a through-connection to the Air Canada Center, and the extensive green roof.

Together with the Union Station Revitalization project initiated by the City of Toronto, the changes forthcoming at Union Station will greatly improve the efficiency and user experience of the station. For more information, please see the official Union Station Renewal site.

Oleleshwa Primary School, Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya

This week’s Wednesday Design Forum looked at a project being developed outside of the office. Alec Ring, an assistant architect here at ERA, and his colleague Karl Sarkis presented a design they have been developing for Oleleshua Primary School in Ewaso Ngiro, Kenya. The funding to build the school is through Harambee 4 Humanity a small not for profit organization set up in the town of Gravenhurst, Ontario in order to finance this project.

Traditional Maasai Enkaji (house) near the school grounds.

Some of the students who will attend the new primary school.

The presentation looked at the culture of the Maasai people, their traditionally nomadic way of life, their architecture, and a proposal for the new school and school grounds. Feedback on the design portion of the presentation focused on two key areas of the project, the first being the constructability of the proposed classrooms, and the second being how to respectfully integrate the new site plan and building into the existing and lost cultural heritage of the Maasai people.

Site terrain.

The primary school project is to be realized over several phases and is to include four classrooms, a kitchen, an administration building, a library, 6 pit latrines, and teacher housing. The site itself is a seven acre parcel of land which will also include areas for agricultural and physical education. The first phase will include the two classrooms, two pit latrines and conversion of an existing building into a kitchen.

Preliminary proposal for cluster of classrooms.

First time buyer, beware.

Round One: Get It Livable…
One of ERA’s own goes through her first home purchase and improvements. In a little alley near Dundas and Trinity Bellwoods, a row of 1870’s houses have been minimally touched and altered. With a simple construction of balloon framing and one layer of bricks; the house is modest and functional; it is also bound on three sides with no access except from the narrow front door. First steps towards simply being able to move in have been undertaken: this includes fixing a very leaky old roof, ripping out a moldy bathroom and painting every possible interior surface. Next steps towards renovations, maintenance, and an addition could mean real estate disaster or top dollar ~alas~ stay tuned for the next installment!

Artscape Wychwood Barns

Wychwood Barns under (re)construction

Grand opening weekend

A collection of street car barns constructed between 1913-21, the Wychwood Barns are the oldest surviving carhouses built as part of the Toronto Civic Railway, a transportation system with a significant role in the development of the annexed areas in the City of Toronto. When completed, the facility accommodated 50 cars inside and another 110 outside, with access to the yard via nine tracks.

ERA was the heritage consultant for this project, and was involved from the Building Permit application through to project completion. Services included providing a Conservation Plan, preparing working drawings for the alterations to the Barns, and helping to complete the Heritage Easement Agreement. Additionally, ERA worked with Gottschalk+Ash International on wayfinding and site interpretation, and with David Leinster and the Planning Partnership to convert the remaining land on the site into a new public park.

Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archive Opening

The Archive is having an opening of their new home.

Your presence is requested at the Grand Opening of the new home of the

Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives
34 Isabella Street, Toronto
Saturday September 26, 2009
2:00 – 5:00 pm

Reception in George Hislop Park
just west of the Children’s Aid Society (30 Isabella)

Alternate facilities near the Park in case of rain

Please RSVP to or 416-777-2755
before Friday, September 18 , 2009

ERA has been assisting the Archive in repairing and upgrading 34 Isabella.

The Carlu, before and after

In this line of work, there’s often nothing more satisfying than a juxtaposition of the historic, the as-found (generally neglected and derelict), and the restored. For your viewing pleasure, we present a few of these moments from the rejuvenation of the Carlu.

The Round Room at the Carlu – when it first opened in 1931, as-found before restoration, and after.

Detail of the central fountain, before restoration and after.

Detail of the central overhead light-fixture in the Round Room, before and after. Note the beautiful original grille set into the ceiling above the fixture, which reflects the original space-planning of the room below.  The exposed rivets in the central black band were also (originally) cleverly disguised sprinkler heads.

