The Washington Alley Project seeks to transform D.C.’s alleys for modern urban living. In Washington, D.C., there are 82,397 single-family residential properties with alley frontage. If the Washington Alley model was applied to all of these spaces, it could house 187,900 new residents.

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A group of people outside a building.

Mark Lawrence is the principal and co-founder of EL Studio, the company behind this ambitious project. Lawrence and co-creator Elizabeth Emerson started the Washington Alley Project to show how cities can adapt and change without sacrificing their architectural history, a major concern for many urban centers across the country. EL Studio has organized Alley Hops, self-guided walks in city alleys, which feature viewfinders that show the potential of various alley areas. Images might show a basketball court, mural, performing stage, seating areas, sculptures and even gardens. These images illustrate the project’s vision for transforming the city’s alleys.

Related: ODA’s vibrant new complex transforms a conventional DC block

Several VR headsets.

The Alley Hops were designed to show that D.C. is full of unused spaces, places that could be teeming with life and activity. Alley Hop participants provide feedback about how they think alley spaces can and should be used and what they’d like to see. Using the Alley Hops, EL Studio did an extensive survey of the alleys and designed ways to turn these spaces into vibrant living and community spaces.

People walking through an alley.

There are 3,217 alleys in Washington, D.C. alone. Together, they take up 246 linear miles. That’s a lot of potential space that is largely going unused. Imagine a space full of options instead. Modular dog parks made with Astroturf could create areas for pets to play. Market stalls could offer space for farmers and artisans to display their goods. Safety lights could brighten up the shadowy areas. Rubber surfaces in bright colors could create play areas for children. And perhaps best of all, new housing in these underused areas could provide homes for people.

People examining an exhibit indoors.

It’s a vision for the future that is already beginning to come true. Prather’s Alley in D.C. will be the project’s starting ground. The improvement plan for the alley will see the addition of safe zones cut off from traffic and resting places for residents and patrons who come to the many nearby businesses.

+ Washington Alley Project

Images courtesy of Liz Gorman and EL Studio