Heritage and Housing: Rethinking The Past For a More Prosperous Future

Heritage and Housing: Rethinking The Past For a More Prosperous Future

Toronto has more construction cranes than any city in North America yet continues to face a severe housing affordability crisis as it builds, rebuilds and redefines its diverse cultural heritage just as landmarks and vernacular architecture are regularly replaced. On September 23, The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario held its Heritage and Housing Symposium at the Ontario Science Centre, where architects, planners, artists and advocates attended three sessions discussing the intersection of heritage and housing. SvN was a proud supporter of this important event.

The event was marked by three sessions which examined affordability, the climate crisis and the future of our growing city. Architect and urban designer Ian Chodikoff, Director at SvN, moderated the session on affordability, featuring Monica Hutton (Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust), Michael Otchie (ERA Architects) and artists Nicole Charles and Justin Pape.

Otchie used the TOBuilt Database to map out existing building stock while appreciating the embodied energy, capital, and labour that goes into our built heritage. The TOBuilt database is operated by the Toronto Branch of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario and is an invaluable Open Source Database of images and information about buildings in Toronto. Hutton described the evolution of the Scatter Homes project, which was realized on April 1, 2022, when the City of Toronto and Toronto Community Housing (TCH) transferred 81 single-family homes and small buildings in Toronto's west end to The Neighbourhood Land Trust (NLT) to provide affordable rental housing for low- and moderate-income households, with a management focus that includes tenant involvement and emissions reduction renovations.

Charles and Pape discussed their exhibit (NOTICE), which uses demolition waste as part of their sculptures. Their works represent a convincing platform for tangible protest and the power of visualization to create symbolic artifacts that emphasize the embodied energy within existing buildings–a powerful statement as we build and destroy buildings amidst a climate crisis.

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