Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Backs of Buildings: The Alley behind the Rose Bush block

The village of Alfred is a small and compressed place, and one typically sees the same architecture from the same angle consistently. Something I have experienced in Alfred which I haven’t experienced anywhere else is the ability to feel like you are in a completely different place than being in a small rural town depending on where you go. The location I want to focus on which demonstrates this feeling is the alley that runs behind the Chinese restaurant, Alex’s, the hair salon, the Kampus Kave, the ballet apartments and the former collegiate restaurant, the historical name being the Rosebush block. When I walk down this alley and turn and face the backside of these three building without looking at anything else it becomes the one place in Alfred that could be right out of New York City. There are several aspects of this back wall that gives this effect. The obvious is the visual ethos of the alley. The back wall consists of grey and red brick, which is pretty, weather-beaten, there is also a small amount of graffiti on some of the brick. There are many windows in the back alley wall on the second story because the second floor is entirely apartments. Connecting these windows is the most extensive amount of fire escapes that I think I have ever seen in Alfred reinforcing the feel of a New York City alley. There are many doors in this back alley, which falls under the category of function. There is a door for each business, Chinese restaurant, Alex’s, former jet etc. The function of the alley is to allow access to business where the public will not see it happen, such as bringing in food, beer and taking out trash. Also the function of the alley is to allow evacuation in the case of emergency. Aside from the obvious visual ethos of the alley behind the Rosebush block there are other senses at play that reinforce the urban feel of being an alley in New York City. One apparent element is the overwhelming smell of Chinese food, which is an unavoidable part of the experience of walking through the alley. Another element is the sound in the alley, there is sound from the Chinese food restaurant consisting of catching snippets of employee’s conversations in another language and the distinct music played in the restaurant. There is the sound of Alex’s consisting of a dull roar of conversation, the clicking sound of a game wheel being spun and the occasional cheer if something is one from the wheel game, and lastly there is the sound from the many industrial size fans that line the alley which add to the urban aesthetic while at the same time demonstrate another function of the alley; ventilation. There is a lot of information about the front of the buildings on the Rosebush block, for instance the Alfred post office used to be located where the Kampus Kave is currently located. But I could find no information at all about the backside of the three buildings, and I have a feeling that it has remained relatively unchanged since it was first built. Some history can definitely be seen from looking at the wear on the back of the building, for instance behind the former Jet you can clearly see that there was a fire and I have a feeling that even after a new business moves into that location the fire damage will remain on the back of the building for maybe even many decades. I would like to conclude the analysis of the Alley behind the Rosebush block by posing a question: What purpose do the backs of buildings serve?

Work cited

The Alfred Historical Society and Baker’s Bridge Association. History of Alfred, New York. Dallas Texas: Curtis Media Corporation, 1990.

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