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Thursday
Jul052012

The Beauty of Alleys

One of the more utilitarian, versatile and spatially interesting elements of urbanism is also one of the most beautiful - the alley.

A casualty of mid-century housing legislation, alleys were discarded during America’s post WW II suburban building boom. This unfortunately deprived neighborhoods of the beneficial uses that this out of sight architecture as places for providing the gritty reality of servicing buildings and neighborhoods. They are home to dumpsters, utilities, deliveries and residential parking. The result: street frontages kept uncluttered and available for on-street parking without multiple curb cuts and additional opportunities for architects to compose an elevation, not just a placement for the snout house garage door.

Fortunately, new urbanist projects have re-introduced the alley into the residential lexicon toolkit and while a bit stale currently, as neighborhoods establish themselves and space becomes a premium, alleys are natural opportunities for development of additional B-street uses and residential units. These new residential addresses are useful as infill affordable housing, rental units or in denser neighborhoods, a quieter street away from the constant traffic of busier streets.

B-type uses, such as service garages, make excellent use of alley locationsResidential uses benefit from the quiet relief from more heavily trafficked streetsSingle family attached directly behind main street commercialImportant uses for alleys: hiding the dumpster from the public realm 

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