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blogpost – third place

Holidays heighten a sense of place. We travel deliberately, we schedule visits and we wait for others to arrive. We talk about that sense of home. Often, opening a door reveals hues of light and color, and smell; they strongly and effectively pull us in, or at least pull us away from where we had just been. Instead of the desk, board room, steering wheel, couch, and bed of the rat-race, we come to living rooms and kitchens and tables and memories.

And then, there’s that first time you “get out” after a holiday – can you imagine it? Living room sessions of the holidays are so intense for me that stepping outside to put gas in the car, or to take a walk, or to date my wife – it’s a ripping away from that encompassing warm world of comfort and the over-known, into the fresh air. It feels like walking on the moon.

This afternoon, I stepped out of the house, grabbed a cup of coffee and a seat in town.. While it’s an extremely familiar location, I found myself stumbling around; I feel underdressed wearing my living-room casual. I set my coffee down on a shared side table and immediately crashed into it with my briefcase, startling my neighbors and requiring a short stack of tiny napkins. Places affect us.

The idea of the “third place” supposedly comes from a book from the eighties, but of course it makes sense. Man and/or mankind has been looking for these alternate locations since the Garden of Eden and Hemingway’s “Clean, Well-Lighted Place.”

The third place can’t be home and it can’t be work. As soon as it starts to feel like either, it’s time to leave. That sensation either means that I have someplace better to be or that I’ve overstayed my investment. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” That realization of a time to move on is a healthy one and leads to progress.

The coffee shop crowd recently has been more balanced than we’ve seen over the past few years – it’s the coffee shop crowd again. In my sense of world-analysis, that means the economy is improving. The ones who were using the coffee shops to create businesses or to surf for jobs have moved into offices or have found jobs. The big not-for-profit meetings have moved from their meetings to put programs into action. There’s room again for the students with their textbooks and netbooks. Fewer furrowed brows, less sweat, lighter burdens and smaller bookbags, the return of the tiny espressos.

And here’s that feeling again: time to move on, time to get something done, and then time to get home for turkey-frame soup.

Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
19 W Hargett Street, Suite 700-A | Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 889 6823 | | TWITTER: aoarch

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