I have always hated architectural fakery of the Barratts Homes ilk, but I have long been harbouring a fascination with a bizarre sort of “stage set” architecture where you can’t quite tell if the building is real or just a cardboard façade, an enlarged souvenir-style replica of something else which exists in another time and place, or perhaps a Wes Anderson film prop.
Tudor and Georgian houses vs. Barratts Homes… Not the real deal
This architectural stage-set genre (if we can call it that) is found most notoriously in Las Vegas, but pops up all over the place if you are open to its existence. I’m thinking theme park “streets”; the “shop fronts” inside Morrisons supermarkets; the “old Alpine village” part of the very ’50s Les Arcs; and any buildings that are designed to conceal their true function, or perhaps buildings that are concealing the fact that they don’t have a function. These dummy structures freak me out a bit, but I can’t stop looking at them: a bit like when you unexpectedly come across a dead animal.
(above and below) Les Arcs, French Alps
(above and below) The quaint, traditional food shops of …Morrisons
Paris Hotel, Las Vegas
Paris Hotel interior, complete with fake sky
Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas
The Luxor interior: the might and majesty of the Ancient Egyptians… conveyed through the medium of plaster of Paris.
The Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas. A personal favourite - I stayed here a few years ago and it was simultaneously the most luxurious, most tasteless, and best hotel visit of my life thus far.
The Venetian. Indoor canals. Say no more.
Leinster Gardens, London. The central houses in this photo are fake, and are designed to conceal an air vent to the underground system whilst maintaining uniformity with the adjacent “real” properties.
What you would find behind the “doors” at 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens
And finally, who remembers watching The Big Breakfast on Channel 4 in the ’90s? It was broadcast from a real house, which was also kind of a fake house because it was really a film studio, and now that The Big Breakfast is no more, someone actually lives in the real-fake-real house. To add to the bizarre layers of deception, it is a brick structure, covered in render, painted with a faux-brick effect. Thanks to the Olympic village developments, the building now straddles the strange no man’s land between the barren industrial estates of Hackney Wick and the spanking shiney new monuments of the Olympic site.