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 blurb.com. Please email me if you have any questions. You can purchase it from the link above!
Thank you for supporting my work.
– Daniel Toole
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
From the graffiti-lined AC/DC Lane, to the retaraunts of China Town, and the shopping streets of Degraves Lane, to the hangout of Centre Place, Melbourne was an incredible city of alleys and public space in general. This type of urbanism is not attainable without prolific planning, policy, and organic development. This network of alleys is a model city for any flatiron grid city seeking to re-invigorate their back-alleys and side streets.
After a breath-taking day on the Great Ocean Road and more than one unforgettable experiences including a wild koala encounter, yesterday was spent exploring the laneways further discovering the incredible policies with which the city has literally transformed itself to catalyze an urban rennaisance in the last ten years. Delving into the policy of accepting graffiti as public art form, the transformation of liquor licensing to catalyze bars and destinations in every nook and cranny imaginable has created a city of urbanity. The inclined individual could spend a year exploring all the hidden gems.
I was fortunate to be able to speak to architect Sean Godsell in his office on Exhbition Street about Melbourne and his impression of the laneways. He seemed to enjoy the unique qualities of the city and said when he tries to go to a destination, he always takes the laneways as they offer a more human capillary form of movement through the city. He also said that the laneways are the biggest success for the city’s programs to pedestrianize and are a huge part of the identity of Melbourne.
I would like to thank Andrea Kleist, of the City of Melbourne’s Arts and Culture branch. She explained to me the ten year history of their Laneway Commissions, a program that reaches out to the arts community by providing an open competition for artists that allows them to pick their site and project. This is different than Sydney’s By George! arts commissions as it allows creative freedom and thus maintains a steady stream of interesting applicants every year. This is fantastic as it complements everything the planners, architects, and engineers are doing to transform the city. I will give a more detailed description of this decade-long program after reviewing the myriad documentation that the Public Arts Program gave me, thank you so much!
This is the kind of thing Seattle could be incredibly capable of doing. We have a large supply of artists, and a fairly steady stream of public arts commissions through 4culture, and various neighborhoods. The alleys could become a curated set of galleries fostering fantastic video, performance, installation, and site-specific art. It could run for the summer months annually.
Speaking of, I would like to thank everyone again for attending the Firehouse Alley activation party last Thursday. Richard Tran of the AIA Seattle Design Committee (above) and Justin Martin of SvR snapped some great shots of the activity shown below. This is only the beginning for this alley and Seattle’s alleys in general!
Another day embedded in the fine grain – there are endless adventures within this city. After a trip south to St. Kilda beach, I explored more laneway bar culture with a visit to the famous Cherry Bar in ACDC Lane, formerly Corporate Lane. The city changed the name about 15 years ago in honor of the local legends.
Today, I spent a good part of the day in my new favorite alley of all my travels thus far – Centre Place. This place is incredibly rich. Apparently, it used to be a prime shortcut from the main train station to the next main road. This alley has incredible shops with simple roll down doors, the city’s bluestone pavers, copious amounts of shipping boxes for stools, and great bars above the street as well, including Hell’s where I spent a good three hours documenting activities in this beautiful urban space. It may be a prime candidate for a physical model demonstrating the potential of alleys and existing buildings’ capacity to become open and usable.
Laneway culture is intense here. The city has the perceptual feel and grain of a medeival city, yet stuck into a 90 degree grid network. Down about half of the alleys, you will find a restaurant, secret bar, or coffeehouse. After meeting with Robert Moore, head urban planner for the city council of Melbourne, I realize this is not a historic thing. This has been a slow transformation since the 1980’s lead by a visionary collaboration between the city and Gehl architects, and a series of consultants. The city has tried to draw the creative class back into the city with the slow building of residential buildings and the upgrading of streets, parks, and laneways. They have a huge focus on public space that really is perceivable as you move through the city.
Regarding the amazing myriad of cool bars in lane ways, I had a great discussion with the bar staff at Sister Bella, off a hidden alley regarding the role of the liquor license in this culture. Depending on the length of operation per day, you pay more for a license. There is a sweet deal between lower lease rates for back alley spaces, the right license, and the right degree of food or drink to be served that determines if a bar is profitable enough to try out for potential investors. Sister Bella is owned by one of the original lane way bar owners, St. Jerome, who has spawned an annual music festival that takes place in January in Melbourne, and now Sydney and a couple other major Australian cities. I was also fortunate to be lead to the Croft Institute, an old chemistry lab in a back alley that has maintained the vibe with a plethora of chemistry measuring tools, beakers, etc. strewn about the bar in jewel cases. You find it by going down a c-shaped dead-end alley then heading up a flight of stairs in what I assume is the fire-stair for the building. They have another floor 3 floors up. This type of space lends the city the feeling of a real collage. Pictures to be posted when I am back!
ALSO, THANKS TO ALL THAT ATTENDED THE ALLEY PARTIES ON THURSDAY! I am sorry I was unable to be there but please see the overview of how it went down here – http://www.thenewpioneersquare.com/first-thursday-recap/
After only half a day in Melbourne, I am overwhelmed at the myriads of laneways and their contents. Instead of moving down a block laterally on the street elevations, you can weave constantly through and around them thanks to the hundreds of lanes. It’s a medieval city on a 90 degree grid. There are plenty of cool little things tucked in everywhere from ad-hoc galleries, to Chinese family restaurants, to adult stores, to posh clubs and bars.
Upon arrival, I sat my map on my bedside table, and decided to let intuition take me around. I proceeded to get very lost and do about two loops. The architecture, street life, and preservation efforts here are incredible. It is less polished, yet more layered in many ways than Sydney. It is almost Parisian. I will continue the hunt today
This Saturday, I will be heading down under for two days in Sydney and about twelve in the myriad of laneways in downtown Melbourne. I will be checking out the arts program currently in Sydney’s blossoming laneways, as well as a series of city-catalyzed bars and restaurants that have been encouraged through public funding to develop along the laneways.
In Melbourne, I will do research into the history, management, and development of the hugely successful laneways around the downtown. Please let me know your suggestions!