Examples of secret infrastructure?
June 25, 2013 8:23 AM   Subscribe

So, I know Los Angeles has the Packard oil well that's disguised as a windowless office building (pic here about a third of the way down), and NYC has an emergency exit for the subway disguised as a brownstone (link). What are other industrial or infrastructure things hidden inside fake buildings?
posted by rmd1023 to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
Transformer houses
posted by thelonius at 8:27 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are cellphone towers disguised as trees.
posted by dfriedman at 8:28 AM on June 25, 2013

The Bunker at the Greenbrier Resort.

If Washington were ever nuked, this is were what was left of our government would repair to to continue to govern.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:31 AM on June 25, 2013

...and more at the always-excellent BLDGBLOG (which is actually linked in the Metro thing I just posted).
posted by jquinby at 8:40 AM on June 25, 2013

I grew up around the corner from the Cardiff Tower, another disguised oil well in the Beverly Hills Oil Field. It's at the corner of Pico Blvd and Cardiff [in Los Angeles, not Beverly Hills]. I don't actually think it looks like a synagogue, but that's what that website claims.
posted by atomicstone at 8:45 AM on June 25, 2013

The Commonwealth Edison substation at 115 North Dearborn isn't really hidden anymore as it doesn't blend in with the buildings surrounding it as well as it probably did in the past (also it has a relief of a 1930s era worker with electricity coming out of his hand which makes it even less hidden but so very awesome)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:58 AM on June 25, 2013

(It's also more hidden when there aren't ComEd trucks parked outside it as it is in the Google maps link I provided)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:58 AM on June 25, 2013

Abilene, TX, has a municipal water pumping station disguised as a house.
posted by tayknight at 9:01 AM on June 25, 2013

There are also cell towers disguised as cacti.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:01 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

An interesting one I saw a couple of days ago. It looks just like a residential two-story brick building, except for the barb wire fence and the industrial loading dock and a bunch of equipment that just didn't fit in the building.
posted by smackfu at 9:10 AM on June 25, 2013

There's some sort of electric equipment behind this facade in Nashville.
posted by ghharr at 9:56 AM on June 25, 2013

In Ontario, it's very common for electrical substations to be disguised as a house in residential areas. Some examples in Toronto. A few more (Previously on MeFi).
posted by bonehead at 10:23 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the cell phone companies wanted to put a tower at Mount Vernon Estate. The trustees agreed to allow it, as long as it didn't stand out. So it's disguised as a pine tree.

There are a lot of cell towers hidden inside church steeples. And one reason why so many shopping malls have clock towers is that most of them have cell towers hidden inside.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here in the Netherlands, architects always tended to go nuts when designing water towers (an image search on the word 'watertoren' will give you some idea of what I mean).
posted by rjs at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Klamath River Radar Station B-71 in Redwood National Park, California, is a rare survivor of a World War II early-warning radar station, the first step toward the more sophisticated and pioneering early-warning radar defense network. Rather than using camouflage materials, the buildings of Radar Station B-71 were constructed to resemble farm buildings to disguise their true purpose. The station consists of three buildings: a power building disguised as a farmhouse, an operations building disguised as a barn and a functional wood frame two-stall privy or outhouse, now a partially collapsed ruin. The two major buildings were constructed for the Army by a private contractor specifically for the early warning aircraft station, and consist of block walls roughly two feet thick covered with wood-framed gable roofs with wood shingle finish.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:54 PM on June 25, 2013

Of course 115 N Dearborn also had a looooong period where it was the only remaining structure on the razed-for-development (and then stuck in D-hell) Block 37. For a while its backside was used for a mural (and the empty block was a sort of artist-in-residence program that took various forms).

Anyway, I can think of one example locally (not that there aren't others I'm unaware of) -- a "phoney coloney" (fake colonial architecture) garage that is actually a disguised pumping station. It really looks like it belongs to the awfully (and I mean awful) similar apartment buildings behind it, but it's city property.

And our county fairgrounds was so successful raising a little cash by renting out a cell tower disguised as a flag pole, they now have two.
posted by dhartung at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2013

In the bad socal oil rig disguise department, we also have some disguised as islands
posted by paultopia at 3:44 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Late to the party here, but I didn't see this mentioned. Telecomm and ISP COs (Central Offices) are carefully built as non-descript, windowless buildings that blend into their surroundings. They do this to prevent unwanted attention. As an onlooker, you would never know that inside this building, which has several-feet-thick concrete walls designed to withstand any natural (and some unnatural) disasters, there are millions of dollars worth of some of the most advanced communications equipment on the planet, complete with brilliantly designed redundant power, water supplies and fire suppression systems, all protected by multiple layers of physical security. These buildings form the backbone of our global communications system

Most of us pass by these buildings every day and have no idea what they are.
posted by Capa at 9:44 AM on July 3, 2013

Hm. Some of it is my background (I've spent my share of time in data centers), but I find most data centers look like data centers - you can describe it in an identifiable way ("a big building with almost no windows and a bunch of generators outside and a probably shitload of hvac gear on the roof") so if you go cruising through, say, Ashburn, you can point at them. I think smaller/older stuff is likely to be more disguised, probably.

I'm not sure where the line is for me on "nondescript" vs "camouflage" - I think some of it is the dichotomy between the disguise and the contents, but some of it may be familiarity on my part, since I consider going through a door and finding a sea of server racks or relay racks (full of gear I recognize and can name all the parts) to be unremarkable compared with going through a door and finding an oil well.

(There's a book out recently, title roughly "Tubes: Journey to the heart of the internet", that's a great look at this stuff if folks want to read non-technical stuff about data centers)
posted by rmd1023 at 12:30 PM on July 3, 2013

Do tunnels under the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City count?

As I understand it, the Church leadership can get pretty much anywhere on Temple Square without having to use the surface sidewalks.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:37 PM on July 15, 2013

Not really - they're secret rather than disguised. BUT AWESOME. I had not heard of this before, so I'm fascinated. It's like Disney utilidors but for elders!
posted by rmd1023 at 5:22 PM on July 15, 2013

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