Friday Photo: Under the Ocean Dome

(Martin Parr).jpg
(Photo: Martin Parr)

If the steady stream of people in ill-fitting shorts skipping by UnBeige HQ today are any indication, summer is nigh. The prospect of leaving our enchanted hutch of design magazines, books, and archival footage of famous architects on game shows for some time at the beach—or at least the East River—made us all nostalgic for a perpetually warm and sunny place with monster waves, clear blue water, and…a volcano that erupted every 15 minutes. And don’t forget the rain forest, studded with talkative mechanical parrots.

Such was the wacky Walt Disney-meets-Jacques Cousteau world of the Seagaia Ocean Dome, part of a $2 billion resort complex in Miyazaki, Japan. Designed in 1993 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industrial Group, the Ocean Dome offered ersatz surf (waves of up to 10 feet in height created by computer-controlled pumps), sun (the temperature was held steady at 86°F), and sand (600 tons of polished marble chips) 365 days a year. Despite drawing more than 10 million visitors since its opening day, the indoor water park formerly known as the world’s largest (at 322,752 square feet, it was the length of three football fields) reportedly never turned a profit and was closed in October 2007. Luckily, the beachtastic British photographer Martin Parr visited the Ocean Dome in 1996 and captured this photo (click here for a closer look), which will be auctioned tomorrow at Phillips de Pury & Company’s photographs sale in London.