19 August 2019

Façadism: calm down dear – it's happening everywhere!

Façadism – keeping an original street-facing part of a building but removing and replacing everything behind it and then adding a new building behind it. 
Recently people have been up in arms about this citing examples such as the Mallet, Porter & Dowd building in Caledonian Rd and the rear of the hospital building in Artillery Row as examples of how bad this is. The Gentle Author/SpitalfieldsLife is one such person who is getting rather angsty about it and uses words like outrage, plague, folly – he is currently asking people to help him crowd fund a book on the subject.
Well, like Michael Winner, I say, calm down dear! Put you handbags down! What are you upset about exactly? Can we please put this into perspective...
Is the stress caused by loss of the old building? Or the building of the new one? Would the 'Façamoaners' rather the whole thing had been demolished? Does keeping only the front-facing section make them sad, like recalling a dead relative?
Yes, I am also disappointed at the amount of glass that is quickly replacing the old buildings, especially in the Square Mile during the last 15 years, but I am aware that 'progress' means moving with the times. Deals are not made in coffee houses these days.
Are the Façamoaners suggesting that we keep everything that has ever been built? We can't save everything! What do they think was there before? Consider that the coffee houses replaced Tudor buildings which were built on Roman dwellings etc – should we build on levels until we reach the sky?
Mallet, Porter & Dowd, Caledonian Rd
Regarding the two examples I give at the top of this post, in my humble pragmatic opinion, having studied both of those sites I have come to the conclusion that they have been well-considered, and keeping an attractive part of an old building helps a passer-by who is not that up on local history to question an area's heritage. Surely that's not a bad thing?
The MP&D/Costa CallyRd site (pic right) is often criticised because the old and new windows do not align. I agree that it does look odd at first glance. But, look closer to see that the old and new front walls are approx one metre apart – to align the windows would minimise light into the building, especially on an east-facing site. This design allows light to enter the building from many angles. The façade was the most interesting and attractive part of the building – as a warehouse only the front of would have had any embellishment. It's amazing that it's been retained at all. Again, would the façamoaners prefer to have this part also removed and we just see a flat wall of glass and clip-together panels, as per the rest of the terrace going south (left in the pic)? The new glass building will not last as long as the 1874 brickwork – there will be further developments here I am sure. My own problem with the renovation is the loss of the 99% of an original doorway of which only a tiny triangle remains at the extreme left.
Sussex Way, Holloway N7. Built 1870s.
A lot Holloway, N7, was built in the 1870s including the residential streets where I live. Façadism is in action here too but it's not so obvious; not so clearly defined. I reckon that less than 10% of the houses here will have interiors that resemble original 1870s floor plans. As I write this three houses a stone's throw away are being gutted and extended backwards and upwards – I expect bi-fold doors and pedestal kitchen units to arrive in the next few weeks.
In the case of Niclar House on Shoreditch High Street a bit of façadism would have been welcome.
Food for though eh.
That'll do.
Thanks for reading this.

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