Team: Marcelo, Jung Joon, Carrie, Rachel, Ting Ting
Author Archives: Rachel Hsiung
Team: Marcelo, Carrie, TingTing, JungJoon, Rachel
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Team: Marcelo, TingTing, Rachel, Carrie, Jung-Joon
View our research here!
Oldenburg has many points about “third places” – namely, that they are necessary for community and individual well-being, that we are witnessing a decline of them, and that city planners ought to do everything they can to encourage the organic growth of these places.
While most of these points are relatively obvious and mundane, I found one of Oldenburg’s recommendation to city planners on how to do the latter most interesting: He suggests to city planners that one way to encourage the existence of “third places” is to make cities more “walkable.” He doesn’t spend too much time on this point (just one sentence, in fact), but I think this point, out of many of his points, is one around which there can and should be more discussion.
For example: How exactly can we make cities more “walkable”? Or, perhaps more specifically, how can we take into account the character, geography, layout, and culture of an existing city and make it more “walkable”? What is the relationship between the “walkability” of a city and…
- …its density? (i.e. Does a denser city have an easier time of “growing” – for lack of a better term – third places?)
- …its public transportation system (if there is one)? (i.e. Does public transportation affect a city’s walkability at all? Or is it irrelevant because the idea is that people won’t need to use public transportation to reach third places?)
- …its culture? (i.e. Do some cultures lend themselves to third places more than other cultures? How do we pinpoint these kinds of cultural attributes? And, conversely, how might we encourage these kinds of cultural attributes through the existence of third places? An obvious one might be food.)
- …its level of geographical racial/class segregation? (i.e. Shouldn’t we to aim most to encourage third places where they might serve a secondary purpose of counteracting racial/class segregation?)
- …its topography? (e.g. Where might third places make the most sense in neighborhoods that are hilly? In seaside neighborhoods? In neighborhoods near a lake? Or a forest? Neighborhoods on a mountain?)
- …its financial stability and wealth? (i.e. Does greater wealth correspond to more third places, or is it the inverse?)
Another of Oldenburg’s points that I think leaves room for more discussion is his observation that third places tend to independently-owned, rather than corporate chains. His observation may be true, but I think there is room for more nuance here. I would posit that the nature of ownership of a particular establishment is only one of many aspects that affects the degree to which a third place benefits the community. Other factors that I think are as important (if not more important, in some cases) might be:
- What the establishment sells, i.e. food? arcade games? hookah?. For obvious reasons, this greatly affects who the clientele are, and, as a result, affects the effectiveness of the establishment to bring together the diverse crowds that Oldenburg describes.
- Price range. This is important in determining the accessibility of an establishment. It’s likely that establishments that are more affordable to the general public will serve as more effective third places.
- The culture / atmosphere of the establishment. This atmosphere can be created by the owners of the establishment (regardless of whether its a chain or independently owned), but it’s likely that one that is warm, inclusive, and relaxed is more likely to be an effective third place.
Oldenburg’s article does a great job of making the case for more third places to exist. Many of his points are straightforward, and it’s great conversation starter. Now let’s move the conversation forward.