Monday, 20 August 2012

London's ugliest example of facadism?

There's an ongoing debate about the practice of facadism, which considers the value of leaving an historic facade in place while the building behind is torn away. As a result, the facade is arguably nothing more than decoration, shorn of its original significance: "a cute toy designed to make a skyscraper more palatable". If done clumsily, it can also look incongruous in its modern surroundings (for me, the Lloyds Building falls into that category). 

On the other hand, at least part of a building survives where it might otherwise have disappeared forever. Done well, the contrast between old and new can have its own appeal (here's an interesting French example). And as Matt Edgar points out, some buildings were essentially false facades to begin with: grand frontages often hid simple buildings in cheaper materials. 


However, even the fiercest defenders of the practice would surely gulp at the sight of this effort on the corner of Artillery Lane and Gun Street, Spitalfields. The former facade is left orphaned from the rest of the built environment, large metal pins carefully holding it at arm's length from the new building. Its windows are not only blank and empty, but out of kilter with those added behind. If those responsible had spray-painted 'we only left this because they made us' across one wall and 'we hate old buildings' on the other, the message would hardly be less subtle. 


I really hope that this is London's worst example. If you do know of any other contenders, share them in the comments.  



12 comments:

Mike Paterson said...

Ah, timely. I saw this a few weeks ago in Riding House Street W1. What you reckon? http://twitpic.com/altlr2

Anonymous said...

That is ripe for some excellent street art.

CarolineLD said...

Oh dear, Mike, I hope they're going to do something nice with that poor, orphanned facade!

Anon, if nothing else, it could hardly make matters much worse.

Dan Tonks said...

I am a little unsure what to think about 'facadism' or 'deathmasking' as it is called within architectural fan circles (ala Skyscrapercity.com). On one hand, it has done wonders for places like Bath, allowing the city to progress into the 21st century without losing it's streetscape, however, the interiors of these buildings are just as important as the exteriors.

Anonymous said...

Aw,I always find that facade delightfully peculiar. As a one-off it's smashing.

CarolineLD said...

Dan, 'deathmasking' is a great term for it!

Anon, I'd agree it's peculiar ;-)
More seriously, it's great that the facade is still giving people pleasure.

SilverTiger said...

To quote the oft-repeated phrase, "It takes two to tango", in this case the greedy developers steering close to the wind and the planners who let them get away with it.

When there is money to be made, developers will always push to the limits of legality (or even beyond) and the only way to protect the environment from their depredations is for those in authority to place wise limits on them and then enforce these rigorously. If this is not done, then the planners are as much to blame as the developers and deserve equal, if not greater, censure.

Tim said...

Not in London I'm afraid, but I have covered a case of façadism in Mérignac, near Bordeaux, France.

I have another example coming up soon where the façade has been left pinned on to the new building in much the same way as the Artillery Lane building.

CarolineLD said...

That's a very interesting example, Tim - I'll add a link in the main article. There was certainly a lot more thought and imagination used in Merignac!

Tim said...

Excellent, glad you like it! I'll give you a heads-up when my item about the other example goes live...

Keep up the most excellent work!

CarolineLD said...

Thank you, I look forward to it! I also particularly enjoyed the Breton connection in your latest post.

Andrew Bober said...

Tragically 1 Gun Street was where my family home and business were based from around 1880s-1930s. The thin veil of brick is all that is left of that and the survivors of what use to the the Jewish East End as well.