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June 16, 2019
by the gentle author

One of the most popular posts of recent years has been THE CREEPING PLAGUE OF GHASTLY FACADISM, my gallery of notorious London facades. Since then I gave a lecture at RIBA and contributed articles on the subject to Architectural Review and Design Exchange. Now I have written a book which I hope to publish with your kind assistance in October.

There are two ways you can help me publish the book.

1. I am seeking readers who are willing to invest £1000 in THE CREEPING PLAGUE OF GHASTLY FACADISM. In return, we will publish your name in the book and invite you to a celebratory dinner hosted by yours truly. If you would like to know more, please write to me at

2. Preorder a copy of THE CREEPING PLAGUE OF GHASTLY FACADISM and you will receive a signed and inscribed copy in October when the book is published. Click here to preorder your copy

Below you can see the cover design by David Pearson and a gallery of my photographs. In coming days, I will be publishing further excerpts from the book.

Please suggest other facades I should include.

The exterior cover of the book…

…which opens to reveal the title.

“As if I were being poked repeatedly in the eye with a blunt stick, I cannot avoid becoming increasingly aware of a painfully cynical trend in London architecture which threatens to turn the city into the backlot of an abandoned movie studio.”

The Gentle Author presents a humorous analysis of facadism – the unfortunate practice of destroying everything apart from the front wall and constructing a new building behind it – revealing why this is happening and what it means.

As this bizarre architectural fad has spread across the capital, The Gentle Author has photographed the most notorious examples, collecting an astonishing gallery of images that inspire both laughter and horror in equal measure.

An affront in Spitalfields – the former Fruit & Wool Exchange

The former Cock A Hoop in Artillery Lane dating from 1805

The former horse stables in Quaker St

The White Hart in Bishopsgate dating from 1240

At St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield

The Duke of Cambridge in Bethnal Green, dating from 1823

Former Unitarian Chapel in Waterloo dating from 1821

In Bartholomew Close, Smithfield

In Broadwick St, Soho

The former Pykes Cinematograph Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush dating from 1910

In Greek St, Soho

The veneer of luxury in Oxford St

A prize-winning abomination on the Caledonian Rd

In Gracechurch St, City of London

St Giles High St, Off Tottenham Court Rd

A stonker at Borough Market

Facade at Toynbee Hall

In Knightsbridge

In Brooke St, Mayfair

In Smithfield, where the new building and the old facade do not fit

The Spotted Dog in Willesden dating from 1762

British Land’s forthcoming development in Norton Folgate – ‘A kind of authenticity’


32 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 16, 2019

    GHASTLY indeed!

    The book cover is genius though…

  2. Milo Bell permalink
    June 16, 2019

    It is very sad that leaving these facades behind is deemed fair consolation for tearing down entire buildings, quarters, blocks.
    Who, if anyone is appeased by this?

  3. Bernie permalink
    June 16, 2019

    As with everything, there are good facades and (some very) bad ones, as your photos clearly show. Is it better to keep even a badly implemented facade than to lose all visible sign of what went before?

    I happen to have worked in a building (the Anderson College of Medicine, Glasgow University) where an old facade was retained and a functional new interior successfully integrated; no good alternatives were available and the integrated surface sculptures far too good to be discarded. Retention in this case was certainly the only good solution.

  4. June 16, 2019

    great post, thank you for the share…. we have something similar in Galway where a nice facade was kept – redbrick 2 story ‘steamship’ building at the docks with elaborate gable end and a concrete 4 story build directly behind and looks dreadful… and I thought at the time….’ only in Galway’

  5. John F permalink
    June 16, 2019

    An image of the current government would sit well with the theme of the book too…


  6. Bob Campbell permalink
    June 16, 2019

    Big business flouting peoples feelings and destroying the London I grew up in.Shame on the local councils for issuing permits for this destruction.How many “back handers” wrer given away?
    Thought it only happened over here in the US

  7. Helen Breen permalink
    June 16, 2019

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, best of luck with your new venture, THE CREEPING PLAGUE OF GHASTLY FACADISM – very clever clover.

    To me that most grotesque and incongruous façade is the “Former Unitarian Chapel in Waterloo dating from 1821.” None of them really works.

  8. Kim permalink
    June 16, 2019

    A dedicated follower of facadism!

  9. Amanda permalink
    June 16, 2019

    Very glad GA you left your “sign” of disapproval on the red safety barrier in QUAKER ST.
    It should have read ‘Potential Eyesore’ rather than ‘Potential Hazards.’

  10. Eric Forward permalink
    June 16, 2019

    Another great post. Some of these are just ghastly, and those are the better ones. Having walked past the example in Artillery Lane, I just though this serves no one. It just hangs in front of the new building no doubt blocking off the light and making for a suboptimal experience for those inside. However, sometimes this is the best option and maybe an official awards ceremony could point the way via good examples, and shame offenders with the equivalent Raspberry award.

