Intriguing Photos of Suburban McMansions Around the World

Behold
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

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.