Four Miles by Two Blocks - Photographs of Atlantic City, NJ

On a cool, Tuesday morning in September, the boardwalk in Atlantic City is an open expanse of sun-bleached wood. The view is unbroken by tourists, joggers or even at this moment, the hired men who regularly shuffle up and down its four mile length dutifully collecting debris left by the previous night's revelers. 

The line of casinos that rise over the boardwalk form a bold statement of purpose for the town.  Simply put - Atlantic City will live or die by gambling. A five minute walk due west from any casino exposes the town's intention fully, as seedy motels, broken-down row houses and empty gravel lots sit idly in the shadows of these once mighty buildings, a testament to city planning four miles wide but barely two blocks deep.

At the time the first casinos opened in 1978, there was nowhere on the East Coast of the United States where one could legally gamble. And for decades, the place felt mighty, glamorous and invincible. Yet none of the billions of dollars they brought in ever seemed to have touched any other part of the city.

Early this year, the Atlantic Club shut its doors after thirty-four years. In late summer, as already dwindling crowds faded into fall, three casinos closed within weeks of each other - the Showboat, Trump Plaza and Revel. A combined fifty-nine years of flashing lights, chorusing slots and pulsing urges lay still. With competing casinos closer to the cities that once sent dozens of buses down the Parkway each weekend, it's hard to see a future in gambling, and subsequently it's hard to see a future in Atlantic City.

The DC Metro System for Architect Magazine


In May, I spent two days riding the Metro for Architect Magazine. I rode on trains during the early morning rush, pressed up against my fellow commuters as we collectively surrendered our personal space to the gods of convenience. Hours later, I stood completely alone on a dim, subterranean platform, watching for that pale ochre light of an oncoming train to seep into the station, signaling its impending arrival.

What I didn't truly understand about the Metro was the secret language of its design. The coffered ceilings are the system's most recognizable feature but throughout the Metro, a broad, flexible but surprisingly consistent design template exists- from the spacing of the floor tiles to the typography of the signs. All of these details are in service of the essential act of moving people quickly and efficiently (at least most of the time) from one place to another while maintaining that familiarity of space. 

As Zach Mortice writes for The American Institute of Architects:

Across 86 stations—underground, at-grade, and elevated—spread over five lines covering 106 miles, the design identity of each station shines through. If a commute begins at a ground-level suburban fringe station next to a parking lot and ends at a hub of crisscrossing train tracks deep below downtown D.C., the common design elements and shared materials make each space navigable and understandable.
It’s an intensely formalist experience as mass transit goes; colossal concrete vaults, granite, and bronze are combined in an unmistakably monumental mid-century modernist manner.

My gallery of images can be seen here.

If you have any interest in the metro, I also highly recommend this piece by Lawrence Blemiller which helped me appreciate the thinking that went into the building of the system.