Visioning Scarborough

Community Design in Action


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Youth build decking for Scarborough shade structure

Beginning in early July, six youth from the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community were hired for a five-week period by the East Scarborough Storefront to continue work on a series of community-oriented landscape improvements. These features were designed as part of the Community Design Initiative (C.D.I.) program, to which these youth have previously volunteered hundreds of hours.

In our last week on site the team is in the process of creating a 15×50 ft. deck that will be placed underneath a green-roof pavilion known as the Sky-O-Swale, which the youth have had a hand in designing in previous sessions of the C.D.I.  program. The deck will be formed by a total of thirty 5×5 ft. modular decking segments which will eventually be pieced together. For the construction of the Deck alone, the youth have made over 700 cuts to roughly 500 pieces of wood. We have developed some real skills throughout the duration of this project and have a lot to show for it!

For more information, see our project description of East Scarborough Centre.


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Construction and river valley tour, East Scarborough

Photos: Holly Pagnacco

Progress on the East Scarborough Storefront’s (ESS) soon-to-be grapevine pergola is running on time. We have just completed some 50 trellis modules which will form the roof structure for the grapevines to grow on. The youth spent weeks building these modules and have become confident measuring and cutting wood, along with many other skills.

As part of this ongoing learning process, our youth landscapers recently presented on the transformations the community could expect at ESS, including the pergola and deck, which the team has been working on since early July. Participants were surprised and inspired to see the impressive projects community youth are working on.

In addition to these presentations, we also participated in a tour hosted by Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF) and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). The tour led participants along Highland Creek Valley in Morningside Park to discuss the connection between green space and our everyday living and to increase awareness of the great resource the park and trails represent.

Please come back to this site often to learn more.

Written by Ajeev Bhatia, a summer youth intern at ERA Architects. He first volunteered at East Scarborough Storefront in 2009 and was later hired as a Community.Design.Initiative Youth Ambassador. Recently Ajeev participated in a housing build program in the Dominican Republic and in fall 2012 will be attending York University to study social work.


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Construction begins at the Storefront

Over the past couple of years, ERA has been working with The East Scarborough Storefront (ESS) on the Community Design Initiative (CDI), where Scarborough youth are educated in architecture and design by mentors from ERA, Sustainable.TO, and ArchiTEXT. In the current phase, we are working to bring more shade and plant life to the site. This will include several garden and landscape features, a pergola structure for grapevines, and a green-roof pavilion known as the Sky-o-swale.

Beginning earlier in July, five youth from the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community, who have cumulatively dedicated hundreds of hours to the CDI program, were hired by the ESS for a five-week period to physically build an exterior deck for public use (located under the Sky-o-swale), as well as 50 trellis modules that will form the roof structure for the grapevine pergola.

The youth are enthusiastic about the project and have no problem operating the power tools required for this build. They are very fast learners and eager to get “hands-on.” Last week, participants began by learning proper technique and safety measures required to progress safely and successfully. We soon proceeded to build our shaded worktables and began to measure and cut to size some of the wood needed for the pergola modules.

After so much design and planning, it’s great to see the build phase begin. Please return here for more reports on our progress through this exciting project.

Written by Ajeev Bhatia, a summer youth intern at ERA Architects. He first volunteered at East Scarborough Storefront in 2009 and was later hired as a CDI Youth Ambassador. Recently Ajeev participated in a housing build program in the Dominican Republic and in fall 2012 will be attending York University to study social work.


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Planting for an elevated bioswale in Scarborough

On a recent pleasant day in June, ERA joined green roof expert Atom Cianfarani and a group of community youth to plant a nursery in preparation for the future construction of an unusual green-roof shade structure at the East Scarborough Storefront.

Over the past year, we have been working with the Storefront, Sustainable.TO, ArchiTEXT, various volunteers, and youth participants on an exciting project in the tower neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park. Soon we begin construction of a dynamic new environment including a kitchen garden and patio, a bee and butterfly garden, a small orchard, and a unique green-roof pavilion or “Sky-o-swale.”

