Alleyways And Other Spaces Between Buildings

We want to decipher skies and paintings, go behind these starry backgrounds or these painted canvases and, like kids trying to find a gap in a fence, try to look through the cracks in the world. 

Georges Bataille, “The Cruel Practice of Art”

A narrow space between or behind buildings, often used as a passageway. Oftentimes the owner of the strip of land is unclear. They tend to be left off official maps.

Alleyways (alleys) are liminal, in-between spaces.

Alleyways are both ‘territory’ and ‘network’.

Territory: A space where various facets of social life happen.
Network: Serving as connectors, between people and other spaces

Some alleyways are planned, whereas other alleyways are what happens to the strip of land that was not planned.

When we think ‘alleyway’ we think of an urban area, with high buildings on each side creating darkness. In rural areas, the equivalent would be ‘lane’ or ‘laneway’.

Henry Charles, Fox Lane at Ringwood, Hampshire.
  • spaces of refuge, especially for unhoused people (in the same symbol family as park bench and street corner)
  • where vibrant communities gather
  • shortcuts for through-traffic
  • dark and scary, with potential conflict
  • where residents put necessary items they don’t want on show e.g. rubbish bins
  • marginal places for marginalised people, seeking a little shelter
  • desired by real estate developers wishing to gentrify a neighbourhood
Still from the 1977 Japanese film Hausu directed by Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Saturday Evening Post Cowboys and Indians 1951
Eyvind Earle (1916 – 2000) 1955 concept illustration for Disney’s Lady and the Tramp
French Sloan (1871-1951)
Come Over To My House cover
Settai Komura (Japan, 1887-1940) Snowy Morning
Jon Klassen for The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
1878 John Singer Sargent Capri
Malcolm Drummond, 1910, Boyne Hill Vicarage in Maidenhead
Made with an AI art generator and free stock photography by Leif Niemczik on Unsplash


Empty Spaces: Perspectives on Emptiness in Modern History

How is emptiness made and what historical purpose does it serve? What cultural, material and natural work goes into maintaining ‘nothingness’? Why have a variety of historical actors, from colonial powers to artists and urban dwellers, sought to construct, control and maintain (physically and discursively) empty space, and by which processes is emptiness discovered, visualised and reimagined? 

Courtney J. Campbell, Allegra Giovine, and Jennifer Keating’s Empty Spaces: Perspectives on Emptiness in Modern History (U London Press, 2019) draws together contributions from authors working on landscapes and rurality, along with national and imperial narratives, from Brazil to Russia and Ireland. It considers the visual, including the art of Edward Hopper and the work of the British Empire Marketing Board, while concluding with a section that examines constructions of emptiness in relation to capitalism, development and the (re)appropriation of urban space. In doing so, it foregrounds the importance of emptiness as a productive prism through which to interrogate a variety of imperial, national, cultural and urban history.

interview at New Books Network

Related: A Glossary of Urban Voids by Sergio Lopez-Pineiro (2020)

Header painting: Childe Hassam. The Hovel and the Skyscraper, 1904


On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




error: Content is protected