Linear life: the alley rediscovered

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Architects must use their intuitive abilities to recognize worldly phenomena that can transcend the mundane, and they must interpret them and through them create architecture.

Often dismissed as a dismal, merely utilitarian space, the alley presents certain unique conditions which merit attention. Exploration of the conditions led to the development of urban dwellings in which the alley is dignified and becomes a space for comfortable habitation.

The housing settlement is located in downtown Blacksburg, a small college town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia. The site is one of the original 16 blocks of the town's central business district. An urban density exists due to the many retail shops and restaurants that are frequented by students and the local townspeople.

The initial objective was to integrate this settlement into the fabric of the town by maintaining the density of the downtown area, not only on the street level but within the block as well. The intent was to create urban dwellings that would emphasize the idea of community within a downtown setting.