I am at the midpoint in my adventure in Scandinavia, and I can't shake the feeling that I am chasing something that is ever-fleeting. I keep expecting there to be a singular moment in which I achieve "AHA." This is naive. This is not how design works. If all it took were moments of "AHA," then the variety, the frustration, and the excitement of it all would drag design into an entirely different realm. So here I am, still looking at the moon, searching for an ultimate answer. I might be sitting here a while, so I might as well start getting to work.
What makes Västerlanggatan successful?
- Scale- Again, this alleyway (throughway) is successful due to its scale. Sitting at about 15'-18' wide, with buildings doubling that in height, this alleyway is comfortable without being daunting for pedestrians.
- History- The history lesson these alleyways (and really all of Gamla Stan) provide is undeniable. There is a sense of wonderment when you step through these places. Västerlanggatan in particular appeared to be a place for carriages and other larger carriers to pass through. The curbs in particular suggest this. Now, with the widths being inappropriate for motor vehicle use (99% of the time) this carriage way has now been converted to quasi-alleyway.
- Access- Most of Gamla Stan is fairly similar throughout its alleyway culture, with only a few slight things making any difference. Västerlanggaten is different mainly due to its access to the waterfront and main roadways. Gamla Stan possesses a major roadway on its southwestern edge, exactly where Västerlanggatan is located. This means that this alleyway in particular is fairly lively.
- Variant Consistency- This is perhaps another point that would have worked on the Copenhagen example as well. What is meant by variant consistency is the idea that the buildings, shop signage, materials, etc., are all very similar while still being able to break up the monotony enough to keep users interested.
I do have to say that there were fewer alleyways of interest in Stockholm than in Copenhagen. This is not to say that Stockholm did not provide any lessons, because that is far from the truth; It is to say that there were less relatable examples (in regards to the United States). Because my project refers to "Adapting" alleyways, then it is important to be able to find some relatable examples. Unfortunately there was a lack of successful modern alleyways in Stockholm. The principles remain, but direct applications and "AHA" moments needed to subside in Stockholm.
Like in Copenhagen, the most interesting example was not necessarily the best example in Stockholm. The most interesting alleyway was by far Marten Trotzig Grand in Gamla Stan. Known to be the narrowest usable alleyway in the world, this alleyway is as much a tourist attraction as it is a testament to the adaptability of a society....this alleyway is used, and used well. Below is a video of what it looks like to be walking through an alleyway that is shoulder width:
News and Notes
- Today I spoke with a professor at the KTH Institute, Maria Hakanssan about my project. Being the head of the Department of Urban Planning, she was an incredible wealth of information. I am excited to use her information for my publication at the end of this project.
- Tomorrow I leave for Oslo, and I will be honest....Norway is what I have been most excited for all along. Between the happy people, the nature, and the incredible scenery...actually, that sounds like every place I have already been. Oh well; it is nice to continue being in beautiful places.
- I am currently listening to.....Molly Nilsson. Her lo-fi sound fits Sweden perfectly. When you are living in a hostel where you know nobody, and in a country that you have never been, there is something comforting in knowing that there is always the moon for company. (Even if the moon is only out for 3 hours a day!)