An increasingly popular concept in the building community is creating a space that is neither home nor work- affectionately termed as a “third space.” Third spaces are designed to encourage social interactions, to create unique touch down spaces, to foster connectivity and creativity, and to make use of spaces otherwise left unprogrammed. The recognition of the gained personal benefits is a driving force behind corporations, educational institutes, and healthcare facilities adopting this culture. The healthcare industry, for example, acknowledges the healing benefits and improved the long-term health of individuals when they are engaged and active within their communities. There is an active push by these organizations to design spaces that are inclusive and blend social space with basic needs more holistically under one roof.
Finding unique ways to create environments that organically draw people together for informal interactions is at the forefront of design and being delivered in unprecedented industries. The hospitality industry, known for social connectivity, is no longer the single possessor of design for a social purpose. In addition to the hospitality market; communities, education, corporate and healthcare industries recognize the great possibilities when both physical and social designs are in alignment. As architects and designers, we continue to evolve through a deeper understanding of human behavior and the psychology behind our needs and desires.
Corporations are looking for ways to provide informal interactions within their buildings. The theory of the “water cooler effect” is modeled by creating places that draw people from different departments to a central location and ignite casual conversations between individuals that otherwise may not have had reason to talk. Placing a cafeteria lunchroom on one floor of a building vs one on each floor, pop-up areas offering a variety of informal work stations where people can get away from their desk to sit and work, designated collaboration spaces with large whiteboards- these are all examples of design that encourages interface.
The education industry has also taken a page from this book. Spaces once viewed as obligatory in nature are now being reimagined. Public entryways, stairways, hallways, and rooftops, are now being established as unique gathering spaces and casual learning environments. Master planning is playing a larger role in these efforts as well. Campus layouts are forcing the cross-pollination of students by the nature of design. No longer are specific majors isolated to one corner or section of a campus. By integrating cohesive design throughout a campus, it provides additional opportunities for students to find spaces for a collaborative reprieve. These concepts are both creative and educational by design.
Healthcare and Senior Living environments acknowledge the healing benefits and improved the long-term health of individuals when they are engaged and active with others. Spaces are being designed to be more inclusive, blending social space with basic needs more holistically under one roof. Providing communal spaces that include a salon, shop, game room, bar/social entity within a single building is becoming more and more common in a senior living community. Architects are challenged with balancing the technical needs of the medical staff while providing a more humanized experience for patients. By providing individuals with choices within an inviting and welcoming atmosphere it creates a positive environment for which individuals are comfortable and more relaxed. These spaces can include; areas that are both open for social engagement yet also provide quiet areas for reflection, an abundance of natural light, soothing colors and fabrics that are less institutional softer to the touch.
Third spaces, while benefiting the individual personally, are also proving beneficial to organizations and communities by naturally breeding face-to-face interaction, cross-collaboration, increased productivity and better understanding and appreciation for shared knowledge. These spaces take on many different forms; different sizes, locations, and styles. The advantages, however, are abundant, and the human benefits are extraordinary, no matter what industry these design elements are being applied. The prolific environment in which these spaces create is one of inclusivity and collaboration through enhanced interactive activities. People are free to come and go as they wish with no preconceived expectations. When people come together amazing things are accomplished.