Public Space Design: social architecture and good looks align

Public Space Design: social architecture and good looks align

11 Jul 2018

Third places are places besides your home (the first place) or your work (the second place) where you can spend your time and feel welcome. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg first coined this term, describing a third place as “a home away from home”. These places allow people to come together, regardless of their background or current situation. Third places are essential getaways from the first two places. They liven up our communities by being inspiring and accessible. But be warned – public does not mean predictable. The following five places add extraordinary elements to ordinary everyday life:

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Public Space Design: social architecture and good looks align

5 inspiring 3rd places 4 you 2 share with some1

Intersection of people and social change at Herning Bibliotekerne

Herning Library, Denmark. Photo by Marie Jeanne Smets

Herning Library, Denmark. Photo by Marie Jeanne Smets

5 kilometers of steel shelves packed with books ensure you find a good read. The library Herning Bibliotekerne in Denmark also acts as a community center. Following the motto of location, location, location, this third place is strategically situated between the railway- and bus station and the pedestrian high street. People of all ages cross paths and meet up in this dynamic library. If five kilometers of reading sounds a little too intimidating, this third place offers plenty of unexpected library activities, ranging from knitting cafes to IT workshops. For this library to be as unrestricted as it is, trust is a must. Open seven days a week all year round, the users can gain access, even without staff present.

Successful public space on a High Line New York

 High Line, New York, United States. Photo by Xauxa Håkan Svensson

High Line, New York, United States. Photo by Xauxa Håkan Svensson

things to evolve, it’s not always necessary to start off from scratch. There’s an ‘old’ in ‘gold’. After neighborhood residents fought for the preservation of a historic railroad that was under threat of demolition, New York’s High Line is now a 2.33 km long public park built on a historic railroad fly-over elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side. Concerts and art exhibitions are complimented by islands of green native plants as visitors enjoy the elevated view. Owned by the City of New York, maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. Any citizen can now get a taste of the high life.

Stop and Stare at University of Naples metro station

Naples Università Metro Station, Naples, Italy. Photo by Iwan Baan for M.N. Metropolitana di Napoli S.p.A.

Naples Università Metro Station, Naples, Italy. Photo by Iwan Baan for M.N. Metropolitana di Napoli S.p.A.

3rd places don’t just include libraries and community centers, they can be fast-paced challenges as well. Naples’ Università Metro Station has thousands of commuters and passengers journeying through the Italian underground on a daily basis. Making the moment count, the design offers people a blissful moment of relief from their busy lives; abstract sculptures and artworks coupled with striking colors guide the eye through a stimulating visual adventure and invigorate an experience that would otherwise be completely mundane.

Urban Sustainability at De Ceuvel

De Ceuvel, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by Studio Valkenier

De Ceuvel, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by Studio Valkenier

2 green or not to green? Third places not only liven up society but can also help the environment. De Ceuvel was once a shipyard- now it’s an urban oasis in Amsterdam. This park is an eco-village that offers work boats, along with phyto-remediating plants that clean the heavily polluted soil of the shipyard. Waste coming from the toilets is composted on site and reused as a soil conditioner. Nutrients are recovered from the urine of the waterless urinal in the lab of Metabolic, one of the organizations settled in the workboats, to fertilize the ‘aquaponics’ in the glasshouse on the roof of the lab. Inspiring workshops, guided tours, lectures within the field of sustainability, and cultural programmes from theatre to yoga can also be found here.

Being seen on the UrbanScreen

Photos copyright URBANSCREEN

Photos copyright URBANSCREEN

1 thing to remember is that there is no joy in owning anything unshared. The best way to make sure something is continuously shared is to make it withstand the test of time. One way to future-proof the public space is with digitecture: the strategic and sustainable deployment of digital technology in buildings and organizations. The German artist collective UrbanScreen sees technology as a tool to enrich the experience of third places. While the virtual experience may have you feeling like you’re hallucinating, it’s the technology of projection mapping where (moving) images are applied to an object so accurately that both layers are no longer clearly discernible. That way, a new light is shed on old and well-known structures.

Remember how there’s no joy in owning anything unshared? Why not inspire someone else by sharing these amazing third places with them 😉

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