Suburbia in Sand: Choose Your Own Metaphor

An art installation on San Francisco's China Beach examines the tract home as a symbol for the American Dream.

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Lynn Kloythanomsup/Architectural Black

With Chad Wright's "Master Plan," an art installation resembling a Levittown made of sand and picked apart by the rising tide, metaphor is in the eye of the beholder. Do you see a commentary on the mortgage crisis? An illustration of short-sighted suburban land use? Consumerism and conformity? Global warming?

There's certainly room for all of those interpretations and more. "Master Plan," Wright says, "examines the tract home as a symbol for the American Dream." Its houses and streets form 13 rows, like the stripes of the American flag.

Lynn Kloythanomsup/Architectural Black

Wright, who works as an industrial designer in San Francisco, was raised in the "little boxes" of Orange County, and studied urban planning at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. His technical proficiency shines through in the crisp cookie-cutter houses of "Master Plan," which he assembled on San Francisco's China Beach.

Wright has built (and let fall) this little suburban beach town a handful of times now, watching the sandhouses slowly disintegrate as the tide comes in. Together with an exhibit at a local art gallery, this forms what he calls "Phase One of Master Plan."

Lynn Kloythanomsup/Architectural Black

The second and third components of the installation will examine the vision and legacy of suburbia, with a focus on objects from the artist's childhood. As a child, Wright spent his summers in Breezy Point, New York, one of the communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.

Lynn Kloythanomsup/Architectural Black
Lynn Kloythanomsup/Architectural Black

H/T Colossal.

About the Author

  • Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.