Open-Air Third Places

Let's create spaces where we simply belong.

2 min read

men sitting on steps with 3 places text
men sitting on steps with 3 places text

The Lost Art of Gathering: Why We Need Modern, Open-Air Third Places

We live in a world obsessed with productivity, efficiency, and transactions. We shop online, work remotely, and even "socialize" through carefully curated screens. With all this connection, how is it that loneliness is on the rise?

The problem, we believe, is that we've lost many of our "third places." These aren't our homes (first place) or work (second place). Third places are where we go JUST to be in the company of others – no agendas, no sales pitches. Cafés and pubs used to serve this role, but many have become overly commercialized, making us feel obligated to keep purchasing to stay.

Inspiration from the Past -- Fale and Village Squares

We need to relearn from cultures with richer traditions of gathering:

  • The Fale: Traditional in Samoa, this open-air meeting house is a place for community discussions, ceremonies, and relaxation. Its open sides symbolize inclusivity and free-flowing conversation.

  • The Village Square: Think of European town centers with their plazas and fountains. They were the heart of the community – for markets, news, gossip, and simple shared existence.

Why Modern Third Places Matter:

  • Reducing Loneliness: Simply being in the presence of others can combat the isolation of modern life. A casual chat at a communal table can lift our spirits more than we realize.

  • Building Community: Knowing your neighbors, feeling part of the local fabric, creates a sense of security and belonging. These connections form naturally in spaces where we linger.

  • Fostering Creativity: Some of our best ideas come in relaxed conversation. Chance encounters in a vibrant third place can spark collaborations or simply broaden our perspectives.

The Case for Open Air

Nature itself is healing. Sunlight, a light breeze, the sounds of birds – all enhance wellbeing. While indoor third places have their place, we've become too sheltered. Our ideal spaces might look like:

  • Coffee carts in a park, encouraging people to bring blankets or gather on benches.

  • Covered but open-sided pavilions for markets, community tables, or simple seating areas.

  • Public gardens with designated areas for relaxation between the planting beds.

A Call for Grassroots Change

The need for true third places won't be met by corporations. It's up to us! Here's how to start:

  • Speak to your local officials: Advocate for more welcoming parks and public spaces.

  • Start small: Find a few like-minded neighbors. Could you rotate hosting simple gatherings on porches or in backyards?

  • Support your local: Patronize the businesses truly serving as third places, the ones where you're never pressured to rush out.

Bringing back the spirit of the Fale and the Village Square isn't nostalgic; it's vital to building a healthier, happier future.

Let's create spaces where we simply belong.