Nooks and Crannies

Nooks and Crannies

I walk down a narrow path filled with life and the bustle of people.

As I wander down this corridor, I catch a faint but wonderful smell of cookies and pastries.  I’m battling the crowds like a salmon swimming upstream, but yet feel comfortable because of the quaint scene.  I look up and see string lights criss-crossing only a few feet above my head creating a canopy of color and as I come out of this tunnel like experience it’s a whole new setting …the comfort that I had was just lost to the cars zooming by.

The scene above was an experience I had from a recent research trip to Seattle in a place called Post Alley. post-alley-seattle What I discovered in this pedestrian only alleyway is an alley that diagonally bisects the area around Pike Place Market where small shops and restaurants inhabit small storefronts.  It’s a pleasant and inviting space that has its very own wall of gum.  These unique attributes are what make this space special and why people seek authentic places like this out.  I came away from this experience with a new insight into cool cities.  It is a simple concept that makes some cities so much cooler than others.  I call it the Nooks and Crannies test.Bubblegum_alley_pn5

Nooks and Crannies are the hidden, hard to find areas where Bohemian art and eclectic incubator spaces collide.  These are the alleys between buildings, hidden plazas and otherwise intimate spaces designed into our urban core areas.

The origins of these spaces vary, but the common feature that all share is the pedestrian-friendly nature.  Many are not accessible by car and can only be accessed by foot.

Nooks and Crannies are also visible in Pop Culture.  Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series is a gathering space where incubating vendors sold their wares.

I’ve pulled out what I believe to be common elements of what makes for interesting nooks and crannies

  • Street Art:  Art is a temporary addition to small spaces that reflects the creative nature of the space and adds to the Bohemian element.
  • Signature piece:  I mentioned the wall of gum above, but every nook and cranny should have something that is unique to that space where people can get a one of a kind experience.
  • Pedestrian-friendly:  The absence of cars allows for narrower spaces and allows the pedestrian a freedom to explore without the fear of getting run over.
  • Hidden space:  It’s kinda like being part of a very elite club or speakeasy.  Being hidden around corners gives a private seclusion to these spaces and gives those who like discovery the feeling it’s a special find.
  • Well- lit:  From the sketchy and seedy spaces of yesteryear, dark alleys are transforming themselves all over the country.  An important factor in all of this is giving the visitor a feeling of safety.  Lighting goes a long way in making these spaces safe.largest
  • Something to do or discover:  Providing something to do or discover is an important part of the destination factor to alleys.  I’ve seen chess boards or wall puzzles that give the visitor a reason to hang out a while.  For alleys with enough foot traffic, small shops are great permanent additions.

Nooks and Crannies allow us the ability to creatively explore ideas and express ourselves in places not so visible or heavily trafficked.  For those adventure seekers, nooks and crannies provide the thrill of discovery, a feeling otherwise lost in suburban locations where nooks and crannies are not necessary.

Great Public Spaces of New York

One comment

  1. The alleys downtown would look very attractive with lighting and creative ideas on the walls. I remember waiting in line in the alley for the theatre to open. There must have been 300 kids crammed in the alley on Saturday mornings!


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