Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Visual Inspiration: Hidden Places

I took my digital camera along on a walk Saturday morning, and I realized how many opportunities there are in urban neighborhoods for hiding. Places and spaces are not readily seen if one is simply casting an eye about--it takes stopping and looking a little closer at what's around us. I find the notion of tucking spaces away and hiding little oases of privacy such an interesting one in these busy and closely-packed neighborhoods of central Denver. Here are a few of the hidden places and spaces I found on one walk.

This rather majestic/gothic-y house in Capitol Hill is set up on a small hill above the street, but elevating it wasn't enough--the original builders hid it behind a large wall and some rather dense trees.

Another grand turn-of-the-century house not content to hide with elevation alone. This one is ensconced behind a brick wall topped with a chain-link fence and a dense layer of trees and shrubs about 8-10 feet deep.

One house turned its garage/carriage house into another small home and even gave it its own little side yard behind a wrought iron fence with yet another layer of black mesh behind the fence. I took this through the black mesh, which is the shading around the edges of the image. It wasn't until I got back to the house that I realized there was a wire of some sort looping over the fence and into the view of the camera.

Some things hide in plain view. This old-school steakhouse in Cherry Creek North nearly disappears with its dark wood paneling and recessed facade beneath the ultra-modern metal paneling of the adjacent stores and loft-inspired condos above. I just happened to stop to check my cell phone, looked up, and realized it was there.

One of the constant bugbears of urban construction is what to do with the space on the side of your building where it comes up to the property line. Do I build right up to it? Or do I leave some space for occupation? What often happens is what you see here--both occupants leave just enough room to pass between the buildings on their side of the property line. What's interesting though is that the new mixed-use building on the left used that leftover/tucked away space to provide for little balconies for the condos above. The unintentional side effect is that passersby who care to turn their heads and look up will see galvanized roof/floor decking and drain pipes. But no matter--the only people who look up at ceilings are prostitutes and architects.

Sometimes the private space we seek out in urban areas has less to do with actual private space (like a backyard) and is simply more about separating ourselves from the public realm. Beyond these gates is the interior courtyard for about eight or ten brick townhomes, which back onto the access alleys to their respective garages. All this courtyard does is a) give them something nice to look at instead of the street, and b) give them an extra layer of protection from the madding crowd below.

I just love this. A very nice house pushed a bit off the neighborhood street, it uses a semi-circular drive to access the front door and garage. The front door is visible, but by simply layering elevation, materials, foliage, and space, the homeowners claim their space without putting up fences and gates. And it's glorious to look at in the fall.

Another li'l courtyard to about five or six small townhomes which riffs on the theme used above. There are some stucco and stone posts at the entry walkway to this courtyard, but no gate or fence--just something to say, "here's where you enter, but you really need to have some business here before you step over the threshold."

A few houses down, there's a wood fence by a duplex, and this hold is about two feet off the ground. Kneeling down and peeking through it, you can see a garden with a seated Buddha statue in it. Even cooler is that you see him from the side, not the front--you know he's facing in another direction where he's meant to be "seen", but he's also kinda meant to be peeped in on from here. If you bother to kneel down and look through the hole.

Another house had a nice yard with a stucco and iron fence around it, nicely manicured and well-kept...and then this wee statue of St. Francis under a tree almost in the side yard. Elsewhere in the yard, large dog toys were strewn about with children's toys, a happy mixture proclaiming the joy inside the home's walls. And just without the walls but within the property, a little reminder of the protection invoked onto those who dwell here stands quietly, asking those who pass by to take a second look at the yard and maybe to look out for all creatures great and small, two-footed and four-footed.


Small Town said...

And the most famous "framed" building:

Robin said...

I love these little hidden spaces you are talking about. My favorite part of walking around the small town I live in is peeking around looking for them!