Theorist Homi K. Bhabha first coined the term “third space” describing it as a transition space where post-colonial power relations and norms are subverted by political, aesthetic or everyday practices. In our built environments, this philosophy is growing in popularity to bring clarity to those spaces that forge social connections and a sense of community.
Creating a space that doesn’t fall naturally into the categories of home (first space) or work (second space) has been an increasingly popular concept for the past decade. As we emerge from the pandemic years and observe the changed landscape in which we are all living, the importance and agility of the third space is proving to be more relevant than ever. It navigates the growing urban frontier that nurtures meetings and relaxation, leveraging multi-purpose capabilities to realise places that intuitively support contemporary living patters.
The planned rooftop at Nine Wilson Ave, Brunswick by NEOMETRO™.
Once sterile and cavernous throughways, commercial lobbies have been one significant example of third place design in the past few years. Evolving to assume a social purpose and bend to myriad demands of a changing social and economic landscape, workplace lobbies have begun to morph into expanses of space where a casual meeting or moment of reprieve are equally catered for through design aesthetics and the like-minded unification of sectors such as corporate, retail, hospitality and the arts.
Foyer at 2 Southbank by BVN. Image by Tom Ross.
On the residential front, rooftops and common garden spaces began to seep into the development dialogue a while ago yet today these spaces are being embraced more and more, counterbalancing both the social disruption of the covid years and the widespread consequences of our increasingly digital lives. Third spaces such as open ground floor plans with cafes, hairdressers, shops and galleries have begun to spill outwards, immediately connecting with the gardens and pedestrian thoroughfares in the public realm to anchor micro-communities within the larger framework of the neighbourhood.
One of a series of third spaces at Olderfleet in Melbourne’s CBD by Carr. Image by Nicole England.
The domino effect of this approach to architecture, development and urban planning has brought a collaborative spirit to disciplines that are integral to one another yet often guided by separate drivers. The consideration and implementation of third spaces bolsters a sense of community, providing places where we can exchange ideas, unwind and build relationships and this notion of unity and responsibility is cultivating a new perspective on urban design and its role within the built fabric of tomorrow.