Belleaire Terrace is Halifax’s closest equivalent to Montreal’s fairly common residential alleyways. Belleaire is a lovely, short street, characterized by quaint North End Halifax homes. On the west side, houses front very close to the street, and on the east, are the backyards of houses on Fuller Terrace. The result is a very cozy streetscape, framed by a wall of houses on your left, and the open, breezy backyards on your right. An intimate relationship is fostered with the homes on the east whose multitude of varied windows and doors remind you that this is a neighbourhood that is very much constantly surveyed by its residents. The Fuller backyards provide another layer of diversity to the variety of architectural styles on the east. There are examples of almost every kind of backyard on Fuller: garden patios, flexible asphalt, green lawns, and the one-or-two fantasy-junk backyards. In concert with the vernacular architecture of the homes, the backyards provide a varied, and engaging streetscape that keeps you interested as you walk along the pleasant road.

One block west, parallel to Bellaire, is the much more major Agricola Street. Agricola is a commercial thoroughfare that boasts a fairly diverse array of businesses and residences. Despite the stretch I am describing being exactly the same length as the entirety of Belleaire, I find it astonishing how much longer Agricola feels.

I can’t quite explain why Agricola (red in map above) feels significantly longer than Belleaire (blue) – but it certainly does. Perhaps it is because the streetscape is much more desolate (though desolate is a dramatic word – Agricola is a fairly nice urban street) than leafy and diverse Belleaire Terrace. Or perhaps it is because McCully and May Streets cut up Agricola whereas Belleaire is continuous? Perhaps it relates to Jan Gehl’s recommendation for “vertically articulated”urban horizontal planes in designing cities for people, not cars;  do the repeated vertical lines of the eastern house facades and western backyard gates provoke a speeding up of the experience of distance, and make walking a long distance feel quicker than it is?

The reasons as to why the experience of space is so different on these streets aside, I am writing this post to again appreciate that space is indeed an extremely flexible and varied experience, and that equivalent objective space often does not correlate to the subjective experience of space. And isn’t a city is exactly that ? — an extremely rich and complex place that has objective dimensions, but in its essence is experienced differently by different people, at different times of the day, the year, different seasons, different stages of life.

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