Historic Preservation

Topic | Saving Face

 Saving Face: Façadism as an Adaptive Reuse strategy?

Keywords: Heritage, Historic Preservation, Adaptive Reuse, Modern Context

Abstract: In the present day, when the strain on infrastructure is apparent and resources are dwindling, the concept of reuse has become quintessential. This is pertinent for land as a resource as well. With the world and its need of growing manifold, the accommodation of new space  has to be catered to. Empty plots of land in the urban fabric are becoming difficult to find – either for financial reasons or for the sheer lack thereof. It is therefore important to reuse and recycle existing vacant buildings. Many often these buildings are historic in nature. The grand scale of these historic structures within an urban setting allow for interventions and adaptations of the spaces. In such cases, what comes to the forefront is the preservation of the buildings history. Over centuries, the concept of preservation has been debated upon. The paper will look at how architects have dealt with the concept of historic preservation in the contemporary context. Through case studies of interventions in the last 25 years, observations can be made about the changing concept of adapting structures by retaining the historic outer shell and reevaluating the interior spaces for modern uses. Often referred to as “Facadism”, it balances the need for historic restoration and a radical change in the idea of preservation. A quote from Ada Louise Huxtable (Lessons in Healing the City’s Scars) forms the foundation of this writing:

“What we need is continuity . . . historic preservation is not sentimentality but a psychological necessity. We must learn to cherish history and to preserve worthy old buildings . . . we must learn how to preserve them, not as pathetic museum pieces, but by giving them new uses.”

Las Arenas de Barcelona

Case Studies:

  • Las Arenas, Barcelona
  • The Old US Mint, San Francisco
  • The Gare d’Orsay Museum, Paris
  •  The Old Reichstag, Berlin
  • Ferry Building Market Place, San Francisco
  • The Old Post Office, Washington DC
by Mansi Tewari