|1600 block of Moravian.|
I've been thinking we should worry about making an alley neat and clean as a first step, and then we can dream about making it pretty. But the folks at Alma de Cuba seem to have had a different idea, and I confess they may be on to something.
Let's have some fun! We'll paint our back facade yellow, the same as the front on Walnut Street.
It's possible I've been spending too much time in these alleys, but I really like this presentation. All they did was slap on some yellow paint, but the pigment pulls the whole motley assemblage together and makes a coherent, and even attractive, statement.
Don't get me wrong. We're still looking at a mess. But it's an attractive mess. It's talking to me, pulling me in.
But let's look again. What's pulling me in? The yellow on the wall is carrying the whole picture. The street furniture is just along for the ride.
On the left you have a mildly abused dumpster, a two-yarder, and on the right you have a grease container. (It turns out there's a bunch of money in used cooking oil - see this story in the New Yorker - hence the sturdy construction.)
What could we do to get these two objects to step up and say a few lines, visually - you know, actually participate in the performance? Well, maybe we should decorate them.
Okay, you say, Bill has finally gone round the bend. He's talking about decorating a dumpster. Forget it, Bill. It's a dumpster.
But wait. Philadelphia, in its wisdom, and with some help from the Mural Arts Program, decorates trash trucks. Here's one strutting its stuff at the 2016 Philly Free Streets event.
|South Street at Broad.|
In addition, Mural Arts decorates the occasional Indego bike. The Barnes Foundation has also been working with the Indego bike share program, and frankly I'm not sure whose bicycle we're looking at here, but I like it. Note that the decorated bike is an accent point in a sea of blue.
|1900 block of Walnut.|
Trash cans? Sure, why not. Mural Arts again, mainly around South Street, east of Broad.
|South Street at 7th.|
And here's one of a bunch of utility boxes decorated mostly by University of the Arts students, again mainly east of Broad. I frankly have no idea what goes on in these boxes, but this one sure looks nicer than the usual drab hexahedron so beloved in the world of utilities. Even fits in with its surroundings. (For a story from UArts, click here. For a PlanPhilly story, click here.)
|Lombard Street at 10th.|
So let's do the same thing with all the two-yard dumpsters rambling around the byways of the city. They should be a part of the performance.
Taming the Wild West
City Council has over the years made a number of moves to improve management of the city's dumpsters. In 1989, according to the Streets Department website, City Council passed an ordinance requiring the licensing of dumpsters and regulating their use.
Then in 2016 Councilman Squilla got an ordinance passed that bans new dumpsters in Center City. (For a story, click here. For the legislative history, click here.)
This is fine as far as it goes, but of course it doesn't do anything about the dumpsters currently lining Moravian Street. The obvious thing is to get them off the street. I have a feeling that's going to take a while.
If you don't feel like decorating your dumpsters, and you're disinclined for now to take them inside, here's another option - hide them in plain sight. There are a number of ways to do this.
First, let's look at a minimalist approach. The screen below separates a bunch of dumpsters from the area to the left, which is used for outdoor seating by the neighboring restaurant during good weather. It's surprisingly effective for such a minimal intervention. Call it the bikini approach to coverage.
|Moravian at 18th.|
Next we have what I will call a corral. I can't call it a shed because it doesn't have a roof. Also it's corraling the dumpsters against the wall, keeping them from bumbling around in the middle of the street as they are wont to do. Kind of like cattle in Dodge City, in the old days.
|Stock Exchange Place at 18th.|
Finally we have an actual shed. This one almost disappears, it's so quiet. And yet it's in a good location and functions well. An organic part of a thoughtful design.
|Lombard at 18th.|
See also Alleys, City Beautiful Sprouts on Cypress Street, This Isn't Just Any Alley.