façades

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM

Travelling to see façades, perhaps a rather strange statement you may think, however have you ever wondered how much a façade has to tell us as the voyeur - history, time, function and especially place - particularly photographically, a façade can without words tell us where a certain photograph is taken. A kaleidoscope of colour and form. Take the painted ladies in San Francisco - instantly recognisable, via the stone facades of the pretty rows of cottages in the Cotswolds which tell us so much, to the functional red wooden houses in Sweden.

The façade as the exterior shell of the building has both a decorative and protective function, whilst protecting the building against external influences, it also offers us the first clue that the structure might have something special to offer, it can also tell us so much about the local area, local stone, resources, building type and weather. In this respect façades are very much like our faces - hence the name really, originally from French meaning 'face' - like our faces, the façade is the the first element we can relate to and in architecture the façade of a building is often from a design standpoint the most important aspect, as it sets the tone for the rest of the building, making façades an integral element of the entire structure. Like it or loathe it, our choices are usually made at face value and rather instantaneously, hence the vital importance of making the right statement.

For this reason travellers flock to see the gloriously impressive baroque and neoclassical building façades that make St Petersburg such an attractive city to visit, or perhaps you are more tempted by Klotild Palace in Budapest with its fin de siècle façade, or perhaps you prefer the clean lines of Mies van der Rohe's modernist post and beam structure Farnsworth House which is set on stilts in order to raise the house above the annual floods and to offer a contrast to the surrounding nature or even the floral abstract naturalism of the Lavirotte Art Nouveau façades on Avenue Rapp in Paris which could be quite simply described as ‘Art Nouveau at its best’, nevertheless, whichever style you prefer, whilst taking in the charms, beauty and sheer diversity of all the types of façades on offer, take a pause for thought to consider that façades like faces are more than just skin deep and that behind the beauty or even the ruin, there is even more of a story behind the veil - here are a few that tickled our imagination en route on a recent journey.

JUNE 2017