It is over halfway through the day and I am still in utter amazement at the possibilities of having lunch at Starbucks. It is like having your two best friends meet and hit it off. I can actually read a book over lunch without feeling rushed - or have a prolonged conversation - or a casual meeting. We just really need to let this sink in.
This is a dream factory where I jump around from subject to subject as my interests vary. But I dream well in a third place and many of my entrepreneurial notions are developed there. Why not dream of more such places and gather resources as people of faith and social conscience to create them?
Dom Nozzi captures the spirit of what I am feeling in his article, "What is a 'Third Place' and Why Are They Important."
Nozzi is an urban designer and executive director of Walkable Streets where they say of themselves, "Walkable Streets specializes in preparing and amending plans, land development regulations, quality of life regulations and community design recommendations. The guiding principle of Walkable Streets is that a walkable street is the fundamental building block of a quality community. Indeed, the pedestrian is the design imperative."
Nozzi makes this statement in his article on the third place (which Starbucks touts itself as and, in my opinion, does a fairly good job of being), ""Social condensers" -- the place where citizens of a community or neighborhood meet to develop friendships, discuss issues, and interact with others -- have always been an important way in which the community developed and retained cohesion and a sense of identity."
In my opinion, this has been one of the casualties of modernity and, perhaps one of the postive revivals of post-modernity.
According to Nozzi, it was Ray Oldenburg who coined the term in his 1989 book, The Great Good Place Oldenburg, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. , according to Project for Public Spaces, "argues that bars, coffee shops, general stores, and other "third places" (in contrast to the first and second places of home and work), are central to local democracy and community vitality. By exploring how these places work and what roles they serve, Oldenburg offers placemaking tools and insight for individuals and communities everywhere."
I borrow several of Oldenburg's quotes from the PPS site:
“What suburbia cries for are the means for people to gather easily, inexpensively, regularly, and pleasurably -- a ‘place on the corner,’ real life alternatives to television, easy escapes from the cabin fever of marriage and family life that do not necessitate getting into an automobile.”
“ ... Third places are nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ‘second.’”
"The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood ...."
“Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community. It is no coincidence that the ‘helping professions’ became a major industry in the United States as suburban planning helped destroy local public life and the community support it once lent.”
Nozzi carries the issue further with insightful articles and observations. He reminds me of a long held conviction that urban planning is crucial to the well being of society and that those who engineer our contemporary cities are contributing to the engineering of our culture for years to come.
So, social and faith-based entrereneurs must retreat to their own dream factories from time to time - sometimes at a Third Place, to reimagine what can be done - and more specifically, what THEY can do.
In Lake Forest Park, WA., they dropped all pretense and named their coffee house/bookstore, Third Place Books . The name is enough to make me want to show up.
There is even a web site called thethirdplace.com and imagine this: it is a church site! In Singapore!!! Rev. Alvin Chan welcomes the community with these words:
"The Third Place (TTP) is a preaching point and Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC), The Methodist Church in Singapore’s attempt at meeting the spiritual needs of the younger generation. Put together by a very young team, the church will look to build as her foundation three very basic yet vital components"
And then he quotes Oldenburg of all people:
"According to Ray Oldernburg an American Sociologist who coined this term, third places are "distinctive informal gathering places (first being the home and the second being work).
• They make the one feel at home
• They nourish relationships and a diversity of human contact
• They help create a sense of place and community
• They invoke a sense of civic pride
• they provide numerous opportunities for serendipity
• They promote companionship
• They allow people to relax and unwind after a long day at work;
• They are socially binding
• They encourage sociability instead of isolation
• They make life more colorful"
Was Ray right in Field of Dreams? If we build it, will they come?
Or only if we build it right and hang out the welcome matt really well ... and serve lunch?
Postscript: If you are really interested in this notion, Google will certainly be your friend and you can google from here: