As Ray Oldenburg noted in his influential book The Great Good Place (1989), there are three main places/spaces that surround an individual:
- One’s “first place” is the home and those that one lives with.
- The “second place” is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time.
- Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. They are free or inexpensive, people can gather there regularly, bring their old and meet new friends and feel comfortable.
I would also add that for me the “third place” is a place, where I can be on public but feel comfortable even if I am there alone. And today I will blog about my “third place” in London – my hidden gem in the town.
Photo Credit: Stefan Kaltschmidt
When you live in the city, which population is more than 8 million people (Office for National Statistics, 2011), it is rather difficult to be alone and find your niche there. Having moved to London and discovering the city with the help of Google maps, at the beginning I would go out for a walk and be completely astonished by the masses of people around. Townsfolk of all sorts and ages, professionals who live in suburbs but travel to work in the City, tourists from all over the world – everyone is in a hurry, everyone waits in the queue, first come first serve basis rule. Taxis and buses maneuver through the left-hand traffic and narrow streets, honk at each other and shout at reckless cyclists: “MAD!” A newbie is stifling and suffocating in this organized chaos and sinks in the tense anxiety of the crowd.
Undoubtedly, London was culture shock for me. Especially stressful was British people’s habit to talk loudly almost shouting at each other. As a person with Eastern background and upbringing, at first I experienced headaches and would dream about silence and calm. At one of such sociopathic days I was wandering about the St. Paul’s Cathedral and suddenly came across with the One New Change mall. A giant curved glass building was glittering with windows of high-street brands, but seemed to be oddly un-londonishly empty. It intrigued. Inside the mall looked like a typical shopping center full of small stores and cafes. The two glass lifts in the heart of the building raised somewhere high in the air. I called one and randomly pressed the last floor.
While observing the outer world through the uprising glass cabin, I suddenly saw the grand mass of the cathedral appearing in front of me. Bewildered I stared at the stunning view separated from me by just a glass. The lift stopped and the doors opened. I was at the Roof Terrace.
No matter how many and at what times I’ve been to this place, this view would always take my breath away. There is a cocktail bar humming with the voices and music on the right side of the rooftop. The buzz from the bar blends with the street noise of traffic and crowd, travels to other side of the roof and suddenly breaks at the edge of the observation point.
The impossible combination of the beauty of Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece with the gleaming lights of modern London thrills and makes everything fall silent. And this is the charm of this place. The place, where I come to feel myself comforted, where I bring my friends to spend Saturday evenings, which I show to everyone who comes over to see London, the place I come back for more than a year. My “third place”.
One New Change mall
The Roof Terrace
London EC4M 9AF