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Crosscut Tout: Placemaking and alleys

An event to crown good local alleys and how to improve them, and a blog to stir the imagination for making urban places that are alluring.
An alley that works in Europe, using simple green plantings, and emphasizing the ornamental features of buildings.

An alley that works in Europe, using simple green plantings, and emphasizing the ornamental features of buildings. Chuck Wolfe

Spacemaking is the new rage in Seattle, in part because it's one of Mayor McGinn's passions. Even alleys are candidates for makeovers, and you could catch some of the better ideas at a Green Alleys Competition organized by The International Sustainability Institute and the AIA Seattle chapter for this Thursday (March 4), in the alley behind 314 First Ave. S., 5-9 pm. Winners will be announced for best ideas for remaking alleys into inviting, safe, green, and community-building spaces.

The alley project was hatched by the International Sustainability Institute, which worked with the renowned Danish firm, Gehl Architects. Gehl recently studied Seattle open spaces and local plans for a waterfront park, so this is a very internationally-informed project. Based in Copenhagen, a poster-city for pedestrianism, open spaces, and bike-friendly roads, Gehl delivered some unwelcome news in its earlier study of our waterfront, worrying that the park was going to be too wide and empty-feeling. No problems about alleys being too wide!

A good primer on making urban spaces, with photos from some great ones, is on Crosscut contributor Chuck Wolfe's myurbanist blog. Look for the two-part feature "The 12 qualities of placemaking," where Wolfe highlights some smart design principles, such as the importance of an "alluring focal point," the value of angles, and the need to celebrate "exotic signage." The photos may make you want to book a flight to Europe right away.

David Brewster is founder of Crosscut and editor-at-large. You can e-mail him at david.brewster@crosscut.com.


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