Historic Gardner’s Basin Design Charrette, Atlantic City

Through a fast-paced half day of brainstorming and drawing plans, sketches and illustrations, thirty professional landscape architects and six students of the Rutgers University Department of Landscape Architecture produced creative ideas for redevelopment of Atlantic City’s beautiful but underused aquarium, marina and public park, Gardner’s Basin.

Quick thinking skills and team work are essential elements of this fast paced design exercise.

Quick thinking skills and team work are essential elements of this fast paced design exercise.

William Scerbo, Project Leader and Tim DeLorm, NJASLA President laid the groundwork for the workshop months in advance with the assistance of Robert Preston, a planner and landscape architect for the City. Preston was directly involved in organizing and presenting the slide show of the project and joined DeLorm as an on-site facilitator. Joseph Perello of Suburban Engineering provided detailed aerial photos to serve as base maps for the new concepts for each design team. The New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA) announced this charrette as the first project led by their new Community Assistance Team (CAT).

To begin the event, participants were presented with a slide show of the project area and a detailed outline of goals by planners and officials from Atlantic City.  Residents and other advocates for the nearby neighborhoods were on hand to answer questions and guide the designers with helpful insights about the desires of local residents.  Innovative ideas were sought on how to turn the Basin into an attractive, functional destination for residents and tourists with space for concerts, fishing, craft fairs, dining, beach use and improvements to increase attendance at the Atlantic City Aquarium.

New Jersey  Landscape Architect  Katy Weidel contributes to the brainstorming  part of the Gardner’s Basin Design  Charette

New Jersey Landscape Architect Katy Weidel contributes to the brainstorming part of theGardner’s Basin Design Charette

After the presentation, six teams of enthusiastic landscape architects discussed innovative transformations to the basin and marina.  Dozens of ideas were proposed: a greenway walkway ribbon along the water edge, a beautiful knoll to view the bay and marina activity designed for double duty as an amphitheater for concerts and other performances, plus outdoor cafes and places for friendly gatherings and picnicking.  Teams debated the merits of the many suggestions and later started the drawing process to illustrate ways to organize the limited space into a complete setting known as a conceptual master plan.  Additional time was devoted to showing how clever elements like colorful banners, pavilions, furnishings and changes in architectural detailing would enliven the park, giving it a fun modern feel complementary to the cultural and historic significance of the park.

Having settled in on a working concept, team member Gary Sorge  begins work on a new plan for Atlantic City’s marina district.

Having settled in on a working concept, team member Gary Sorge begins work on a new plan for Atlantic City’s marina district.

At the end of day, each team presented their best ideas to the City’s Department of Planning, invited officials and interested residents. Atlantic City residents should keep an eye on the basin, because these clever suggestions may soon be implemented as a result of this spirited technique of problem solving.

Landscape Architect Dave Roberts explains how a new park entrance will welcome visitors and ease traffic flow.

Landscape Architect Dave Roberts explains how a new park entrance will welcome visitors and ease traffic flow.

Easy access to a mix of recreational waterfront uses are highlights of this well received plan.

Easy access to a mix of recreational waterfront uses are highlights of this well received plan.

Atlantic City, NJASLA and Ironstone Inc. sponsored this charrette as part of ASLA’s national Year of Public Service. NJASLA hopes to continue the program with two more charrettes and invites New Jersey communities to submit problem statements for consideration.

If you have a community project idea that needs a thoughtful, vigorous and illustrative “Kick Start”, inquire at info@njasla.com or contact NJASLA Headquarters at 609-393-7500.

Story and pictures c/o Nick Tufaro, NJASLA.

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