A primary research focus of CUG+R is the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal Project, an initiative that re-examines the region’s post-war high-rise towers and the neighbourhoods in which they lie, with the focus of enabling apartment clusters to emerge as complete, vibrant, transit supportive, low-carbon and equitable communities throughout the city and region. The Directors of CUG+R worked with the City of Toronto to establish its Tower Renewal program, and are currently working with the Province of Ontario’s Growth Secretariat to examine the opportunities for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Tower Renewal was recognized with a National Urban Design Award in 2010.
In 2009 ERA Architects and SvN (the founding partners of CUG+R), along with the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto, were commissioned by the Ontario Growth Secretariat, in the Ministry of Infrastructure, to examine the potential for engaging in a strategy of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH).

The focus of this study is two-fold. The first objective is to analyze and catalogue the high-rise apartment housing resource to better understand its current role within the GGH. The second objective is to examine the potential for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal to support the realization of priorities of the government of Ontario, such as implementing the Growth Plan for the GGH, creating a network of regional rapid transit, conserving energy, reducing greenhouse gas production, reducing poverty and increasing general prosperity, providing affordable housing and building a green economy.

Findings of this research initiative have been published as the report Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: An Analysis of High-Rise Apartment Tower Neighbourhoods Developed in the Post-War Boom (1945-1984)”, available here for download.

This report is reproduced here with permission from the Government of Ontario, © Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2010.
CUG+R has begun working in partnership with UNITED WAY Toronto and the University of Toronto to examine current and potential zoning for Tower Neighbourhoods. The study will document the current regulatory constraints in Apartment Neighbourhoods, such as “legacy by-laws” that probihit a mix-of-uses within apartment properties, and examine formula for alternative zoning frameworks that anticipates change; allows for a broad range of uses; the appropriate development of new housing types and tenures; supports entrepreneurs and social enterprises; and enables for planning at the neighbourhood scale. Look for the results in late 2011.
Form and Function in the Ontario Context
The presence of approximately 2000 post-war high rise apartments distributed throughout the region, gives the Toronto Area an urban form unique to North America. Over the past several years, CUG+R researchers have been investigating the history and current condition of these apartment towers, their neighbourhoods, and their relationship to the larger region. The CUG+R team has been working with community groups in several apartment neighbourhoods to better understand current conditions and community aspirations.

In the months ahead, existing and new material related to the region’s apartment neighbourhoods will be made available for download.

Trip Map 4 2010
Over the past several years, CUG+R researchers have conducted a series of study tours throughout the European Union, visiting numerous cities and neighbourhoods, and meeting with local experts to learn about best practices in tower refurbishment and neighbourhood revitalization.

With Tower Neighbourhood refurbishment well underway in the European Union for more than a decade, a host of projects showcase leading approaches to sustainable building renewal, community development and urban design. Better understanding these projects and the policies and financing structure that support them will help ensure the best results as Tower Neighbourhood Renewal moves forward in Ontario.

A series of best practice examples and case studies have been compiled for the report Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Excerpts of this international analysis have been compiled as the European Best Practice Document, and can be downloaded here.

As the research team at CUG+R continues to analyze findings, additional case study data will be made available for download.

A special thanks to the Swedish Consulate in Toronto, the German Trade Commission, the Clinton Foundation, and the C40 for their part in organizing the most recent study tour.

Built Form + Open Space Catalogue
Precedents from the European Union showcase numerous innovative new approaches to infill building typologies, that relate to existing towers and result in a more livable neighbourhood environment. In developing strategies for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in Ontario, CUG+R is analyzing key EU precedents and developing a Built Form + Open Space Catalogue that will be available for download.
CUG+R has been working with the National Film Board on their documentary project HighRise, which looks at the experience of living in post war concrete towers around the world. Currently, CUG+R is partnering with the National Film Board (NFB) and the Kipling Towers community in north Etobicoke, to produce the forthcoming web documentary The Millionth Tower; a follow up to the powerful web documentary, The 1000th Tower.

While The 1000th Tower brings the viewer inside the lives of six tower residents, sharing stories of their present experience, The Millionth Tower will showcase the bold ideas that the residents have in re-imagining what their neighbourhood could become in the future. CUG+R has been helping to inspire the community to dream big, and to provide design guidance to help communicate their ideas. Look for The Millionth Tower to be launched in early 2011.

CUG+R, in association with ERA Architects, initiated the ‘Culture of Outports’ project to research, document, analyze, and explore ways in which architecture and planning may help to shape the development of these rural Newfoundland communities, post-fisheries. As a part of this project, ERA taught a Free Lab studio course through Dalhousie University. This two-week design/build project in the outport community of Burlington, Newfoundland, was an exciting opportunity for six students to participate in a larger cultural initiative. Working with the support of the local community and assisted by a range of design professionals and craftspeople, students designed and produced a small-scale intervention on municipal land that was bred from site-specific conditions, and drew upon vernacular building techniques and traditional craft practices.