Faux Facades: Buildings that don’t exist
Most of us are usually not fans of things being ‘fake’. Then again, some reproductions are done so amazingly well that we actually enjoy them and – in some cases – might even start to hunt them down. And just because things are not always what they seem; how about giving some unsuspiciously looking places a second look.
Let’s start off at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, New York. The rustic brick facade blends in perfectly with the other townhouses but at closer inspection, you will notice this place is not quite like the others. You will most likely never see someone leave the building or light up a room behind the black window frames. The reason is simple yet surprising: The townhouse is not a family home but really a secret subway exit and ventilation point, built above the subway tracks of lines 4 and 5 near the Borough Hall station. Originally a private residence, the building was sold to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, pulled down and later reconstructed to cover up the unsightly ventilation system. In addition to this actual use, the house also serves as an emergency exit from the subway; probably installed after 9/11. A similar substation exists behind the walls of Manhattan’s 108 East 19th Street, near Irving Place.
Another fake facade with a simliar function is located in the London district of Bayswater. Numbers 23 and 24 on Leinster Terrace have a beautiful white front just as the neighboring buildings. Unlike the New York townhouse, this house doesn’t even exist in more than one dimension: The facade is nothing more than a 5 foot thick wall, hiding tracks of the tube network. A look at the back of the houses reveals a steel sceleton, stabilizing the walls of the next door buildings. The original five story buildings had been demolished to finish construction work for a subway tunnel and were not rebuilt after its completion.
Photos #4-5 by Duncan Harris
For those happening to be in Paris, check out 145 Rue la Fayette; a french pendant to the false facade in London. If look up the place on Google maps, you will see the black shaft of a ventilation system for the metro behind the perfectly crafted front.
Faux architecture is obviously pretty useful – not only when it comes to covering up the public transportation system but also when attempting to hide electricity stations. The city of Toronto actually hired a team of achitects to design houses which were built around the substations to hide the visually unappealing wires and metal structures. While some stations disappeared behind townhouse facades, others resembled business complexes or even an old English castle. You might not be able to tell the buildings acutal use but then again warning signs give away what’s really hidden behind the front door.
Last but not least: While most of the false facades acutally hide something, others were designed simply for the fun of it. A few years ago, Paris artists Julien Berthier and Simon Boudvin set up a false entryway on a blind wall on Rue du Temple and Rue Chapon in the Marais which was glued to the wall in minutes and still exists today.
Photos #6-7 by Julien Berthier
Cordula Schaefer is a photography enthusiast who loves to venture out to explore new places and hardly ever leaves the house without a camera. A New Yorker at heart, she is especially fond of city trips and has a soft spot for beautiful beachscapes. She currently bases herself in Berlin and keeps the visual documents of her travels at Cordugram.