The Battle for the Beach

A mural about beach access in New Jersey commissioned by the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture


Exhibited at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture

Shenzhen, China

Project Team: 

Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, Georgeen Theodore, David Himelman, Katherine Isidro, Eka Pramuditha

The New Jersey coast is one of the United States’ most iconic places, full of natural beauty and human-made attractions that draw millions of visitors every year. But New Jersey’s beaches are not only the site of relaxation, but also the site of struggle: The struggle for beach access. Access to New Jersey's beaches is protected by the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that “the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea” are common, and that “no one, therefore, is forbidden to approach the seashore.” However, despite the Public Trust Doctrine and the courts’ unambiguous rulings affirming it, on a day-to-day level, “unimpeded beach access” remains something of a phantom. Towns refrain from building paths, parking lots, and bathrooms, adopt restrictive parking regulations and residential parking permit programs, and only reluctantly penalize private interests from encroaching on the beach. Homeowners, for their part, post phony “private beach” signs, bark at people to get off “their” property, and even disguise access points as front yards. And the different beach badges that all but a handful of New Jersey towns require fragment the beach, and undermine one’s ability to walk up and down it. 

In our project we both highlight some of the weapons that have been deployed in the battle for beach access, and present several site-specific radical proposed interventions to increase the public’s access to the beach.

We presented the Battle of the Beach as a single, large-format tableau printed on canvas hung from the gallery ceiling.

See the full tableau here.