Sunday, 4 November 2018

Where we Dance: Third Places


Elinor came to talk to us about her project. This was the beginning of our own Inquiry entitled, "Where We Dance." This was the hook to get us thinking and asking questions...

Elinor is interested in urban design. Urban design is the planning of towns and cities. It is not the architecture of buildings, but the spaces around them and how to organise things like transport and housing.

Some questions that urban designers ask would be: 

How do people travel around? 
Is it by car or bus or walking?
How does where people live and where they go to work or do other activities shape their choice of transport?
What transport choices are available?
How do the physical characteristics of a place shape how people use it?

Sustainability and environment are also important in urban design.

Social Cohesion

Social means society or the group of people that you live with. Cohesion means togetherness or connection, if you write a story then you want the different parts to work together to make a coherent story. Social cohesion means how much a group of people are willing to work together as a group or cooperate, to follow the same rules, share values and work towards the same goals.

Social capital is the resources that come out of people working together or social cohesion. In some societies social cohesion is so low that the people don’t have things that we take for granted. For example, places that are experiencing war, don’t have safety, roads, school...

Think about whether your class is socially cohesive and whether you use social capital. Being able to go to the beach is an example. This is an awesome resource that is looked after by our community, by doing beach clean ups and  planting there, you can use it as part of the school because you follow the rules down there. Rules include not going in the water, or running off or leaving it covered in rubbish.

Living in a society that has high levels of social cohesion and social capital means that you have a better quality of life. This leads to better health and well being and more options of what to do in life.

There are some people who say that if children are able to get around a city by themselves then it means that the city is well designed and inclusive for everyone who lives there, and it probably means that it is well designed in terms of environmental sustainability too. However, in New Zealand the amount of travel children do by themselves is decreasing and this means that there are more trips made by car, with parents driving their kids around. Elinor is interested in finding out about the things that might make children who live in suburbs more active - for example walking or biking to school more often.

Social Resilience

Social resilience is the ability for a social group to cope with adversity. An example of social resilience is after the Christchurch earthquake the Student Volunteer Army got together and helped the community. After the Kaikoura Earthquake the community at Takahanga Marae fed people who were affected by the earthquake. The Marae was better equipped to respond to the people who were affected by these disasters than the government was.


Cultural Sustainability

Cultural Sustainability means thinking about the cultures and traditions of the place that we live in. It means how much they are still used now and how they might be conserved or used more in the future. This might be linked with indigenous culture or of the beliefs and practices that have developed within a group. 

More than Human... 

"More than human" thinking is similar to cultural sustainability. It involves thinking about what has been here in the past and what could be here in the future. The emphasis is on plants, animals and ecosystems and how these things can all exist together in an urban environment. In Wellington we are lucky because the city is compact. It takes up a smallish space so we can get out into nature fairly easily. There are still plenty of things we could do to make life easier for other species to live in the city. Sometimes this can be a bit of a problem if roots or animal behaviour isn’t compatible with human life.

So how can we go about building these things, what are the foundations we need?

Inclusivity, equality, safety, democracy or shared decision making, having everyone - and everything!- represented in our society.

Third Place

One sociologist who has done some thinking about this talked about something that he had noticed and called it third place. Third places are... not your first place, which is home, or your second place which is work or school. They are ...These places are similar to ‘sticky places’ or ‘bumping places’ which are spaces that make people hang around or bump into each other. Sometimes urban designers add them in their designs, so that people living in or using the same area can have a chance to meet and maybe get to know each other. Sometimes they just happen. 

Third Places should be: 
  • Inclusive
  • Public
  • Friendly or social
  • Comfortable to hang out 
  • New experiences
  • Interesting or fun!
  • Support independence

Worser Bay beach is a third place because you will probably see friends there or at least find some other kids to play with. 



Elinor told us about the project that she is working on and will be helping us with our Inquiry. Our students have been thinking about the spaces in our community. Here are questions that we have been considering.

How do you feel about third places now?

How do you use them?

What do you think is missing?

What do you think that other people would like or use?

How can we make them better?

What does better mean to us?

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