Walter Benjamin’s great project, a study of the arcades of Paris, has been deeply influential in my work, and in the work of many of my peers. While there are more academic reasons for this (this interaction with place, deep annotation, his use of photography and other visual materials, montage, his theory of knowledge/progress) part of my interest in his work stems from my love of places-in-between. Seattle was the first real walking city that I lived in (and, later, New Orleans, which was more of a running city, at least in the late 90s) and I’d wind my way around the three great hills, up staircases, through wet, dense foliage, and between moldering brick walks. More than museums, more than shopping, this is what I like to find in cities. There are several paths in Berkeley, helpfully mapped and groomed, like Sharon Court:
It’s really more of a wander through an apartment complex than anything. Nearby is Acton Crescent Path, which is basically a sidewalk between two houses.
Anyway, in anticipation of a late-October visit, I was perusing the Londonist, a blog equivalent to the SFist or the Gothamist, though I find that each of the *ists has a distinct flavor–SFist is about quirky news stories, gay rights, and Gavin Newsom’s hair, while the Austinist runs stories on Texas’ hilariously corrupt government and the music scene. The Londonist features “secret places” and…”back passages.” It’s okay, I giggled too.
But the alleys in London sometimes have pubs in them! This merits intensive exploration.
3 thoughts on “Alleys, Byways, Arcades”
Amsterdam has great alleys, and not just in the RLD. Narrow alleys + canals = awesome. But no place beats Tokyo for back alleys. Here’s the one I used to live off of: http://ebisubackalley.notlong.com/
After I’m done living in the high desert, I’m moving to a city. I am.
‘Back Passage’ pubs are a great feature and one of my most loved discoveries since moving to the UK. I suspect time won’t permit it but Leeds city centre looks on the surface to only have awful themed and chain pubs and clubs. However, once in the know nearly every covered alley way leads to a pub (of varying quality) typically with a beer garden. I’ve not seen anywhere else quite like it.