  11. June 16, 2019

    Earliest: Metropolitan Tabernacle, Elephant and Castle;
    Current: there’s a massive, and massively dull, brick façade propped up now in Archway Road, just north of the actual Archway/Bridge.

  12. Kim permalink
    June 16, 2019

    How about featuring the part of the Hammersmith Broadway shopping centre that was previous part of Riverside bus garage, and was it itself a relic of a former manor house, so has been facaded twice!

  13. Elizabeth Neill permalink
    June 16, 2019

    Wowza. First of all, I agree with Helen that the Unitarian Chapel example is the very worst. Is the Toynbee example the front elevation of the famous Toynbee Hall, inspiration for Hull House? If so, it seems a) disrespectful of urban fabric, b) disrespectful of history, c) disrespectful of architectural beauty. Further, Christ Church Spitalfields: an important urban space. The facade facing the church doesn’t respect the design of the Fruit Exchange, or the Church; it has regularity, brick and glass but it is still incompatible with its surroundings and the design program should have been to enhance that space, not detract from it. (Ugh.) Artillery Lane – that idea should just stop. City streets need real windows, that overlook streets, and permits pedestrians to look inside. That sense of their being real human beings inside buildings who may observe pedestrians on the street is part of safety and part of what makes it attractive to be on a street.

  14. Elizabeth Neill permalink
    June 16, 2019

    P.S. I forgot to say how much I value your work as a writer and as an activist. I greatly admire the leadership you’ve shown and the way in which you have served your community.

  15. Laura Williamson permalink
    June 16, 2019

    I think the Cock a Hoop is the worst of the bunch but it is a close run field.

  16. Andy Nemeth permalink
    June 16, 2019

    The greater Vancouver (Canada) area has some examples of facadism, none appealing in the least. The whole practice is a disgusting joke.
    Good luck with your book project but truth be told, I’m a bit dismayed you’d legitimize the practice . . even if it is for humour’s sake . . by publishing a book on the topic.

  17. June 17, 2019

    That’s the former National Provincial Bank building at Gracechurch St, I think – a magnificent building that I took many photos of five years ago. I’m just horrified.

  18. Barendina Smedley permalink
    June 17, 2019

    I was going to send you the Greek Street Soho example, but you got there first! It has been annoying me for weeks. Your book sounds brilliant – too many people probably think facadism is a good compromise without thinking through properly all that’s being lost.

  19. Jon f permalink
    June 17, 2019

    Good on you for your excellent work

  20. Terry Smyth permalink
    June 17, 2019

    I’ll never forget the first time I stumbled across an example of this preposterous practice. We need to ban this form of film set living.

  21. Richard permalink
    June 17, 2019

    Keeping the old building maybe with modifications is best but is your opinion that having the facade there is at least a second best, rather than spreadsheet all the way through.

  22. Richard permalink
    June 17, 2019

    Has the spotted dog in Willesden stopped being a pub then?

  23. Richard permalink
    June 17, 2019

    I used to like the buildings in st Giles high Street. They were the last buildings in central London which hadn’t been cleaned. The last of smoky old London.

  24. June 17, 2019

    TBH I’d rather have the facades than lose everything completely…sometimes it’s just a matter of having to take what you can get. At least this way some of the streetscape is kept.

  25. Jak permalink
    June 19, 2019

    I think it was Boris Johnson who had a (criminal?) hand in The Fruit & Wool Exchage & probably a great many more

  26. Stephen Sargent permalink
    June 23, 2019

    Sainsburys Fulham kept the old factory Facade and incorporated the roofline into the design of the new building:

  27. June 24, 2019

    You might also look at the vestiges of the former Ruskin College in Walton Street Oxford, run for trade unionist adult students since 1899 , adjacent to Worcester College, and has been totally destroyed with just the frontal facade some years ago.

    Such a depressing act- even opposed by English Heritage.

  28. Mike Ferry permalink
    June 30, 2019

    This horrific trend is sadly not only limited to former public buildings. In so-called ‘conservation areas’ in London, local councils are giving the rich planning permission to tear down their period homes, retain the facade and build a high-spec modern home:

  29. Sally permalink
    July 6, 2019

    What kind of lunacy is this? These facades are an abomination – the Cally Road one particularly egregious I read as the developers didn’t bother to line up the windows of the facade windows and the windows of the building lurking behind – meaning the students living there looked out onto brick walls.

  30. Michael Williamson permalink
    November 14, 2019

    Not just London. Have a look at Christ Church, Southport

  31. January 15, 2021

    All from the school of screw you architecture, retained by the petulant new owners for spite and not incorporated to blend in.

  32. Mark permalink
    December 27, 2021

    When then-Abbey National vacated their Baker Street HQ to relocate to Euston Square, the old building at 215-229 (which clearly includes 221b!) was levelled. Except for the “lighthouse” façade, which was left standing while the building behind it was rebuilt, that is!

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