I could write a lot about Asbury Park, and I eventually hope to complete a project there inspired by the Detroit Geographic Expedition and Institute, if time and place allow. However, I'll spend this moment discussing the cultural landscape of the city's waterfront. This landscape is the physical imprint made by dominant culture on natural space. "Culture is the agent, the natural area is the medium, the cultural landscape the result," writes Carl Sauer.
The cultural landscape of Asbury Park consists of ruins and relics of cultures past and present. The Asbury Park Boardwalk, Carousel House, and Convention Hall recall an affluent, modernizing culture of the early twentieth century. The Stone Pony and Wonder Bar are intertwined with the rock scene of the last forty years. And the Empress Hotel is a symbol of the city's queer culture. Beyond these structures, though, are large, empty lots, providing Asbury Park with a sense of physical openness uncharacteristic along the Jersey Shore. Adjacent to the lots are the beginnings of a housing boom: Wesley Grove, Monroe, South Grand, Vive, 1101 Ocean. The shadows of these buildings (or their frameworks) blanket the empty lots in a sign of what's to come. Such changes have largely come under the direction of iStar Financial, who created this cute map of their redevelopment plans.
Based on my experience along the waterfront, I'd have to agree with their presentation of today's culture. Indeed, the landscape is "an emerging urban culture with its own blend of new and old. Grand and gritty. Art and craft." Yet at the same time, I can't help but to cringe at that description. It's so constructed, intended to attract very specific clients. And that's not how culture is made. Diverse inhabitants create culture; it is not to be dictated or reinforced by developers. I love Asbury Park, but its unique cultural landscape is at risk through such marketing.
As an aside, I'll be updating my map of Asbury Park, as well as illustrating a panoramic map of the boardwalk in the next month. I've included two pictures of the boardwalk below; I added the rest to Flickr.