Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Third Great Place—The Laundry

About 20 years ago, the author Ray Oldenburg wrote the influential book The Great Good Place:

Oldenburg calls one's "first place" the home and those that one lives with. The "second place" is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are "anchors" of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true "third place": free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

It turns out, to my surprise, that one of the important “third places” in high rise apartment buildings is the laundry. When we first designed CityWalk, I had a small laundry facility put on each floor. To me it seemed the most convenient of solutions. No need to carry your laundry up or down the elevator. The laundry would be right outside of your door, or just down the hall at the worst.

The more I talked to people who ran similar projects, the more I learned that instead we should just build one large laundry facility. So we did.

It turns out that laundries are important meeting places. They satisfy most of the requirements for a great third place--inexpensive; highly accessible: proximate for many; involve regulars; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

While laundries may not serve food and drink (although vending machines will probably be available), laundries are important social spaces. Everyone in the building has to go wash clothes sooner or later. They are a comfortable, informal space in which to meet your neighbors.

So if I need to make contact with my neighbors, I guess I’ll just join everyone else and hang around the laundry for awhile. After all, we built such a nice laundry room - who wouldn’t want to spend time there?

No comments:

Post a Comment