Designer Façadism

Façade by Toyo Ito

A new luxury apartment building for tourists has recently opened on Passeig de Gràcia, across from Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Milà, whose website states: “Located in a privileged area of Passeig de Gràcia, in the centre of Barcelona, with a facade designed exclusively by the prestigious architect Toyo Ito and tourist apartments offering luxury suites, Suites Avenue shines with a unique and avant-garde identity that meshes perfectly with Gaudi’s [sic] La Pedrera, just opposite.” (my italics).

Interestingly, the website makes no mention of the architect who actually designed the building in-behind. Is it an older building that has been dressed up with a new façade, or is it a new building where one architect has designed the actual building and another the front (not the first occurrence of this in Barcelona)? We don’t know from the website. Only the façade really matters, it seems.

Oddly enough, some years ago just up the street, a new building was erected behind an historical façade that was retained by means of a complex steel exoskeleton–the practice known as “façadism” that is disdained by both architects and preservationists alike, though for different reasons, of course.

In terms of substance (and with all due respect to Toyo Ito), is there really much of a difference between “historical façadism” and “designer façadism”?

Historical façadism on Passeig de Gràcia


View through Ito façade

About Rafael Gomez-Moriana

I am an architect, writer and educator. rafagomo.com chronicles my architectural making, writing, teaching and curating activity, while criticalista.com is an archive of my writings as well as a platform for venting personal rants and observations. I studied architecture at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and at the Berlage Institute (the Netherlands). I direct the University of Calgary’s architecture term-abroad program in Barcelona and teach at CIEE, and have previously taught in the Metropolis Masters Program in Architecture and Urban Culture as well as at Carleton University and the University of Manitoba.

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