local love

benny go home

what does it mean to be local?

David Brooke Robinson


October 12, 2021

I am deeply insecure about my standings as a Jersey shore local. I’ve always had to drive some distance to reach a beach. And we live in Northern Monmouth County, which requires about a twenty-minute drive to get to the nearest sandy stretch. However, we are a short bike ride to the nearest bays and estuaries of the Atlantic coast. Does that count? Does it get me any closer to local status? Or, could it be that I will forever be an outsider?

For many who live in and visit coastal New Jersey, there are terms used to describe non-locals, often in a derogatory way, such as “bennies” or “shoobies”. In NJ shore towns at summer’s end, you are bound to see signs waving from cars, boats, and homes exclaiming, “Bennies Go Home”. As a matter of fact, there used to be a website called Bennies Go Home. And while the website is no longer around in it’s original form, I recall being pleasantly surprised when reading the original website content. It was not the “in your face” rant that I’ve come to expect from my Jersey compatriots. It actually spoke to the idea of being respectful and appreciative of all that the “Jersey Shore” has to offer.

For me, it’s like visiting someone’s home. You know, the simple stuff, like being polite to the people who live there, being aware of and willing to learn about local customs and norms, not leaving your trash behind, or considering your actions before peeing in someone’s yard! You see, you can still be you…yet also respect and embrace the vibe of the coast.

Draw thinks about buildings in the same way. We often ask, How can buildings be designed in a way that is respectful of local people, the community, and the environment? What are good ways of connecting with the “place” of a place?  For draw there are important parallels here, ones that can be applied to designing great “local” architecture, and we will be sharing much about this in future articles, but here are some key strategies to embrace:

  1. Consider the context of where we design and build. Design buildings that are appropriately scaled for their sites, streetscapes, and neighborhoods. Don't design and build monstrous, precocious buildings that overwhelm a site.
  2. Consider what came before, and how it might positively contribute to a new story of designing and building along the coast. This does not mean, copy historical styles, or design in a gaudy pastiche manner. It means designing in a modern way that considers forms, materials, and details that are appropriate to the region, local climate, and coastal culture.
  3. Design buildings that speak to a modern-day, laid-back style of life along the coast. These are places to step away from the stress of the daily grind and connect with the beauty and culture of the coastal environment. Things like open flexible plans, indoor/outdoor spaces, orientation to optimize views and ventilation, and natural yet durable materials and finishes.
  4. Design for resiliency - with sustainable, energy efficient, durable, and adaptable design.
  5. Design for quality not quantity.

That’s it, really. Simple stuff. R-E-S-P-E-C-T baby!

So, if I never get to live right along the coast, I will be forever drawn to it and respectful of this stretch of land along the sea, designing places that belong and connect to the unique character and culture of the place. And perhaps, some day…I will be deemed worthy, and truly belong.