Clemency Gibbs (UCL) - 2020-21 Students

Facadism in London

My research examines the architectural practices encompassed by the term ‘façadism’ as relate to historic buildings, focusing on London examples since 1970.

Façadism is a wide-reaching term that is used to describe a variety of urban development projects (though its suffix deceptively implies a coherent set of criteria) that privilege the façade of a building above other elements. The research project uses façadism case studies to explore the hypothesis that there currently exists a gap between critical heritage theory and conservation practice. Within the field of Critical Heritage Studies, heritage enjoys acceptance as denoting more than a physical monument, or a monument’s physicality, focusing on heritage as a discursive process of production rather than an entity to be consumed. Façadism practices reduce an historic building to a visual and material stimulus, suggesting, therefore, that conservation practice continues to be rooted in a values-based system of assessment that privileges historical and aesthetic qualities over more transitory qualities such as use and association.

My research looks to identify the reasons behind the introduction and ongoing evolution of modern façadism practices, examining the principles that inform the decision-making process at a policy level and their impact on the discursive potential of built urban heritage. Working through the framework of Critical Heritage Studies, the research methodology includes both the application of Critical Discourse Analysis to primary sources, such as planning and policy documents, and interviews with relevant actors.

Primary supervisor: Dr Clare Melhuish, UCL

Secondary supervisor: Prof. Ben Campkin, UCL

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