This collection of work explores the nature, defining characteristics, and importance of the third place in our modern lives along with thriving examples from abroad that we appreciate viscerally. “The third place”, a term coined by Ray Oldenburg to describe the informal public spaces where people congregate outside of the home, the “first” place in our lives, and our workplaces, the “second”. I have been drawn intuitively to the fascinating social lives of third places and their role in facilitating broader and more creative interactions between the regulars who give the space its tone and the newcomers who are welcomed and accommodated by the playful mood.
In our world, where communication at a distance is easier than ever, true contact and human connection often seem rare. Even in our cities’ traditional public squares, eye contact and conversation are frequently replaced by the bowed heads and agile thumbs of those seeking to “stay connected”. As the storyteller, Dan Yashinsky, reflected, “We step into the future with less connection to ancestral guidance than any human generation before us. Although we have invented amazing technologies for saving data, we are at risk of forgetting our personal, family and cultural stories. We broadcast our voices over vast distances, but talk less to our neighbours.”
The third place is a meditation on what community and public spaces mean to us and our current society. It is a testament to the power of the third place to foster community and balance our private lives but also a reflection of what we are at risk of losing: what Homi K. Bhabha called “the location of culture”. Here is a document of the constant reinvention of third places by the regulars and visitors who are in turn transformed by them. As my journey through these diverse environments continues I invite you to join me in challenging conceptions of the divide between private and community life and to explore the role of the third place in your life and community.
Image: Childhood Reflections, New York USA, Photograph (Archival Digital Print), 2011
The artist would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.