28 July 2011

Third places

In a new essay online, Chuck Wolfe opens with a seemingly odd sentence: "Last week, while the Seattle City Council gave final approval to more street food vendors in public places, Borders Group Inc. began its liquidation of most remaining Borders bookstores, including locations in destination American downtowns."  Huh?

But if you see the title, Assuring Sustainable Third Places in the City, you'll probably realize that he is worrying about the loss of what Oldenburg called Third Places.  These are those places that aren't home (1st place) and aren't work (2nd place), but give people a (third) place to gather and interact in a neutral setting.  Starbucks has been cited lately as the new place for the exchange of ideas, but in many places it was Borders or is a good local bookstore.  But he raises a fascinating question, if these places are key to a healthy social life for our cities, should our cities be doing more to secure them as continuing venues for discussion and debate?

Maybe we should meet up at the corner coffeehouse to sort this out?

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