A New Attitude on Old Approaches: Examining Facadism

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful aspects of facadism.


California’s metropolitan areas are continuing to face increased development pressures that threaten smaller-scaled historic resources. As urban design and planning call for more density and infill, an old approach that has long been out of favor seems to be making a comeback. Has the approach to façadism changed? Can it be done well? Is it an acceptable compromise when other priorities—affordable or just more housing, improving urban designs, climate change and seismic resiliency, or simple economics—clash with by-the-books preservation? How can we support good projects while maintaining preservation standards (if not the Standards)? On the other hand, how do we prevent façadism from becoming the default option? This session will explore these questions with a discussion among preservation professionals, city planning staff, and others. This course was developed by AIA San Francisco.

Learning objectives

  • Describe the SOI standards and Preservation Brief 14.
  • Investigate appropriate design options that avoid façadism and still meet project objectives.
  • Explain the consequences of façadism with the integrity of an historic structure while encouraging the redevelopment and reuse of historic sites.
  • Use case examples to identify good and bad examples of façade reuse.
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 $40  non-member
 $25  member
1.00 LU
  • HSW
  • RIBA


  • Mike Buhler

    Mike Buhler

    President & CEO, San Francisco Heritage

    Since 2010, Mike Buhler has served as executive director of San Francisco Heritage, a nonprofit...
  • Flora Chou

    Flora Chou


    Senior Associate, Architectural Historian, Cultural Resources Planner, Page & Turnbull

    Flora Chou is a cultural resources planner at Page & Turnbull’s Los Angeles office. Prior to...
  • Justin Greving

    Justin Greving

    Preservation Planner, City and County of San Francisco

    Justin is an architectural historian and works as a preservation planner for the San Francisco...
  • Jon Haeber

    Jon Haeber

    Field Services Director, California Preservation Foundation

    Jon Haeber manages Education and Technical Assistance programs for CPF, including the Conference,...