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The Alley Gater's collection of fragile moments

Part 1 Project 2009
Rebecca Lee
University of Nottingham, UK
Bristol has begun an initiative to close down the alleyways that are intrinsic to its character and the workings of the city, potentially evicting and changing the subversive activity that is drawn to spaces of this nature. The project manifests itself as the Alley Gater’s domain acting to amplify the character of the alleyways and retaining the delicate intimacy and fiction of these fascinating spaces.

An interest in the condition of spatial tension was the main stimulus throughout the project. Tension is a heightened relationship between two or more objects or states.

A film study observing the impact that illuminating a light bulb from an external source had on the dynamic between the light bulb and the space began the investigation. Through this process preconceptions were broken, spatial boundaries were questioned and the tension of the system was observed.

Bristol’s alleyways provided an urban context with an innate sense of tension because of the static permanence of the macro scale and the delicate intricacy and temporality on the micro scale as a constantly transforming space. Key factors which contribute to the level of tension include degree of occupancy, density of transitions, level of contrast, layering of triggers and fragility.

A fragility of spatial condition is a delicate balance between permanence and temporality, which through an inherent instability amplifies the connection between space and occupant. This was the main feature of the chosen site in Tower Walk which is a rich space which gathers from the surrounding area of Bristol.

Hanging above the alleyway the inserted space of the Alley Gater’s domain amplifies his presence negating the possibility of a passive observation. The metal cages bang with movement, the chalk scrapes along the board echoing throughout the space, water drips, leaves rustle and footsteps resonate.

Rebecca Lee

The ‘Alley Gater’

The project takes a serious and real problem, the ‘gating’ up of alleyways and passages of our cities, these in between spaces and proposes a solution which not only is situated in the poetic and ‘unreal’ but also makes a serious and committed statement of actual possibilities and intent.

The ‘Alley Gater’ titled suggests a whimsical but relevant research into this pervasive problem associated with inner city social conditions. However the work undertaken, commitment and passion spent on research and developing the ideas is both serious and impressive.

Starting from a difficult condition, an interest in tension in architecture both spatially and socially, the design process involved an initial period of researching into the city using narratives and real situations. Lines of enquiry were established and investigated through the techniques of video, drawing and making. The key development pieces were however a delicate series of semi abstract drawings which beautifully explored the spatial arrangements of the tension within the passage as found and as proposed. These drawings are quite unique and intriguing and are used to establish a set of conditions and a framework with which to work. These express a lightness of touch and a surreal delicacy set within a real harsh urban condition.

At each stage of the process drawings were tested and reworked as new ideas were suggested or adjustments had to be made. A series of small insertions into the urban passageway belies the complexity and detail of the thought process and the detail contained within the end product.

The difficulty in striving to achieve this sense of tension in the design continued throughout each stage. Never would Rebecca allow this intention to be compromised for the sake of an easier solution.

Having started at a city wide scale of investigation the project concludes by studying the details of the prop room, the leaf screen, leaf drying, feather sewing and the chalkboard. Simply this ability to work at these varying scales and to use this range of techniques is without doubt hugely impressive.

David Short

Mr David Short
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