And no, we’re not talking about your fake friend’s house.
Back in June 2015, Austrian photographer Gregor Sailer travelled to seven countries to find and document artificial communities for his series, The Potemkin Village.
These fake communities, called Potemkin Villages, are often put up with the intent to either hide or simulate an existing town or city.
The concept is believed to have originated in Russia in 1787 when field marshal Grigory Aleksadrovich Potemkin had brightly painted facades installed to cover up small, rundown villages that Emperor Catherine the Great would have seen during her visit to Crimea.
Today, the Potemkin Village is still being used in Russia, as well as in places like the United States, China, France, Germany, Sweden, and England.
For instance, a decrepit building in Suzdal, northeast of Moscow, was covered in tarps to make it appear brand new in time for Putin’s visit in 2013.
In China, meanwhile, developers constructed a city that resembles Paris to attract more buyers. The sad part is that it didn’t, and it is now a virtual ghost town.
Others use these fake cities as training grounds for troops. A site in Germany slated to be finished by 2020 will feature 600 buildings, a fake airport, and a fake subway.
In the Mojave Desert in California, there are about 12 artificial towns that have Middle Eastern architecture, complete with a mock food stand with fake vegetables.
“These Potemkin villages are for me an interesting symbol of the sometimes absurd developments of our society,” said Sailer, referring to these illusions put up by different governments for various reasons.
Sailer compiled all of the photos in a book which explores the hidden truths behind these distorted versions of reality. You can grab a copy over on Amazon.
Via Fast Company