Two pictures of a white, futuristic building in a forest went briefly viral in early April with the false claim that the building belonged to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The images were shared by the Twitter account @HiraethResists with the hashtag #EvilBuildings on 4 April. The caption said that it was “Putin’s house in Sochi”. That tweet was liked more than 33,000 times and retweeted more than 12,000 times. One tweet retweeting the original and making a reference to Putin as a Bond villain got over 6,000 likes.
Why it’s false
The images aren’t actually photos, although they certainly look realistic.
It’s a concept visualisation, an imagining of what a house owned by Putin could look like. A reverse image search leads for example to this article in the online design magazine designboom, which described this house as a “radical work [suggesting] the atmosphere of a villainous hideout.”
The images first appeared online on 25 January this year on the Instagram account of Roman Vlasov, a Russian architect and interior designer, who was name-checked in the viral tweet. The confusion likely arose from Vlasov’s own caption on his Instagram post, which gave the images the title ‘Putin house’, and added, “or a story about what his villa might look like.”
One of the posts translates quite literally Vlasov’s original caption, without adding the fact that it’s simply a concept design rather than a building that already exists.
Since the images went viral, Roman Vlasov has decided to take advantage of their notoriety, and has put them up for sale as a digital artwork, or NFT.