The Sky-o-swale is so named because its roof acts as an elevated bioswale that purifies and harvests rainwater for irrigation of the adjacent gardens. Its soil is a lightweight, free draining growing medium and its vegetation consists of several sedum species of flowering succulents, which are tough, tolerant of drought, and require only a little soil.

In order to allow these plants to establish themselves, we have pre-planted a temporary nursery at ground level. After about two months it will be transferred in sections to a number of modular containers and raised to the roof level. The roof itself is to be constructed of chain-link fence fabric found onsite and suspended in a catenary curve. Once the swale is up and functioning we will monitor the system for quality and quantity of water provided.

Thanks to our Community.Design.Initiative mentors and youth for their hard work, and to Atom at AtomsEco for her valuable knowledge on bioswale and greenroof systems. Please check back for more on this project, including our youth engagement curriculum, community design process, and plans for construction.


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East Scarborough Storefront: Update

As we have mentioned previously on this blog, ERA Architects is collaborating with ArchiTEXT and Sustainable.TO on the exciting Community.Design.Initiative at the East Scarborough Storefront. The East Scarborough Storefront is a key community agency hub and service agency in an Apartment Neighbourhood in East Scarborough.  Over the course of an intensive 19-week mentorship semester we worked with community youth on the design new features as part of the Storefront’s ongoing renewal, including a kitchen garden and patio, a unique green-roof pavilion, a bee and butterfly garden, and a small orchard. Summer and fall 2012 will see further collaboration with the community as we move toward construction of this dynamic new environment.

In preparation for construction, the team needed to move several plots to another part of the community garden, as well as to finish our inventory of available supplies of hemlock and Douglas fir (an inventory of which had already begun earlier in the year). After being counted, measured, and documented, each piece of wood was crib-stacked to minimize surface contact and maximize air circulation.

Now that we know what we’ve got to work with, we can finalize the project’s design, and prepare the construction documents. One exciting next step is the pre-planting of our shade structure’s green roof. To allow the vegetation to establish itself in time for construction, the Storefront will host a community green-roof planting day in mid-June. Modular containers will be laid out at ground level in the Storefront’s parking lot, planted, and tended to for several months before being raised atop the pavilion when the structure is finished in the fall.

Thanks very much to all the volunteers who came out to help from Community.Design.Initiative, East Scarborough Storefront, Telus (in the green shirts, pictured above), and, as always, the community of Kingston – Galloway – Orton Park (KGO), East Scarborough.


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As we have mentioned previously on this blog, ERA Architects is collaborating with ArchiTEXT and Sustainable.TO on the exciting Community.Design.Initiative at East Scarborough Storefront. Over the course of an intensive 19-week mentorship semester we worked with community youth on the design of a kitchen garden and patio, a unique green-roof pavilion, a bee and butterfly garden, and a small orchard. Summer and fall 2012 will see further collaboration with the community as we move toward construction of this dynamic new environment.

In preparation for construction, the team needed to move several plots to another part of the community garden, as well as to finish our inventory of available supplies of hemlock and Douglas fir (an inventory of which had already begun earlier in the year). After being counted, measured, and documented, each piece of wood was crib-stacked to minimize surface contact and maximize air circulation.

Now that we know what we’ve got to work with, we can finalize the project’s design, and prepare the construction documents. One exciting next step is the pre-planting of our shade structure’s green roof. To allow the vegetation to establish itself in time for construction, the Storefront will host a community green-roof planting day in mid-June. Modular containers will be laid out at ground level in the Storefront’s parking lot, planted, and tended to for several months before being raised atop the pavilion when the structure is finished in the fall.

Thanks very much to all the volunteers who came out to help from Community.Design.Initiative, East Scarborough Storefront, Telus (in the green shirts, pictured above), and, as always, the community of Kingston – Galloway – Orton Park (KGO), East Scarborough.