Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Backs of Buildings Continued: Mapping the Alley Behind the Rose Bush Block

For my final essay for the Alfred LUCK project I would like to revisit a location that I discussed before; the alley that runs behind what was historically called the Rose Bush block. But is probably known better as the alley that runs behind the Chinese restaurant, Alex’s, the hair salon, the Kampus Kave, the ballet apartments and the former Collegiate restaurant. In the previous essay on this location I talked about the ethos of the alley and how it had the feeling that it could be located in a city, instead of a rural location. I also talked about the various formal characteristics of the alley, how it smells, the sounds that can be heard from it, and the large number of fire escapes that reinforce the city feel. The function of the alley is to allow mobility and access to business without being visible to the consumers frequenting the business. This is so food/products can be brought in and trash removed in a discrete manner. The function of the alley is also to allow escape to the residents of the building via fire escapes in the case of emergency. Basically the function of the alley is to discretely allow for practical task to take place behind the fa├žade of the front of the building out of the public eye.

I have already talked about the formal design and layout of the alley behind the Rose Bush block in my previous essay and would now like to talk about different ways of mapping that could be utilized to demonstrate this form and function in a non-traditional manner. The first way to map the alley, while at the same time show the function of the alley and represent the business that are located in the building that it runs behind would be to make a map of the trash disposed in it. This may seem a little gross, but by making a record of the different kind of waste that is being disposed of in the large dumpster and smaller trash cans could illustrate what kind of business are located in the building without ever seeing the front of the building. At the same time this method of mapping shows that one function of the alley is to be a place where trash can be disposed of.

My second idea for making a map representing form and function of the alley would be to make a visual map showing only the fire escapes located on the back of the building above the alley. This map would roughly illustrate the location of the residential apartments and demonstrate the function of the alley as being a way of escape in an emergency. In the alley behind Alex’s and the Chinese food restaurant there are three sets of fire escapes, two of them having three levels to them and the third having two levels. The fire escape is a fairly typical architectural device that is typically used in urban apartment buildings as a way of escape during a fire. It was invented in 1784 by Daniel Maseres in England and has become an iconic image of the cityscape.

My third idea for mapping the alley behind Alex’s and the Chinese food restaurant would be to document the consumption of electricity from the building. A notable aesthetic element of the alley is the rows of electric meters that are on the back wall of the building each having a label for each business and apartment. A map made showing the different levels of electricity consumption would illustrate the different inhabitants of the building based on their consumption of electricity. The business’s would likely have a higher rate of electricity consumption so the map would show the number of commercial and residential inhabitants, while at the same time illustrating one of the functions of the alley as being a place for the electric meters to exist out of public view.

At the end of my last essay I posed the question what purpose do the backs of buildings serve? I think the answer to this question is that there purpose is to allow discrete access and mobility away from the public eye and I think that the three alternative ways of mapping that I have proposed clearly illustrate the characteristics of the alley behind the Rose Bush block.

Work cited

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

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the backs of the buildings on the Rose Bush Block feel like they could belong in a city, rather than a rural area. For a photo class sophomore year, I photographed the backs of these buildings and my classmates questioned where I had taken the photographs. No one in the class was able to identify that this was a part of Alfred. Besides the fact that alleys typically connote an urban environment, what about these buildings and this alley give the feeling of "city"? How specifically does this portion of Alfred differ from the rest of the village? Is there information that can be gathered about the history of these buildings, when each was built, what materials, etc.?