Façade-ectomy No Substitute For Historic Preservation

The controversial practice of demolishing all but the exterior of a historic building doesn't serve to preserve that past or encourage new architecture, argues architecture critic Blair Kamin.

"Chicago is about to reveal that bad urban planning leads to bad historic preservation -- and a botched cityscape where only the developers win. The case revolves around a plan to awkwardly tether the 11-story Farwell Building, a gracious Beaux-Arts dowager at 664 N. Michigan Ave., to a 40-story condominium tower that will be crammed onto a tiny site. But it has national implications because it is the latest instance of the controversial practice called the "facade-ectomy."

So named because it surgically preserves only the facade of a historic building and attaches it to a new structure, the facade-ectomy has surfaced with rising frequency in recent years, stripping structures across the nation -- cast-iron buildings in Baltimore, red-brick warehouses in San Diego and post-Chicago Fire Victorians -- of everything but their skin."

" 'Are we entering into deals that serve neither progressive architecture nor historic preservation?' asked Jonathan Fine, president of Preservation Chicago, a non-profit advocacy group."

Full Story: Why bad planning = bad preservation


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