Intriguing Photos of Suburban McMansions Around the World

The Photo Blog
Dec. 13 2013 11:04 AM

Intriguing Photos of Suburban McMansions Around the World

Millennium Park, Moscow, Russia, 2009
Millennium Park, Moscow, 2009

Martin Adolfsson

For six years, photographer Martin Adolfsson traveled to 44 model homes in eight countries on five continents photographing McMansions as found in the emerging economies of the world. The project culminated in Suburbia Gone Wild, a book he self-published this year.

Born in Sweden and based in New York City, Adolfsson was inspired to begin the project during a flight from Stockholm to Bangkok, where he was attending a photography workshop. “I was stunned to spot a suburban sub development amidst the landscape outside of the city,” Adolfsson said about looking out the plane’s window during landing. “A workshop fixer was able to bring me back to that location, and in spite of the gates, I was allowed access without any question.”

In 2008, Adolfsson received three grants supporting the project and had to evaluate the best approach about how to gain access to dozens of model homes throughout the world. His initial effort to request permission to photograph from developers was discouraging. “Responses ranged everywhere from no answer at all to ‘Thank you for your request, we are reviewing it but we want final approval and full supervision,’ and I realized that those restrictions would set the project in an entirely different and limited direction,” he said.

Vintage, São Paulo, Brazil, 2011
Vintage, São Paulo, 2011

Martin Adolfsson

Little Italy, Moscow, Russia, 2009; Rose and Ginkgo Valley, Shanghai, China, 2009
Left: Little Italy, Moscow, 2009. Right: Rose and Ginkgo Valley, Shanghai, 2009.

Martin Adolfsson

St Andrews Manor, Shanghai, China, 2009
St Andrews Manor, Shanghai, 2009

Martin Adolfsson

Advertisement

Instead, Adolfsson decided to visit all of the home locations posing as a prospective buyer. He hired a local assistant to pretend to be his spouse (or a more ambiguous colleague if male) who would distract the realtor with questions as he covertly shot pictures.

“I wasn’t lying, but I wasn’t being completely forthcoming. I wouldn’t speak at all and leave all the talking to my assistants,” Adolfsson said. “But if it were true that I was a potential buyer, they would obviously ignore a lot of weird behavior just to focus on selling the house ... Because the images were captured in this semi-clandestine way, there wasn’t much time reflect as I was working; at most locations, I only had five or 10 minutes to shoot.”

The interiors of the Suburbia Gone Wild homes closely resemble carefully staged scenes from a department store catalog. “These model homes are made to be easily captured,” Adolfsson said. And despite their geographic diversity, the homes often share features: Approximations of Tuscan villas and Louis XIV splendor collide in a Hollywoodlike approximation of beauty run aground to cliché. “There is a lot of uncertainty as the global economy expands and cultural borders continue to dissolve. People seek out common experience and comfort, and perhaps these model homes reflect pop culture as a uniting common denominator," Adolfsson said.

Bedrooms as found in Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Thailand; 2006-2011.
Bedrooms in Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and Thailand, 2006-2011

Martin Adolfsson

Parkway Chalet, Bangkok, Thailand, 2006; Sens, Mexico City, Mexico, 2011
Left: Parkway Chalet, Bangkok, 2006. Right: Sens, Mexico City, 2011.

Martin Adolfsson

St Andrews Manor, Shanghai, China, 2009
St Andrews Manor, Shanghai, 2009

Martin Adolfsson

Little Italy, Moscow, Russia, 2009; Sheshaun Yinhu Noble Villa, Shaghai, China, 2009; Southridge Bangalore, India 2009
From left: Little Italy, Moscow, 2009; Sheshaun Yinhu Noble Villa, Shaghai, 2009; Southridge, Bangalore, India, 2009.

Martin Adolfsson

Mivida, Cairo, Egypt, 2009
Mivida, Cairo, 2009

Martin Adolfsson

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.