Does Your Office Need a ‘Third Space?’

The third space (or place), is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of the home and the workplace.  In his influential book, The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third spaces are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

In an office, the third space can be defined as the place between the workstations or offices and formal meeting rooms.  The third space is used for more casual work or meetings.  The environment is more collaborative and less formal.  Furniture resembles a hotel lobby or cafe.  Expanded kitchens and break rooms can serve as the third space in the office environment.

Gen Y grew up studying in coffee shops and cafes instead of at libraries or desks.  As a result, some Gen Y prefer to work in more informal settings that resemble coffee shops.  They also prefer to collaborate on couches rather than around a formal meeting table.  Gen Y grew up not tethered to the personal computer, Gen Y grew up not tethered to the personal desktop computer.  They can now work away from their desks using laptops.  They can exercise their freedom even more by using their tablets and smartphones as well.  The third space allows for a change of pace and a change of scenery.

In this 8,100 square foot office suite renovation at 2644 30th Street in Santa Monica, adjacent to the Santa Monica Business Park, PMI has configured the spec suite with the third space in mind.

2644 30th Street Suite 101: Blow Out Kitchen, Causal Areas, and Outdoor Space Create Opportunities for a "Third Space"

2644 30th Street Suite 101: Features include a blow out kitchen, causal areas, and outdoor space.  These all create opportunities for  “Third Spaces.”

The most common “third space” is the kitchen area.  Because of this, PMI aims to build large and inviting kitchen break areas that resemble cafes.  PMI integrates an adjacent area with similar flooring and lighting that can expand that kitchen into a casual work area, or another third space.  Tech companies tend to put these third spaces in the most desirable part of the office space.

In this case, the area near the outdoor patio would make an excellent additional casual work area.  With the great weather in Los Angeles, outdoor spaces also make great third space.  In a survey of ten creative office brokers in Los Angeles, 80% of them felt that outdoor space, if available, should be pre-built into the infrastructure of the space.  Growing companies also use third spaces as potential areas to temporarily expand formal work areas as the company scales.

Here are some examples of third spaces that PMI features in their suites:

PMI's kitchen/break area for Ustream, San Francisco

PMI’s kitchen and break area for Ustream in San Francisco.

Ustream Kitchen at 410 Townsend

Ustream’s kitchen at 410 Townsend, San Francisco.

Ustream Kitchen Break Area Overflows into Adjacent Area to form the "Third Place"

Ustream’s kitchen and break area overflows into an adjacent area to form a third space.

Ustream informal space next to Kitchen

Ustream’s informal space next to the kitchen provides an excellent informal eating area.

Ustream couches next to kitchen

Ustream’s couches next to the kitchen are used as a casual work area.

Casual Work Area at Yammer at PMI's 410 Townsend

PMI’s casual work area for Yammer at 410 Townsend in SoMa.

Rows of couches forms more casual work area at Yammer

Rows of couches facing each other with side coffee tables form a more casual work area in Yammer’s suite in San Francisco.

Another third place work area created under a glass roll up door adjacent to the old loading dock.

PMI’s third space work area at 4223 Glencoe in Marina Del Rey was created under a glass roll-up door, adjacent to the former loading dock.

Blow out kitchen at 3525 Eastham, Culver City

Another PMI blow out kitchen at 3525 Eastham in Culver City.

The private outdoor deck at 10951 Pico serves as another Third Space.

The private outdoor deck at PMI’s 10951 Pico building serves as another third space.

Outdoor decks are great areas for third spaces.

Outdoor decks and patio areas are great for third spaces.

Area adjacent to a Glass Door to Outdoor space Makes an Excellent Area for a Casual Meeting Area

The area adjacent to a glass roll-up door makes an excellent area for a casual meeting area at 4223 Glencoe in Marina Del Rey.

Sony July 7 2011 022

This casual area is apart of an expanded kitchen, which increases the third space even more.

Designers are getting inventive in creating third space areas (This example is from 410 Townsend in San Francisco).

Designers are getting inventive in their creations of third space areas (410 Townsend, San Francisco).

More Third Space at 410 Townsend

Additional third space at 410 Townsend in San Francisco.

An informal meeting area as third space at 410 Townsend, San Francisco.

An informal meeting area as third space at 410 Townsend, San Francisco.

This is actually a Peet's Coffee in LA but i is getting hard to tell the difference from third spaces in offices

This is actually Peet’s Coffee in Los Angeles. It’s getting hard to tell the difference between cafes and third spaces in offices (with the exception of the piles of coffee).

To read more about third spaces, click here.

1 thought on “Does Your Office Need a ‘Third Space?’

  1. Excellent article. The ‘third space’ is really state of the art innovative product. It appears to be where innovation meets old school. Large kitchens, patios, open areas that include informal seating being the key to collaborative work space. Santa Monica has the ability to leverage the great weather into ‘super patios’ where employees can have meetings and work. This innovative adaptation in office product is inspiring. The Gen Y employees come to expect it. 2644 30th Street is a great location utilizing this creative vision. Sorry if you live on the east coast — 2644 30th looks like a place to ‘live the dream’ indoors and out.

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