How to Drop a New Building on Top of an Old One

Construction site

The two elements of this Boston condo tower were built more than a century apart. Does this old-new architectural combination hold up?

December 5, 2022
Kriston Capps - Bloomberg

Façadectomy. That’s the tongue-in-cheek term for a widely unloved architectural compromise that developers sometimes strike: saving the historic veneer of an existing building while demolishing and replacing its internal structure. Façade preservation is especially popular in Washington, DC, where a federal cap on the height of buildings and the strength of the preservationist cause locally makes the case for adapting existing structures, even at great expense.

Façadism is rarer where cheaper tear-downs are possible, but over the last 40 years, this trend hit its stride on the East Coast. Prominent examples include the Spanish Embassy in DC and the Penn Mutual tower in Philadelphia.

A new condo tower in Boston’s South End isn’t a typical façadectomy. The development at 100 Shawmut Avenue looks as if a glassy modern building had been plopped down on top of an old warehouse. According to Tom Schultz, associate for The Architectural Team, the Boston-area firm behind the project, the case for incorporating a six-story warehouse into a new residential project wasn’t merely aesthetic. The site and structure lent itself to building up.


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