The main foyer of the Carlu, before and after.

Detail of the Carlu foyer display cases, before and after.  Note the unique, restored decorative air-return grille.

Can’t order those from a catalogue..

The interior of the Carlu is the wealth of small, custom details – from the lights to the central fountain to the return-air grilles. The grilles especially are miniature art-deco treasures, and demonstrate an artful way of elevating a necessary ‘building-systems’ component into an element which helps define the atmosphere of the larger space.

Historic photograph of the foyer of the Carlu, with grilles in place.

The grilles as they were found prior to restoration.

The restored grilles.

Tub Restoration

Scott’s “standing waste” and corner tub restoration is now completed and functional. The project started with Scott separately purchasing a ca 1910 salvaged standing waste assembly and a glazed cast iron corner tub for installation into his house. The tub finish was damaged and needed to be reglazed. The standing waste needed a complete overhaul, including new nickel plating, replacement of the valve seats, fashioning new parts to fit it the salvaged element with the tub and installation into a new location.

Standing waste and drain tub valves (or Bi-transit drains) were common around the turn of the century. The free standing pipes include a manifold yoke at the centre which directs water from the hot and cold water pipes into the tub through a bell shaped spout mounted on the tub wall. The central post labeled waste contains the overflow, a pipe within a pipe connected to the tub drain – when the waste post is down, the two pipes form a seal at the bottom. Water fills the outer pipe as the tub fills, and overflows through holes punched into the inner pipe leading to the drain. When the waste post is lifted then the two pipes separate at the bottom and the tub is allowed to empty.

Corner tubs were available with the sloped portion (to fit your back) located against the wall requiring a standing waste, or with feet to the wall which required simpler taps mounted on the wall. Corner tubs became less common with the rise in popularity of the shower.

The Brickworks and Toronto photo-bloggers

The Brick Works, located on the west side of the Don Valley just north of Bloor viaduct, is not only an ERA client but also one of Toronto’s most significant heritage sites. Besides being the source of bricks used to build many of Toronto landmarks and homes from the 1880s and well into the 20th century, the location has taken on many different narratives during its existence: a place to sleep for out-of-work people during the Depression, a dumping ground for the earth excavated during the construction of the Scotiabank tower, a secluded haven for graffiti artists, and now an exemplary model of soil remediation, mixed-use planning, and environmental regeneration.

above photos by Sam Javanrouh

But over the last decade, the Brick Works have become a de facto studio for Toronto’s ever-expanding photoblog community. While the site has long been explored by curious urbanites and industrial fetishists, it’s the photography from the Brick Works that has captured a wide audience. On Flickr alone, over 2,700 photos exist of the Brick Works. Everything from the chimney to the rusting machinery has been documented in fantastic detail.

photo by Metrix X

While ERA can’t condone this type of infiltration, we are grateful that Toronto’s photo-bloggers have taken the time to chronicle the Brick Works site. Essentially, they are the silent voice of heritage preservation in this city. Without their contribution and prolific documentation of sites like the Brick Works, many derelict buildings and spaces would have been long forgotten by the general public. By taking it upon themselves to explore damp, dark, and elusive sites, photo-bloggers have embedded the imagery of these places into the public’s consciousness.

Personally, I don’t have the inclination nor the intestinal fortitude to visit places like the Hearn Generating Station (in the Port Lands), the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital, or the Canada Malting Plant (at the foot of Bathurst), but I am indebted to the brave and curious photographers who have helped give these spaces a renewed narrative.

R. L. Hearn Generating Station by dmealiffe

Canada Malting Plant by h-e-d

Whitby Psychiatric Hospital photo by sigma

More on Found Toronto exhibit

ERA’s exhibit down at the Harbourfront Centre received some attention recently in the National Post, a mention on Spacing’s blog by Heritage Toronto’s Gary Miedema, and on the blog Her*itage and His*tory. We thought it would be a good time to give readers of the ERA Office Blog a little more background on the exhibit and show off some photos.

