Fakin’ It!

Thursday, 3rd October 2013 by

These buildings may look authentic from the outside, but don't be duped - they're absolutely, completely, 100% frauds! Join us for a tour of some interesting-but-inauthentic architecture.

At first glance, 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, London seem nearly indistinguishable from the neighbouring Hotel Henry VIII to the left.


Walk around to the other side of the block, however...


...and you'll see that the building facade is completely false. The 1.5 m (5 ft)-thick false front was constructed in the 1860s during the construction of London's first underground in order to obscure the open-air vent needed to ventilate the train tunnels, as the trains in those days ran on coal. A somewhat similar fakery occurs at 56 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn, New York, where this false front obscures a subway ventilator and emergency exit.


Some may build pretend houses, but others turn their houses into other pretend things. This ornate house in Nice, France was built on top of a fake cave which is itself built atop a fake waterfall.


While most people probably wouldn't want to live in a service station, this fellow in California remodeled his entire house into one, including a 50's diner on the side and fake fuel pumps in the driveway.


It's a common practice for military and police services to create simulations of communities1 to practice urban combat and defence techniques. Below, we see the Sennybridge Army Training Area for close-quarters battle in the east of Wales (a full-on 'village' with a couple dozen fake houses) and the much-less ornate 'village' at Cesano in Lombardy, Italy.



Los Angeles' Edward M. Davis Training Center is an advanced training site for the LA Police Department. The facility's simulated street includes a hotel, cul-de-sac, gas station, bank, convenience store, and bar, among other things.


When it comes to fake buildings, however, few things beat a movie set. Whether on a studio lot or an isolated private property, there are plenty of fake towns built for filming all around the world.2 And since bringing a big production to town can pump money into the local economy, many places have gone ahead and built their own movie sets hoping to rent them out for filming. Below we see the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch in New Mexico and Wildhorse Town on the Skeetchestn territory in British Columbia.

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Even this heinous-looking airplane crash is a fake: it's just part of the show at Universal Studios Hollywood. Pan immediately to the north and you'll see the Whoville set used for The Cat in the Hat.


The world's ultimate 'Potemkin village' is Kijong-dong, built by the North Koreans in the 1950s to serve as a giant propaganda piece. Located in the Demilitarised Zone that forms the border between North and South Korea, the idea behind Kijong-dong was to build a brightly-coloured, prosperous-looking village that would entice southerners to defect across the border. In reality, though, Kijong-dong consists of little more than empty concrete shells posing as buildings that lack window glass and even interior rooms.3


And if you've found yourself getting hungry while reading this post, you better not head off to this McDonald's in the City of Industry, California - it's a fake, too. This restaurant is McDonald's' own studio for filming their advertisements; if you've seen a McDonald's on TV, it was probably this one. The walls can be changed to fit multiple design styles for different markets around the world, and even the sign is adjustable.


  1. Here and here, for example. ↩︎

  2. And don't we know it! Over the years, we've visited all kinds of made-for-film false townsites↩︎

  3. It does have this giant flagpole, though. ↩︎