By Jonathan Richards
Facadism - the upkeep of old facades, the production of facsimiles in entrance of recent constructions and the ornamental workouts of postmodernism - is accused of destroying architectural innovation, of divorcing the internal and external of structures and of lowering townscapes to theatre units. Its defenders describe facadism because the means city culture and growth stroll hand in hand. Facadism provides a serious research of an idea significant to the way the town is being remodelled. Assessing architectural and townscape philosophies and their aesthetics, the foundations of city conservation, the method of background making plans and the industry forces of city improvement, the publication builds an entire photo of the factors and results of facadism within the 20th Century.
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22 3 ARCHITECTURAL PERSPECTIVES Ever since its emergence within architectural and town planning vocabulary during the 1970s, the word facadism has stimulated controversial comment in a complex debate about its validity and morality as an approach to development. This debate highlights an enormous gulf between differing opinions about the nature of buildings and the architectural significance attached to ‘the facade’ as an element of building design. From some perspectives, facadism presents an unwelcome challenge to the conceptual foundations on which the principles of good architecture are based.
The time-honoured tradition of refacing buildings is, in retrospect, seen as acceptable, or at least does not attract widespread condemnation, whereas the current process of retaining a historic facade, or creating a facsimile, in front of a modern building, attracts considerable criticism that it is a dishonest and distasteful practice. Leaving aside conservation issues, which are dealt with later in this book, there seems to be little justification, in architectural terms, for arguing that one practice is, in principle, any more honest, tasteful or acceptable than the other.
Reflecting again on one of the Bristol examples mentioned above, this aspect is well illustrated: in Queen Square we have the terraced buildings erected in the late 1970s with the facade onto Queen Square evoking early eighteenth-century houses, the rear facade onto The Grove reinterpreting vernacular warehousing and, inside, open-plan office space stretching along the entire length of the buildings. The party quoins to the Queen Square elevation suggest vertical subdivision inside the building which, of course, does not exist in reality, the illusion being shattered on close inspection by the strip lighting and lack of interior dividing walls.
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