Ackery’s Alley, downtown Vancouver’s second activated laneway, is set to open to the public in August 9.
Situated behind the Orpheum Theatre, the communal space features an oscillating wave pattern painted on the surrounding buildings’ exteriors—a nod to the energy of the Granville Entertainment District—as well as artful signage, gold paneling, reflective materials, and pavement that’s been coated in red to mimic the plush red carpet inside the Orpheum.
The redesigned alley will be home to FIELD, an interactive public-art installation by local artist Alex Beim that will see lasers, sound devices, and light emitters coming together to operate like a giant musical and light-up instrument. During evenings, different combinations of colours and sounds will be released according to visitors’ movements, encouraging them to play, walk through, and explore the passage.
Named after Ivan Ackery, an impresario who managed the Orpheum during the venue’s peak from the 1930s to ’60s, the transformed laneway will, ideally, play host to recitals and community events. Planners hope it will also help combat Vancouver’s “no fun” reputation by encouraging residents to spend more time in the downtown core.
“This development will help continue to change the way people in Vancouver see public space,” Charles Gauthier, president and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver BIA, said in a news release. “Why can’t a lane be used for garbage collection in the early hours of the morning, commuters on their way to work, morning deliveries and dancing, selfies and socializing in the afternoon and into the night?”
“It’s so many things at once,” Steve DiPasquale, architect at HCMA Architecture + Design, added. “It’s about inclusivity and giving performance, entertainment and life to the street. It’s a historical nod to a man who gave Vancouver a little extra uniqueness and idiosyncrasy. It’s also an invitation for city dwellers to reimagine their city and to inspire a new vitality that Vancouver is sometimes criticized for lacking.”
Ackery’s Alley was funded by the public through a Kickstarter campaign that collected over $64,000 last summer. The project is spearheaded by a nonprofit collective called More Awesome Now, which includes groups like the Downtown Vancouver BIA and HCMA. It’s supported by the City of Vancouver’s VIVA Vancouver program and Vancouver Civic Theatres.
In 2016, that same cooperative unveiled Alley Oop, a reimagined backstreet south of West Hastings between Granville and Seymour streets. Drenched in vibrant pink, purple, and yellow paint, and outfitted with a basketball hoop, the site has since accommodated pop-up dance parties and design-oriented functions, among other gatherings. Following the launch of Ackery’s Alley, More Awesome Now will work to redevelop another downtown laneway, this one on Thurlow between Alberni and Robson streets.
Ackery’s Alley will open with a public launch party on August 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. The fete will include music by local event startup Public Disco, and performances from Vancouver's street-dance community.