The retained original, historic facade along Fall Creek Parkway. Ivy Tech at Old St. Vincent's Hospital, 2534 North Illinois Street.

Facadism. Our next preservation related Building Language term, in honor of Preservation Month, is facadism. The term facadism occurs when a construction project “saves” the historic façade (or front) of a structure, but demolishes the rest of the building. A new building is built behind the historic façade, allowing the developer to build a structure almost completely from scratch. The use of facadism is more common in large building projects, where the rehabilitation of the entire structure can be a larger undertaking.

The facade meets the addition in the southwest corner of Ivy Tech at Old St. Vincent's Hospital, 2534 North Illinois Street

Two major building projects in Indianapolis have utilized facadism. The most recent one includes the Old St. Vincent’s Hospital along Fall Creek Parkway (2534 North Illinois Street). The Old St. Vincent’s Hospital was sitting vacant and in much need of rehabilitation when Ivy Tech took possession of the structure. In turn, Ivy Tech chose to demolish the majority of the structure, but just retain the historic façade along Fall Creek Parkway. The design of the addition is in stark contrast to the original brick structure, indicating the contemporary nature of the design. Although the decision to use facadism on this project will always be the source of some controversy, at least it was done in a way to identify the new from the old.



Historic Facade retained at 14 West Maryland Street

The second example of facadism is found at the Circle Center Mall in downtown Indianapolis. If you walk around the exterior of the mall, several areas incorporated the original, historic facades of the buildings that used to be found in that location. One façade is found at the location of the restaurant 14 West (14 West Maryland Street). From the corner of this building you can easily see the retention of just the original, historic façade. A group of historic facades were retained on the 100 Block of South Meridian Street. With a trained eye, you can see the contemporary building attached to these original facades. There are other historic facades retained as part of the Circle Center Mall exterior, used sporadically along the exterior of the complex.

A group of historic facades retained in the 100 Block of South Meridian Street, Circle Center Mall.

Add it to your vocabulary – how might one use today’s Building Language term in their everyday life?

The use of facadism was so well done that I hadn’t realized that the building was new until I went inside.

7 responses to “Building Language: Facadism”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Facadism appears to be an economically feasible way to preserve an historic heritage at a location…

  2. KurtL says:

    IIRC, for Circle Centre Mall, the facades weren’t generally returned to their original locations, though they might belong to the same street, they weren’t necessarily in the same order. Instead, they were “fit” to make an overall aesthetic presentation.

  3. kracka says:

    In Ivy Tech’s rehabilitation of St Vincents Hospital on FC, much of inside was kept and rehabbed all the way down to the marble floors and marble and cast iron stairwells. Even the “U” shaped footprint is still utilized. All the plaster, asbestose, and original woodwork was stripped out. One fabulous thing they did with the interior is that the original squared weaving pattern of the cast iron structures and the original trim has been repeated throughout the building in the new design.

    I am a stickler for historic accuracy in architectural design, but seeing this beautiful building repurposed while maintaining the visual asthetics has made me a convert to the term “Facadism”.

  4. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    I’ve toured it–just goes to show people define “much” much differently. Essentially the stairwells were saved and the entryway. I’d guesstimate that 90+ % of the square footage is new.

  5. basil berchekas jr says:

    An excellent reuse using facadism with more than just the “facade”…

  6. David Brewer says:

    My brother and I were both born in the old St. Vincent’s Hospital in the late 1950s-early 1960s. I was glad to see that they at least saved part of the building.

  7. Hoosier says:

    I think 90%+ new square footage is too high of an estimate. More was saved than you think. All the offices that line the wings were formerly patient rooms (that face the interior ‘courtyard’) in addition to the stairs on the end that you mentioned. All of the squarefootage at the center around where the historic stair was saved as well as the square footage south of that stair was existing (study rooms on most floors). Keeping these areas also allowed the facade to stand on its own without having a lot of steel backing once demolition began (kept the structural integrity by keeping a bay). The aerial on Google Maps actually caught it mid-demolition. If you switch to the satellite view, as you zoom in you can see the old that remained without the new, then it switches to the new when you get down close. It’s pretty cool to see. There was a lot of square footage added to the northeast, but most of that was 1 story (with some on 2nd).

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