Hey Melbourne, you’ve got competition. Brisbane’s got a laneway scene and the list of hip alleyways is ever-growing. The globes hippest urban trend is taking over our sleepy little city and we’re loving every second of it. From inner-city cool down Burnette Lane to the Valley’s creative Winn Lane, we’ve got more burgers and cold-drip coffee than any succulent loving hipster could ask for. In the endeavour for eternal cool-hunting, we wanted to discover what’s driving the revitalisation of Brisbane’s urban backstreets and the hip laneway culture that’s helping shape Brissy as new world city.
The Development of Brisbane’s Laneways
Despite previously negative undertones of the term ‘laneway’, the redeveloped laneway is now an icon of ‘cool’ in contemporary culture. Since the turn of the century, laneway revitalisation projects have transformed industrial backstreets into hip attractions in major cities around the globe. No doubt when you think of Australian laneways your mind goes to Melbourne’s Centre Place and its hole-in-the-wall cafes, of Hosier Lane and its famous street art, or of Meyers Place and its renowned out-of-the-way bars. However, Brisbane is proudly creating its own take on inner-city backstreet cool.
Brisbane’s laneway revitalization is unique in it’s deliberate development by government initiatives and the private developers. Where Melbourne’s famous labyrinth of graffiti-stained backstreets emerged as lifestyle hubs over time, Brisbane laneways have largely been the result of council initiatives to revamp old service streets previously used for deliveries.
The Vibrant Laneways program identifies and rejuvenates forgotten spaces reintroducing them to our community in a way that is imaginative, fun and engaging. As Brisbane resident and visitor numbers increase so must Brisbane’s public spaces, business opportunities and pedestrian routes. The Vibrant Laneways program seeks to attract both locals and visitors to explore forgotten laneways and contemporary artworks, encouraging revitalisation of these spaces. Some of the council’s completed projects include: Albert Street, Burnett Lane, Eagle Lane, Edison Lane, Fish Lane, Gardens Point Road, and Hutton Lane.
The emergence of Brisbane’s laneway culture didn’t happen completely by chance. Cuts to the cost of licence fees for small bars by the state government, the boom in population (growing from 1.98 to 2.4 million in 6 years, our largest age group between 24-40), and a deliberate strategy to focus on education, hospitality, culture and design have all shaped Brisbane’s modern identity. The Brisbane City Master Plan reveals that Brisbane is Australia’s New World City and the fastest-growing mature city in the world. The past two decades of strong population and economic growth have contributed to Brisbane’s economy reaching $135 billion, accounting for 48% of Queensland’s total GDP. What makes it even more exciting is that Brisbane’s city centre is continuing to grow rapidly. Over the next 20 years, our city centre is projected to grow dramatically. It’s all the result of Queensland’s projected economic growth over the coming decades and offers an unprecedented opportunity to transform our city’s heart.
The private sector is also throwing money into our laneways. With private development, business and commercial projects such as Winn Lane, West End Green Village, Bakery Lane, and Gresham Lane, housing one of Australia’s most notorious bars the Gresham. Laneway style developments seem to be increasingly popular, appealing to both business and consumers alike.
A Laneway Culture driven by Global Trends
One of the key drivers fuelling the success of Brisbane’s laneways spaces is the successful evolution of similar laneway cultures around the world. Thanks to digital media, international popular culture trends now spread faster than ever before. Here we see international, national and local changes in how laneways are developed as spaces and engaged with by consumers. Laneway culture has emerged around the globe in Melbourne, Tokyo, and Budapest.
On the Macro scale, laneway culture has been driven by long-term shifts in the way consumer engage with brands, services and spaces. According to Euromonitor changes such as globalisation, urbanisation, and the rising middle class have all been major shifts affecting both consumers and brands alike. Our modern cities are filing up quickly with a younger, more multicultural, and socially aware population. Basically, more people are flocking to the cities opting for urban lifestyles, armed with larger disposable incomes and demanding increasingly sophisticated markets.
Another factor to consider is the a post-materialist mind shift that has seen a value orientation that emphasises self-expression and quality of life over economic and physical security. This concept is best visualised with reference to the ever-trendy hipster subculture that has driven fashions, style, and lifestyle tendencies around the globe over the last decade. People are bored with the ostentatious and uber-marketing. In the midst of mass production and globalisation there’s a real quest for identity. And this quest leads us to what is personal, what is natural, and what is real.
In the realms of architecture, landscape and urban development this has led to trends such as urban revitalisation and the redesign of spaces to foster community and connection. The art of street design in particular looks directly to culture and context to characterise place. Laneway culture is designed to make us feel a part of the city, rather than isolated within it.
It’s not just the trendy look but the intimate feel of laneway spaces and the establishments within them that are making them so popular. Business in these spaces are founded upon local talent and character, while the laneways themselves provide creative and intimate spaces for us to unwind and connect. It’s giving the middle finger to the occupation of lifeless global franchises, and giving the power back to the people. In direct contrast to retail meccas like Westfield shopping centres or Queen Street Mall, laneways are filled with local business, decorated by local artists, and teeming with locals. Predominantly, the places that succeed are small, spaces that feel intimate and welcoming and busy, even when they’re not.
This is also boosted by the assistance of social media and online channels such as the Urbanlist, Concrete Playground, Queensland Blog, and TimeOut. These digital aficionados of cool are promoting Brisbane laneways and the businesses within them – drawing the crowds of hipsters, socialites, and everyone in between to these attractions.
Cultural Significance and Meaning
All in all, laneway culture is simply cool: it emphasises personality, promotes homegrown business, and generates a sense of local identity. Hipsters, suits, students, and entrepreneurs sit harmoniously side by side, finding sanctuary from within the concrete jungle. What makes it even better, is that laneways are unique and unpredictable, with an added element of discovery, surprise and delight as they weave through our cities, hidden, vibrant, and full of life.
Those immersed in laneway culture can enjoy devouring giant burgers, sipping on artisanal cold-drip coffee, scouring through vintage fashion, knocking back top-shelf whiskey, sampling culinary creations, or discovering local craftsmanship where you can chat directly with the creators. The best part though, is you no longer have to travel to Melbourne or L.A. to get amongst the trend. Laneway culture is here in Brisbane and it’s only continuing to grow.