‘Facadism:’ Historical Preservation, Fakery—or a Little of Both?

Developers in cities like Oakland, California are turning to vintage architectural elements to inform building renovations, but this repackaging is far from traditional preservation work.

1 minute read

April 6, 2023, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Former auto showroom converted to apartments in Oakland, California with vintage facade and new tower rising above

The Broadstone Axis, a renovated auto showroom on Broadway's former 'Auto Row' in Oakland, California. | Google Maps / Broadstone Axis, Oakland, California.

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, John King describes an architectural trend known as “facadism,” which King describes as “using scraps of sculptural history to maintain stage sets on an urban scale.”

King highlights three examples from Oakland’s old ‘auto row,’ where developers are using the city’s past and existing architectural elements to inform the aesthetics of newly renovated buildings and “retain the pre-existing character while encouraging growth at a scale more dense than before.” King describes three developments on Broadway that “offer a crash course in both the strengths and limitations of such structural nostalgia.”

These include a former car dealership built in 1917, now 127 apartment units; a one-time garage and car showroom from 1916 converted to 107 apartments, which King prefers over the “boilerplate modernism” of the first example; and a block-long hotel and apartment combination also built out of a former auto showroom.

King acknowledges that “In a sense, all types of facadism involve fakery, with relics of the past being repackaged.” However, “The flip side is, this structural recycling genuinely can help urban districts evolve from old to new. The remnants provide links to the past even as the scale and uses are in transition. What’s also preserved, often, is a sense of tactile richness that couldn’t be achieved with today’s budget.”

Sunday, April 2, 2023 in San Francisco Chronicle

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