New York Is Full of Fake Buildings, Here’s Why

8 months ago

Well, looky here. It’s New York City, the Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, Hong Kong on the Hudson, The Greatest City in the World, New York, New York: The City So Nice, They Named It Twice. Okay I’ll stop. You thought you knew this city so well, but underneath all that glitz and glamour is a façade; literally.

New York is populated with some of the most iconic urban buildings in the world and home to some of the most unique and famous towers. Who would have known that New York was a front for fake buildings? And the cool thing is that there are plenty to search for. Ok, I’m adding that to my bucket list. So, the question is why did they put these fake buildings all over New York?

The city is one of the most vibrant places in the world and requires many infrastructures to keep the city in motion. That means having many industrial structures and buildings in every major district. New York is charming for the design and the buildings — imagine having industrial structures right next to your favorite pizza parlor or hotdog stand.

The designers thought ahead and decided to disguise those industrial infrastructures as fake buildings. They blend with the city so well that they don’t stand out. They look like your good ol’ apartment or housing unit with a front door, real-life windows, and even charming balconies where people would hang out. The only thing is that there’s nothing behind the façade and no one is allowed inside. So, where in the world can you find these fake buildings?

For starters, one of the most popular fake buildings is in Brooklyn. At 58 Joralemon Street, you can find a very typical neighborhood. But between the buildings stands a brick building with a slightly deeper shade than the rest. It has bright open windows that blend in with the rest of the buildings in the neighborhood except that they’re blacked out. At first glance, you might not think of it as anything, but if you pay close attention, the building looks like a glitch from a video game.

It was built in 1847 way before New York was considered glamorous. Originally, it was meant to be a regular building, but in 1908, they converted it into a fake building. Don’t think you can just try to break in. Even if you could, it’s pointless because it’s part of a ventilation fan for the subway. It also serves as an emergency exit for some of the surrounding buildings. Actually, throughout New York, many fake buildings exist to disguise the subway vents for the smoke to escape.

All the way to 415 Bruckner Boulevard, the Bronx, this townhouse was designed by the Switzer Group which is an interior architect company. It’s not as charming as the one at 58 Joralemon Street, but it also serves a similar purpose — to hide an electric substation for New York’s utility company.

The city needs these substations to reduce the high-voltage electricity to a lower voltage, so it can be distributed locally. Having a building like this popping out in the middle of your neighborhood isn’t exactly the smartest way to attract people to the Bronx. That’s why the fake townhouse façade is the perfect camouflage. Some of these fake buildings don’t really hit the mark and stick out like a sore thumb.

The people of Manhattan describe the Mulry Square infrastructure as a complete clunker. After plenty of redesigns and “back to the drawing board” meetings, the result is still not pretty. The locals compare it to a concrete box. They created windows without glass which doesn’t allow the building to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood. It beats a typical subway ventilation plant either way.

There are just so many places to visit and cross off your bucket list. But if you live in China, you can literally stay in the country and visit many iconic cities around the world. The replica cities began when the Chinese economy started booming in the early ’90s. They wanted the lifestyle of the rich and famous without wanting to leave their country. They can be comfortable eating their local food and get the feeling of being abroad.

The Chinese province of Guangdong has an identical copy of the historic Austrian Alpine village Hallstatt. The real Hallstatt is centuries old and one of the most charming places to discover. The local people of Hallstatt also had no idea that their home was being built in China. Some people thought this was controversial. Probably because it cost around $940 million to build it.

Paris is undoubtedly one of the most charming cities you could ever visit. Its rich history and vibrant culture are enough to catch the 1st plane to go there. For residents of Tianducheng, that’s something they can do any time they want. The city is also known as Sky City and has a replica of the Eiffel Tower that looks eerily like the iconic one in Paris and built buildings to match the city’s visual charm.

One of the main things that will break the charm is the farmlands surrounding the city. There’s barely anyone there and the streets are always empty — very un-Paris-like. Still, you can find some nice fountains and statues scattered along the streets to give it some spirit. There’s laundry hung everywhere, even on the trees. The picturesque fountains are dry, and many apartments are empty. Only a few stores are open for business.

Even though this looks like a fake city, it’s quite real. Some people live here because it’s more affordable than other places. 2 hours away from this town is another version of Paris’ Pont Alexandre III and a carbon copy of London’s Tower Bridge but with 4 towers instead of 2. Hey such a bargain. You can also visit the closest thing to Italy but this time you can go shopping.

Florentia Village is an outlet mall that offers an array of shops to lose yourself. The good thing is that this was built by an Italian developer to capture the essence of an Italian village. It has fountains, canals, and mosaics for proper aesthetics. It began in 2011 and has more than 200 shops with many Italian brands and British, US, and Chinese brands as well. The place is so popular that it gets between 10,000 and 25,000 visitors per day.

China also has other replica towns that put you in a mini-Manhattan called the Yujiapu Financial District. The developer’s goal was to make this place the financial center of the world. It was complete with the right landmarks like the Rockefeller and Lincoln Centers, but the project was halted in 2019 leaving it mainly empty. You can find a typical English town with cobbled streets, Victorian homes, and restaurants that make Thames Town. This place was meant to recreate a European lifestyle fantasy without leaving Shanghai.

China also has a Dutch town that has some elements of Amsterdam with windmills and famous canals. They even decided to copy some of the landmarks like the Netherlands Maritime Museum. Here’s a bonus story of Lebanon’s thinnest building built out of a dispute. It’s the story of 2 brothers who both inherited unequal plots of land. One of the brothers happened to get a very thin plot of land and couldn’t help but get jealous of his brother’s nice plot of land. He wasn’t pleased.

Both of the lands overlook the Mediterranean Sea in a lively neighborhood of Beirut, so it’s no wonder that both brothers couldn’t agree on how they should develop their lands. It was obvious that the brother with the most land could build a proper building. The other brother had to improvise.

He decided to obstruct his brother’s property by constructing a thin building enough to only fit 14 feet at its widest and 2 feet at its most narrow. It was constructed in 1954 and the locals of the area know it as “the Grudge.” The crazy thing is that the place was once habitable with many visitors enjoying their stay. It’s not easy to live there, but it’s part of living the experience. The building is still standing but is empty.


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