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Expanding Oldenburg: homes as third places

David Purnell (Mercer University, Atlanta, GA, USA)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this research study is to extend the concept of third places, as explained by Oldenburg (2000), as being places designed as meeting places and as being dynamic rather than static.


The primary site for this paper is a neighborhood ritual of shared meals that has taken place every Wednesday for the past fourteen years. This was a 6 month study focusing on semi-structured interviews.


Characteristics of third places when compared to other arguments for the classification of third place supports the use of space instead of the purpose of a place as the main consideration for the classification of “third place”.

Research limitations/implications

Defining social events within homes as third spaces pushes the traditional third place theory forward. It offers a way for rituals to be explored more deeply through the experiences they offer.

Practical implications

This study asks the reader to pay attention to the periphery where interaction takes place and consider how we frame concepts of third places.

Social implications

Third places create an environment that allows individuals expressions of restraint (to keep the distance between yourself and others), relaxation (to be yourself), freedom (from judgment), reflexivity (when you look back at past events) and vulnerability (opening yourself up to the possibilities that come from interacting with others).


The distinction of third place is not so much in the categorization of the building but rather in the use for which the space serves. Extending these conversations into future research endeavors would be to continue and to extend the discussion/description of third places.



Purnell, D. (2015), "Expanding Oldenburg: homes as third places", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 51-62.



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