The Wildwoods, a collection of shore towns situated on a five-mile-long barrier island in southern New Jersey, are home to one of the most important architectural collections of the 20th century. They contain a group of midcentury modern motels that make up the largest concentration of resort architecture in the...
The Wildwoods, a collection of shore towns situated on a five-mile-long barrier island in southern New Jersey, are home to one of the most important architectural collections of the 20th century. They contain a group of midcentury modern motels that make up the largest concentration of resort architecture in the US. The motels remain fully functioning and virtually unchanged since their original construction, in many cases over fifty years ago.
Applying the idea of the “decorated shed”, a term coined by renowned postmodern architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steve Izenour in their seminal 1972 book “Learning from Las Vegas”, each motel relies on unique architectural features and ornament to set itself apart from the others nearby. Infused with space-age optimism and utilizing the iconography of exotic destinations, they represent the way America’s middle class vacationed during the postwar era. Built solely to cater to the annual influx of summer tourists, the motels sit vacant for nine months a year. Their boldly-colored facades and futurist details sit in contrast against the eerie emptiness of the winter months, transforming these towns into real life abandoned film sets.
In the late 90s, Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour visited The Wildwoods to study the motels. During this time, Izenour led a research studio, aptly titled “Learning from The Wildwoods”, which documented the buildings in hopes of protecting and preserving them. However, many of the motels have fallen victim to the real estate boom that has affected countless coastal areas. Over half of the 300 motels that once stood have been demolished, making way for conventional condos.
As a native of the Jersey Shore, the vernacular architecture of the eastern coastline as well as the off-season vacancy of a tourist destination are themes of great interest to me. With this project, I explore how places designed and known for summer recreation look when they are deserted and void of any life.
Palm Tree, Apollo Resort Motel
Lu Fran Motel
Waikiki Oceanfront Inn (after Misrach)
Isle of Capri Motel
Gold Crest Resort Motel