17 April 2009

Oldenburg's Third Place

In Dr. Beidler's talk on Wednesday, he mentioned Ray Oldeburg's coining of the term The Third Place to described social spaces on neutral ground where people can engage in community interaction. In new urbanism this is often adressed with a desire to design spaces - from front porches to mainstreets to public squares - that will change public life. It occurred to me that some readers might only be familiar with Dr. Oldenburg's work through the use of Third Place as a reference to Starbucks.

The Project for Public Spaces has created a web page dedicated to Dr. Oldenburg including some quotes that highlight how his work fits into their work. Here is one:
Totally unlike Main Street, the shopping mall is populated by strangers. As people circulate about in the constant, monotonous flow of mall pedestrian traffic, their eyes do not cast about for familiar faces, for the chance of seeing one is small. That is not part of what one expects there. The reason is simple. The mall is centrally located to serve the multitudes from a number of outlying developments within its region. There is little acquaintance between these developments and not much more within them. Most of them lack focal points or core settings and, as a result, people are not widely known to one another, even in their own neighborhoods, and their neighborhood is only a minority portion of the mall’s clientele.

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