More Awesome Now Laneway Activations
Imagine if instead of avoiding Vancouver’s downtown laneways or just using them as a shortcut through the city, you actively sought them out as spaces to socialize and play? More Awesome Now reshapes laneways into engaging, accessible public spaces that contribute to the vibrancy of Vancouver.
Laneways serve an important business function, but for a big part of the day they are underused and full of potential. So we asked, if we make our lanes more appealing, could they become public spaces? More Awesome Now is an experiment in turning laneways into places of discovery – friendly, accessible, and lively parts of the urban streetscape.
Charles Gauthier, President & CEO, DVBIA
HCMA partnered with the City of Vancouver and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) to transform alleyways from utilitarian service corridors into bright, playful public spaces. These spaces are shared by people and vehicles, which continue to access the lane for service purposes.
This project was made possible through the collaboration and engagement of property owners, tenants and visitors who share the responsibility for enjoying, cleaning and monitoring each alley.
In 2015, the DVBIA conducted ‘Re-imagine Downtown Vancouver 2040’, a collaborative visioning process. Public space emerged as a major theme; 11,000 Vancouverites said they wanted “more public space, including plazas, rooftop patios and alleyway activations”.
We know the cost of land is a challenge to creating more public space in Vancouver. Transforming the City’s laneways was identified as an affordable solution and one that has been successful in other cities across the world.
Each laneway transformation has an identity and theme in contrast with its surrounding area. In juxtaposition to its location in the heart of the business district, the reimagined Alley-Oop laneway is themed “Play”. Bold pink and yellow paint, basketball hoops and furniture act as a beacon to those working in Vancouver’s business quarter, encouraging them to play, exercise and socialize in the space. Since opening in 2016, the number of pedestrians using Alley-Oop has more than doubled (from 30 an hour to 73), and where men made up about 75% of alley-goers before, they now represent only about 58%. These numbers suggest that the More Awesome Now project has created a much busier, more welcoming place.
The second reimagined laneway, Ackery’s Alley is a new performance venue and art installation in the heart of Vancouver’s entertainment district. Inspired by its location behind the Orpheum Theatre, the red and gold alley has been named in tribute to Ivan Ackery, the venue’s most famous impresario.
Extending the red carpet and brass details of the venue into the laneway this project uses a single radius S-Curve painting pattern inspired by Rio De Janeiro’s Copacabana beach, as well as a gold anodized aluminium paneling system that is reminiscent of a performance curtain. The project also features a huge mural that gives the place its name and brings to mind performance playbills or billboards from the era of Ivan Ackery.
The alley will also be home to a permanent art installation by Tangible Interaction, a Vancouver-based studio that creates sensory installations. With a shared belief that interactive public spaces are the key to igniting human connection, HCMA and Tangible have created ‘FIELD’, an interactive experience that uses sensors, light and sound to create unique compositions when people move through the space. The installation has been crowdfunded by a successful Kickstarter campaign completed last year.
Boldly re-imaging downtown laneways can bring vibrancy to underutilized spaces in the city year-round. The City is thrilled to be working with community partners to enhance Vancouver’s walkability, liveability and sense of creativity one laneway at a time.
Margaret Wittgens, City of Vancouver Director of Public Space and Street Use