One one side of the gallery space are photos captured this winter (shown above) of buildings that existed in 1858 and are still standing today. All the photos show an address and accompanying a number of them is information on who owned and used the building in 1858. On the opposite side of the space is a detailed wall-to-wall map of Toronto, circa 1858, which indicates every building in existence at the time. Each photo has a corresponding pin that is located on the 1858 map (shown below). On the window wall are excerpts from Brown’s Toronto General Directory 1856 that describes the state of the city in that year through statistics and various data.  The historic usage and ownership of many of the buildings were found in this directory.

The choice to use a map from 1858 is not random. The maps, officially known as the Boulton Atlas of Toronto, were produced by brother William Sommerville Boulton and Henry Carew Boulton, and published by John Ellis. Derek Hayes, editor of the Historical Atlas of Toronto ( Douglas & McIntyre, 2008) says the map is historically significant because  “it shows the existence or otherwise of actual buildings in the city, rather than just subdivided lots.” Each building type is categorized by colour: red properties are made of brick, grey properties that are hatched are stone and, grey properties that are solid are wood framed buildings. At the time, almost 80% of all Toronto buildings were constructed of wood.

If you get a chance to visit, you’ll find yourself pacing back and forth between these walls locating photos of interest on the map. But since the map is from 1858, things have changed and places and roads that you know exist today (like the intersection of Yonge and Dundas) did not exist back then. You can also discover Dundas Street has a section that runs north-south on what is now Denison Avenue. Dundas then appears again, for only a few blocks, going east-west between Bathurst and Hope (what is now Claremont) streets.

You might also discover certain urban anomalies, such as how modern-day University Avenue (known as College Avenue in 1858) is actually the combination of two previous streets: one side of the street was owned by the University of Toronto and the other side was owned by the City.

Top photo by Tom Bilenkey, all other photos by Matthew Blackett

299 Queen St. W

In December of 2007 ERA completed the terracotta restoration of 299 Queen Street West, the home of Canada’s MuchMusic.
Undertaken in four phases over five years, the project included new structural steel work, repair of the terracotta tiles, and the installation of new precast elements.

Cambridge City Hall

ERA is pleased to announce that Phase 1 of the exterior restoration work at Cambridge City Hall has been completed. We had the pleasure of restoring the tower and the slate roof. The highlights of the restoration work were the installation of the missing original concealed gutter on the main roof, the reintroduction of the two toned slate shingles on the upper tower roof and the refreshing of the four clock faces.

Thank you to Diamond + Schmitt Architects Inc., Clifford Restoration Ltd., Heather and Little Ltd. and Centrum Renovation and Repair Inc. for a job well done.

Joy Oil Gas Station Relocation

This past Saturday, April 14th, the historic Joy Oil Gas Station was relocated to its new home on the south side of Lakeshore Boulevard. Known for their circular towers and chateau style, this 1930’s gas station is the last of its kind. ERA has been assisting the City of Toronto in planning the station’s relocation, restoration, and reuse.

Best New Rental Development

ERA is pleased to announce that Jazz by Concert Properties was selected as the Best New Rental Development High-Rise at the 6th Annual MAC Awards held by the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO). ERA worked with Burka Varacalli Architects as the Heritage Architect for this project.

Evergreen at the Brick Works

ERA is excited to continue working with Evergreen at the Brickworks and begin new endeavors with du Toit Allsopp Hillier, Joe Lobko Architect, Claude Cormier Architectes Paysagistes, and Diamond + Schmitt on the next phase of this innovative brownfield project.

Check out the project at

Image courtesy of Claude Cormier Architectes Paysagistes

100 Yorkville

The Old Mount Sinai Hospital building, originally built in 1934 and left partially demolished in 1988, has been repaired and made weather tight with the assistance of ERA. It will be moved onto the sidewalk of Yorkville Avenue while the new foundations for 100 Yorkville are constructed, and then returned to its original location.