Third Spaces: Building Community at Glendon and in Everyday Life

cr: krysta

cr: krysta

When building a community, the third space is an alternative environment to the usual social spaces of (1) home and (2) work. Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg provides a set of criteria for third spaces:

  • They must be free or inexpensive

  • Food and drink, while not essential, are important

  • They must be highly accessible and proximate for many (within walking distance)

  • They must involve regulars—those who habitually congregate there

  • They must be welcoming and comfortable

  • Both new friends and old should be found there

A third space should also be a place where people come by choice, rather than obligation. There should be active conversation. Maybe it’s a home away from home... do you have a place in mind?

We tend to describe Glendon as a very close-knit school, especially in comparison to the Keele campus. Although our size certainly contributes to the community feeling, it is also very much due to its spatial layout. Consider the Breezeway, Lunik, or Centre of Excellence’s lobby—all of these spaces have been specifically designed to encourage students to congregate for longer periods of time than we typically would in, say, the residence lobbies.

Some public spaces are meant to be more transient. They may feature uncomfortable or awkward seating to discourage loitering. A space may look inviting, but actually be very uncomfortable for reasons we can’t quite put our finger on. This, too, is a deliberate architectural and design choice: these third spaces are not as conducive to community building.

If you have a sense of Glendon as a community, you probably have a go-to place in mind. Or maybe you have a third space off-campus, like the Toronto Reference Library with its open design, natural lighting, and architectural fluidity. Or perhaps you prefer a café with cozy lighting and comfy chairs? Wherever your third space is, these locales contribute to our overall sense of place.

So, the next time you go to one of your third spaces, try to feel an awareness of what it means to you and to your everyday life. When we recognize the importance of these spaces, I hope we will see, too, how important it is that we work together to protect them, particularly those like Lunik and public libraries, where we have the rare opportunity to exist in public for a period of time without paying for something.