Alleys of Seattle

Tight Urbanism: the book

Posted in Chicago, Detroit, History, Japan, Melbourne, San Francisco, Sydney by seattlealleys on July 24, 2011


Finally after a first round of edits, the book chronicling my travels, adventures, sketches, and photos from this year-long foray into alleyways is available at  Please email me if you have any questions.  You can purchase it from the link above!

Thank you for supporting my work.

– Daniel Toole


Tight Urbanism

Posted in Chicago, Detroit, International District, Japan, Melbourne, Pioneer Square, San Francisco, Sydney by seattlealleys on March 23, 2011

Please keep your calendars marked for my exhibit on my travels.

The exhibit, “Tight Urbanism”, scheduled for its’ opening reception May 11, 2011 will showcase the findings of the AIA Seattle Emerging Professionals Travel Fellowship  travel through several mediums including photographs, sketches, video, and physical models.  The exhibit is slated to run from May11 to July 1st, with a potential move to the International District in July.

I will be at the Nord Alley to hand out invites to the exhibit on Thursday, May 5 at their alley party.  I highly recommend everyone to come to this for the debut of their permanent art installation in the alley, food, music, and more.  Please stay tuned.

Let me know if you have any questions, or if you’d like to schedule a private tour of the exhibit, I am happy to take groups, individuals, and organizations throughout May and June.

– Daniel Toole

Chicago day 3

Posted in Chicago by seattlealleys on September 17, 2010


After meeting with David Leopold and Janet Attarian of the Chicago department of transportation’s green alley program I have a more clear idea about how the citys alleys work.
As in San Francisco, the city owns the whole alley and property lines end at walls. There are names for all the alleys that run east west that typically end in “place”. Business loading and pick up areas then have their own address. Many blocks have t- shaped alleys so through traffic on a commercial building back does not run into a residential one. It is also illegal to have parking garage access off an alley.
As far as the green alleys, I got to see the main downtown pilot one, Couch Place which unified the stage enttances for a handful of theaters. This alley now is flanked by gates with signs ovethead to announce to the street. It has high albedo concrete sides and permeable brick-looking pavers that allow for water to soak down into the ground at about a half inch a minute during a typical storm, alleviating many basement floods caused by overloaded shared drains flooding and backing up in peoples buildings. The whole city’s sewer infrastructure was recently modeled to study these bottlenecks. There have been about 100 alleys greened throughout the metro area predominantly on the fringe of downtown. They continue to green them through selection based on these plumbing bottlenecks.
Before leaving, I had to go see Perkins + Will’s office at wabash which was incredible. It is on the 35th and 36th floors if more’ last building and gas floor to ceiling glass views of everything as it looms right over the north side of the river.

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Chicago day 2

Posted in Chicago by seattlealleys on September 15, 2010


After speaking with downtown photographer, Bob Thall at Columbia College, I continued to move north through the alleys bumping into the beautiful Prie Scott building and a couple other Chicago gems.
Bob described a Chicago with a fleeting past – a downtown losing its best century through souless envelope maxing developments without the scale of the beginning of the city. His book on alleys is the third in a series of four on various layers of the downtown. He seems to have a similar fascination with their ability to very bluntly show history and give a sense of the city that cannot be experienced in the continually remodeled streets and storefronts.
I then spent a good deal of time looking at the first downtown green alley, Couch Place, which unifies a fee theaters’ entries south of the river. The permeable paving looked similar to small bricks with gravel in the joints. The clean lines have the space a more civic appearance. I hope to meet tomorrow with the department of transportation office responsible for the green alleys to discuss their successes.

Chicago day 1

Posted in Chicago by seattlealleys on September 14, 2010


Chicago is an American Manhattan. After an early morning trip to Oak Park to see frank Lloyd wrights prairie work as well as his home, studio, and the jewel box Unity Temple, I walked from congress parkway and wabash through downtown, across the river all the way through old town and back through Wicker Park.
The city grows seemlessly as Manhattan from neighborhood to neighborhood stitched together by the visibility of the incredible collection of a century of skylines and the rickety crash of the elevated metro.
The collect of alleys here is certainly staggering. Most downtown ones maintain a very utilitarian existence similar to their Seattle counterparts yet old town has a more residential breed that is flanked by back steps, carriage houses converted to garages and children riding bicycles and skateboards about. This area is very rich in texture and apparent history. Two additional highlights were stumbling across one of the remaining four alleys with the use of treated wood pavers and Gaslanp Court, where you have to ask to be let in the gate to see its collection of timber fire escapes, planters, and fountains. This is apparently an old alley once lit by gas lamps and now serving as a backdrop courtyard space for a couple shops, offices, and condominiums.

Chicago/Detroit alleys itinerary

Posted in Chicago, Detroit by seattlealleys on September 8, 2010

This Saturday, September 11th, I will embark on trip two.  I will spend four days in Chicago and three days in Detroit.  While in Chicago I will be meeting with the Department of Transportation in regards to their Green Alleys program that has successfully remodeled a number of downtown alleys.  I will also be meeting with photographer Bob Thall, whose book, City Spaces, explores alleys and their role in the city’s identity.

“Investigating these spaces reminded me of my earlier sense of the city as a mysterious landscape to explore. My history as a Chicagoan, my history as a photographer, the history of the city, and, in a small way, the history of photography—without any plan or anticipation, these photographs brought these histories together for me.” – Bob Thall

While in Detroit, I will visit the Green Garage and their freshly remodeled alley on their grand opening day, Thursday.  I will also be taking an architecture tangent to Cranbrook while in the city.  Let me know if you have any additions to these maps, or if you know of any interesting alleys in either city.  Check back throughout next week for frequent posts.

Innovation incubator

Posted in Chicago, San Francisco by seattlealleys on May 19, 2010

I would like to thank my office, Perkins+Will, for their generosity in providing an additional $1000 to expand my study area to Chicago and San Francisco. I will be visiting these locations between July and August to document what’s going on in their alleys.

Perkins+will is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year and plans to launch a brand new site in early July. The innovation incubator grant is a new program set up by the national leadership institute to facilitate the endeavors and pursuits of individuals within the office striving to better the built environment. The alley project was one of about twenty to receive funding in this first round.