Shining a light on laneways

LET’S bring our city’s laneways into the light.

Catherine Carter.

Catherine Carter.

Imagine turning the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings inside-out to reveal laneways lined with restaurants and hole-in-the-wall bars. Imagine the central spine of Manuka dotted with carts selling books, art and antiques. Imagine Bunda Street’s graffitied walls transformed by Banksy’s art and a bohemian vibe.

Laneways haven’t always been places for garbage and garages and many cities are seeing their potential.

Anyone who has ever been lost down the alleys of Paris, the labyrinthine streets of Florence or Venice, or the peculiar passages of London will understand the pleasure of wandering through laneways that were laid out long before the motor car.

Melbourne is famous for transforming its gold-rush slums into hidden gems of retail and restaurants, art and architecture in an atmosphere that is anything but mainstream.

In Detroit, a block-long outdoor art gallery spans fences, garages and other surfaces. In London, five laneways are now an edible garden. Closer to home, Geelong has recognised that activating laneways at night is a simple way to improve safety and cultivate a vibrant nightlife. The Laneways and Linkages Project is encouraging micro businesses and alfresco areas that interact with lanes, introducing WiFi hotspots and fitness tracks and enhancing blank walls with artwork and vertical gardens.

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