A couple weeks ago, I had one of my best alley outings yet. A friend of mine took me to the International District to see Canton and Maynard Alley, the only two alleys I have discovered in the city thus far that have their own names. Both alleys are a block apart and incredible. About midway down the buildings that border these alleys, storefronts and large windows create actual alley facades. It appears as if these buildings were designed to have programs that would engage the alleys, and apparently continue to do so.
Maynard Alley is home to the fantastic Liem’s Pet Shop and the somberly legendary Wah Mee Club. Upon entering Liem’s store, you feel as if you are in a different city, and perhaps even a different time. Bubbles, tubes, blinking lights and flitting fish are everywhere in a cavernous shop with a friendly automated “welcome” voice that greets you upon entry before you can say hello to the talkative and kindly Mr. Liem. This is literally one of Seattle alleys’ monuments. The shop presses far into the building and the owner informs me it used to be a noodle factory.
Canton Alley faces the new Wing Luke Museum which has some great photos hanging of what the place used to be like. There will be much to explore with these two spaces. They appear to be loaded with a lot more recorded culture than their downtown counterparts.
This weekend, I began to take some ideas for drawing and sketch documentation into analysis. This approach looks at the drawing as a machine, where by doing it, it does more than a photograph or a memory on some level. This method seeks to record planimetric information, elevation, apetures, existing structures, and with a few cuts, perspectival relationships. I am really excited about the possiblities for this. This work was inspired by a book on Dali and Escher, as well as unfolded architectural drawing styles.
The next project is the exploration of the potential of a fold-out panoramic sketch with this Japanese-inspired sketchbook:
I also took a walk up two alleys I am considering for a sort of theoretical masterplan study. The alleys between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd run almost completely unobstructed to the Seattle Center beginning just across the street from SAM and Benaroya Hall. These spaces run through the market area, through the crank in the grid, through the nightlife of Belltown, and through the more marginalized areas. The security and safety one feels diminishes the further north one goes. These alleys could literally stitch these fragments together. There are plenty of interesting conditions along these two paths that warrant reconsideration. I will post some collages soon on some of the hidden treasures that border both.
AIA Seattle is pleased to award its 2010 Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship to Daniel Toole Assoc. AIA for his proposal to study the future of our downtown alleyways as new public spaces. His research will include the study of alleys in San Francisco and Melbourne, Australia, where he will sketch, photograph, interview, blog, and record his impressions of vibrant alleyways that work. Daniel will receive $5,000 to complete his proposed travel and research and will present his research at an exhibition at AIA Seattle’s gallery in Spring 2011.
The AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship expands the experience and opportunities of young professionals, encourages cross-cultural dialogue in the profession, and shares knowledge from architecture practice around the globe with members in Puget Sound.
I am extremely excited to have won this years Emerging Professionals Scholarship and will use this blog to chart my progress in travels and local exploration of the alleys. I plan to begin my travels in the latter part of the summer this year. I will try to post at least once a week until then with various articles, sketches, research, and experiments that pertain to making our alleys the newest addition to Seattle’s urban public space network.
I would like to thank AIA Seattle and the Honors and Fellows Committee for their generous gift. This scholarship will allow us to learn from other major global cities, as well as create a cultural link between the newly developed laneways of Melbourne and the historically rich alleys of Japan.
Please visit this site with thoughts and comments often. This will be much more exciting with your interaction and opinions. These are your alleys.
– Daniel Toole, Assoc. AIA
Acting as a tour guide this weekend to my mother visiting from Portland, we found some very interesting situations in the alley network. The Arctic Club, one of my favorite buildings in the city, seems to have blocked off and embellished its alley with a lovely oyster tile no doubt to secure it as a back of house area and the conveyance of food, drink, and waste in a classy manner. You can climb up on top of the parking structure at 4th and Cherry and look down into this space. Imagine it converted into a gallery or glass-roofed greenhouse addition to the hotel. There is a party wall to the north that would need to be opened.
Also, one of my favorite alley-type spots behind the pioneer building begs to be looked at. It is almost always gated and I think acts as an entry for the office buildings that flank it. It’s viewable from the alley or the street. It’s amazing to see what brick and greenery can do to a tight urban space. I do however, wish this space wasn’t gated.
It’s on the west side of 2nd between James and Cherry. If anyone knows more about it, please fill me in.