WAP (Washington Alley Project), Washington D.C., United States
EL Studio

Within the Baroque plan of Washington, D.C. an extensive network of alleys plays host to an urbanism unanticipated by the city’s planners. The L’Enfant plan’s modulated grid, scaled to accommodate the monumental, has historically necessitated a subdivision in order to accommodate the commercial and residential needs of the city. Washington’s alleyways emerged in response to the urban pressures of the 19th Century, only to be systematically neglected during the 20th Century, and have not since adapted to optimize their usage in the 21st Century.

The Washington Alley Project (WAP) examines this informal alley network as a viable site for new modes of urban living, presenting the city with an opportunity to adapt to future social and technological change without sacrificing the city’s unique architectural heritage.

After our preliminary research, brainstorming and documentation, we created a detailed survey to help us better understand how the locals use, inhabit, and imagine the DC alleys. The survey addressed 6 topics; Environment, Occupancy/Program, Identity, Massing/ Height, Traffic/Flow, Zoning/Use.

We collected response from people living in every ward of DC. With this data, we are able to develop site specific proposals that address common concerns, interests and trends that we uncovered from the survey response including issues regarding safety, trash, water collection, alley infrastructure and safe play.

The Alley Hop!
On April 26th, EL Studio is hosting the first Alley Hop!, a didactic event that will showcase our research and test out design proposals with direct involvement and feedback from the local alley residences, businesses and surrounding communities.

Using temporary, wayfinding graphics, EL Studio will curate a walkable path between the three alleys selected for their unique physical conditions and their proximity. Alley Hoppers will be provided with low tech view-finding devices to simulate an “augmented reality” that will highlight specific panoptic moments in the alleys overlaid with our imaginative drawings and collages that demonstrate potential architectural and infrastructural interventions. This fun and immersive activity will create a pedestrian-friendly and interactive event that will encourage participants to re-envision the alleys and experience their potentials. The visuals will provoke conversation, imagination and response from the participants and their feedback will contribute to the Washington Alley Project research and provide new insights for the next phase of the project; creating a physical intervention in an alley.

By engaging with the community and making the leap into physical space we are creating a platform for discussion and community feedback people to collectively consider the future of the unique spaces that they share. The conversations shared at the Alley Hop! over food, drink, and collective interest will become the springboard for future interventions and will synthesize the needs and desires of the both the city’s administration, its future infrastructure and its existing and future inhabitants.

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