The Adaptation of Alleyways Part 8: San Francisco / Wait for the Moment (This Too Shall Pass)

Hold pattern. Downtime. Filibuster. Moratorium. I have a lot of time on my hands to continue coming up with ways of saying the same thing. Intermission. I was warned that 'adult' life comes with an abrupt change of pace from those younger more boisterous years, but being warned and experiencing are two very different things. Abeyance. Though, being a twenty-something with a particularly eager energy and an unsettled spirit of inquiry doesn't generally lend itself to stillness, sometimes you need to take heed from the forces around you and. Take a deep breath. Justifying breaks in the action as simply 'waiting for the moment' and not as 'allowing this to pass' can be difficult, but necessary. One is active, the other eats you up. Recess. The acts of being passive and being active can lead to overwhelming feelings of remorse. Pause; Strike a balance and anticipate, because in the end things move fast. 

I have been writing about alleyways for about 7 months now, and I have to remind myself of the nature of the alleyways that I continue to muse. The Adaptation of Alleyways chronicles the activated alleyways, and those who activate them. Stagnancy rarely aids a decaying urban form. Even in moments such as Bergen's Bryggen where a place has been preserved throughout many centuries, there is still the act of preserving. So while in my momentary hiatus, I can act like my alleys and still be very productive. Perhaps I could go to San Francisco or something.......

Following Emily as she demonstrates how to properly move through Cypress Alley (done especially well with the balloon)

What makes Cypress Alley so successful?

(prefeace: this trip to SF was not intended for alleyway research....I plan on returning to SF to continue to look into what makes San Francisco's adapted alleyways amongst the best in the world)

  1. Art/Graffiti! - This should be self evident, as the alley serves as a platform for local artists to demonstrate their talents. Reminiscent of Skostredet in Bergen, Cypress Alley proves that public interest in alleyways can be as simple as allowing for artists to take over. 
  2. Location/Context - Cypress Alley can be find in the middle of the Mission District of San Francisco, which is one of the trendier parts of the city. With Mission Street close nearby, there is a lot of foot traffic that occurs within this particular node of the Mission.

As I stated above, seeing Cypress Alley was less of a destination during this visit to San Francisco, and more of a pleasant surprise. I plan on visiting Clarion Alley (an even more absurdly graffitied alley), The Secret Alley (a secret alley art collective within a secret alley?), and of course the many alleys of Chinatown.  

Annie Street Plaza is another space that we stumbled across during our tour of San Francisco. I have to admit, I have some very mixed feelings about this space. On one hand, there is obvious effort to attempt to transform this lifeless hard edged space with vegetation, a canopy, and integrated seating; all of these things are great. On the other hand, and perhaps this is a factor of the time I was there, it felt stiff and cold. Other than the two sitting at the table, for the 10 minutes we stood observing it, there was really nobody to go into it, and why would they? The facades are without any interest to pedestrians, there is nothing on the other end of the alley, and the alley is blocked off by concrete pile-ons. 

I have since done research on the space, and have found that there are occasional concerts, cocktail parties, and happenings that occur within Annie Street Plaza. So perhaps I am being to tough on this space. The greatest distinction between Annie Street Plaza and Cypress Alley is the level of control. One has let artists of all types take it over, the other has a very prescribed plan for its form and operation. One is passive, the other is active. Both could use a lesson from the other:

  • If Cypress Alley were to work more in tune with its artists identity, and provide a program that coincided with it, then suddenly you have a place that people actively seek out instead of stumble upon. 
  • If Annie Street Plaza were to permit more spontaneous behavior, and allow for its static nature to be interrupted with authentic life, then suddenly you have a space that is activated more often than just during its prescribed events. 

Anticipate what your space needs.

News and Notes

  • I'll be attending a Sac Grid 2.0 Open House tomorrow to lend my humble citizen thoughts on what could be done next in the project to improve Downtown/Midtown Sacramento. Even though some Jerry Brown chap has taken over, I still expect a cameo from The Arnold at some point. 
  • It is remarkable for me to think about how quickly time has passed since I have moved to California. With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, and consequently a visit home in the works, I have already looked forward to my grandpa's pecan pie, thanksgiving day sandwiches, and the many many stories to be exchanged. I am already full, in every which way, thinking about it. 
  • I am currently listening to...Vulfpeck & Danny Schmidt. With similar meaning, and vastly different ways of executing, I just couldn't stick with one tune this time around.