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The Creeping Plague Of Ghastly Facadism

June 3, 2024
by the gentle author

I am giving a free lecture based on my book THE CREEPING PLAGUE OF GHASTLY FACADISM at the Barbican Library on Tuesday 11th June at 6pm. CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR TICKET

An affront in Spitalfields

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. If walls could speak, these would tell tales of bad compromises and angry developers who, dissatisfied with the meagre notion of repair and reuse, are driven solely by remorseless greed.

Meanwhile, bullied into sacrificing historic buildings of merit, cowed planning authorities must take consolation in the small mercy of retaining a facade. The result is that architects are humiliated into creating passive-aggressive structures, like the examples you see below – gross hybrids of conflicted intentions that scream ‘Look what you made me do!’ in bitter petulant resentment.

A kind of authenticity’ is British Land’s oxymoronical attempt to sell this approach in their Norton Folgate publicity, as if there were fifty-seven varieties of authenticity, when ‘authentic’ is not a relative term – something is either authentic or it is phoney.

Shameless in Artillery Lane

Not even pretending in Gun St either

A sham marriage in Chiswell St

Lonely and full of dread in Smithfield

Can you spot the join in Fitzrovia?

Looming intimations of ugliness in Oxford St

A fracture in Hanway St

A hollow excuse in Central London

The veneer of luxury in the West End

A prize-winning abomination on the Caledonian Rd

Barely keeping up appearances at UCL Student Housing

In Gracechurch St, City of London

St Giles High St, Off Tottenham Court Rd

‘A kind of authenticity’ – Facadism in Norton Folgate according to British Land


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16 Responses leave one →
  1. Rita permalink
    June 3, 2024

    GA you’re absolutely spot on with the awfulness and spread of this disease Façadism. It’s a sad brutal ugly business that the Developers planners, and authorities have allowed to destroy once very handsome buildings. They have ruined our landscapes and offer empty soulless monstrosities for profiteering shame on them all who are in power and approved this destruction.

  2. June 3, 2024

    The absurdity of this can hardly be topped.

    Love & Peace

  3. Severine permalink
    June 3, 2024

    There is another horrible example near Limehouse Station. I think it is on Pitsea Street or Caroline Street coming off Commercial Road.

  4. June 3, 2024


  5. June 3, 2024

    Well said. I absolutely agree. It’s as if these building have become ghosts of themselves, horribly sad

  6. June 3, 2024

    Depressing isn’t it? My Dad cut out lots of newspaper articles and often I couldn’t see the significance of what he had read that was important to him. I recently found one that featured British Land. I have kept it and will pass it onto you when I next see you. Sadly I can’t make your lecture but do keep up the good fight to save our historic buildings in their entirety.

  7. Cherub permalink
    June 3, 2024

    I have an English friend based in Spain and used to visit him in central Madrid when he lived there. Madrid had a lot of development like this where facades were left in place 20 years ago. It seemed to work there as it blended in but in London it doesn’t work and looks odd.

  8. Christine permalink
    June 3, 2024

    Sad to see these photos as until they are out all together you don’t realise how many of these structures there are! Sadly London losing the fight to stainless steel and glass 😢

  9. Helen permalink
    June 3, 2024

    It’s utterly abhorrent. It’s not one thing or another. It’s just a clumsy mismatch celebrating neither the old or the new. Like with much these days, they steal the real and sell you the fake.

  10. Desiree Michael permalink
    June 3, 2024

    Nice book cover!

  11. Lorraine permalink
    June 3, 2024

    It beggars belief that these awful people push well established rules right to the limit in this way. They know as we all do this is totally outwith the spirit of the rules. Profit profit profit is all that drives these beastly companies and people. Wouldn’t they make enough money without such an approach? Probably, but they want to bleed it dry. Where have we gone wrong? Why are the planning authorities not taking steps to call a halt to it all?

  12. Mark permalink
    June 3, 2024

    Rich people love it.

  13. Mark in Colorado US permalink
    June 3, 2024

    ‘A kind of authenticity’ sometimes known as farce.
    Keep up the good fight GA.

  14. June 3, 2024

    I’m astounded by this. And dismayed.
    Where did this dreadful idea come from? — and why has it become the “new normal”?
    As you mentioned, this “backlot” approach to public architecture lacks all the whimsy and
    make-believe of movie sets. And, forgive me, the hideous modern buildings that lurk behind
    these facades are totally lacking in character and distinction. Uniformly gray with black
    staring eyes.
    There is something so ghostly and futile about these preserved facades…….they appear to stand erect, wondering “where’s the rest of me?”.
    Thanks for your advocacy, GA, as ever.

  15. Pam permalink
    June 4, 2024

    How does this pass in the great city of London? No respect for the past leading to this pure ugliness, taking away the history and many stories of the past. Greed, no words can express our loss.

  16. Rosa permalink
    June 18, 2024

    A profound metaphor. I wish I had the skill to write the piece that cries to be written. A painful job.

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