Photographs by Mark Havens
Essays by Joseph Giovannini and Jamer Hunt
Out of Season: The Vanishing Architecture of the Wildwoods is a book of extraordinary colour photographs by Philadelphia-based artist Mark Havens. The works illustrate the artist’s ten-year exploration of the architecturally evocative motels of Wildwood, a small barrier island located at the tip of southern New Jersey. The photographs are presented in a linear sequence, from morning to night, as if to echo the fading light of a once vibrant destination.
Through a rare combination of economics, geography and chance, the island of Wildwood contains a national treasure: the highest concentration of mid-century modern hospitality architecture in the United States. Accompanied by critical essays from Joseph Giovannini and Jamer Hunt, Havens’
photographs successfully capture the kitsch and nostalgic aesthetic of Wildwood’s unique, modernist architecture. Built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Wildwood’s motels were developed in anticipation of the arrival of the Garden State Parkway, a four-lane toll road that would ultimately run the length of New Jersey, bringing with it a flurry of tourists from the surrounding states.
The architecture of this popular Jersey Shore resort was heavily influenced by the modernist styles that populated Florida at the time. Modelled on American middle-class ideals and architectural make-believe, the constructs were imbued with the culture of the moment: space travel, cars, nascent rock‘n roll, exotic Polynesian locale and neon signs spelling out names like Satellite, Astronaut, Bel Air, Kona Kai, and Waikiki. Unlike anything else on the Jersey Shore before them, ‘the motels of Wildwood transformed the socialist mission of European Modernism, built for the proletariat, into a vehicle of social fantasy.’
Until recently, a short 3-month tourist season combined with a working-class veneer meant that the motels remained immaculately preserved – frozen in time – for over four decades. Now, a substantial number of motels have been demolished and many that remain face an uncertain future.
‘The visual quietude of Havens’ work invites us to linger a bit longer on elements [of the architecture] that we might otherwise have ignored. And their strong cinematic quality — their emptiness — never lets us forget that these were dreamscapes for millions of visitors.’ By presenting us with these striking images of motels that remain in Wildwood, alongside those that were photographed at the end of their last season, just before demolition, Out of Season celebrates the vanishing architecture of a bygone era.