The Wildwoods, a collection of shore towns situated on a five-mile-long barrier island in southern New Jersey, contain a group of midcentury modern motels that make up the largest concentration of resort architecture in the US. They 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 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 in hopes of protecting and preserving them. However, many of these structures have fallen victim to the condominium boom that has affected countless coastal communities. Over half of the 300 motels that once stood have been demolished, making way for conventional condos.
With this project, I explore how places designed and known for summer recreation look when they are deserted and void of any life.
Tyler Haughey (b. 1988, Ocean Township, NJ) received a Bachelor of Science in Photography and Art History from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. He was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts in 2015, and was selected for inclusion in Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50 in 2016. Recent exhibitions include the NJSCA Fellowship Exhibition at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ; the 2015 Summer Group Show at Sears-Peyton Gallery, New York, NY; and Project Basho’s ONWARD Compé 2015, Philadelphia, PA, which was juried by Elinor Carucci. His work has been featured in such publications as PDN, Popular Photography, Slate, Fast Company, Spiegel Online (Germany), and ICON Magazine (Spain). He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.