DAYLIGHT // S1 E1 – Designing the Third Place

Some say the true heart of a city is the space between the buildings. Cities are often impersonal and unpredictable - much like the people who pass through them. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to plan for the future.

Buildings and the spaces they create are inherently permanent. They shape our cities and they shape how we live our lives. Most of our day-to-day interactions occur at the human scale, and this is where cities succeed or fail.

The skyline is one of the most recognizable pieces of a city’s brand, but how does it relate to a community and the people who live there? The Julia M. Carson Transit Center and the Cummins Distribution Headquarters, for example, show that iconic buildings don’t need to be separate from the urban fabric, but can exist in harmony with the people and places around them.

Modern-day public spaces as we know them have evolved. Plazas have become parking lots, shopping malls replaced town squares, and traditional neighborhoods transitioned to suburban, gated communities. Our car culture has essentially removed us from public realm. 

New technologies have revolutionized the way we interact with our cities. Today, the Internet allows us to be anywhere and everywhere all at once. Social media has transformed our communication methods and allowed us to bridge time and distance in creating and maintaining our relationships. Online shopping became more accessible and is now often preferred over the alternative. Advancements in public transportation networks, information systems, and construction techniques have transformed the urban environment, affecting how members of a community live, work, and play.

In recent times, we’ve become infatuated with newer and better products while growing impatient with our current ones. This has created a throw-away culture and a sense of restlessness in our daily lives. Isaac Bamgbose, Vice President of Asset Management at Hendricks Commercial Properties said it best during our first DAYLIGHT event on Designing the Third Place: "Reuse is a big part of it; rather than it going away, let's breathe life back into it." (Sounds a lot like PUP, eh?)

The city center’s importance as a commercial district remains, but cities like Indy are searching for a way to create a distinguished sense of place that reflects the community’s values and interests. This is pivotal to revitalizing and strengthening Indy’s urban core.

By drawing on regional characteristics, a community’s ability to form an identity helps bring recognition to the area creating positive growth and engagement. What is it about a neighborhood that makes it special and how can this be supported and even enhanced to create a more vibrant city?

Local businesses and amenities strengthen the ties between the public and private realms of an urban community. By empowering local businesses, we can help Indy prosper and grow into the best version of itself.

A focus on designing for the current community first is crucial for Ed Battista, real estate developer and co-owner of Bluebeard. He earned a mini round of applause for this line during DAYLIGHT: "I think we'd be better off if we develop for the people that exist there instead of for someone that you think has a deeper pocket." I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Coffee shops, often considered the third place of the modern era, still typically require a purchase. Restricted access to spaces creates an implied boundary of the haves and the have-nots.

Half of the battle with creating an effective third place is creating an atmosphere of dignity and pride for all that visit. When people are proud of their neighborhoods, they become invested in maintaining and improving it. The way we communicate with one another must be purposefully encouraged by our environment to promote stronger relationships and deeper community engagement.

More and more people are moving downtown in search of the urban lifestyle - a shorter commute, walkable amenities, a variety of housing options, etc. The need for a physical gathering place will never be lost in our society, but simply changed to accommodate new needs and purposes.

Bottleworks is a great start to reclaiming quality public space in our city. It will serve as the heart of the community where its local residents and businesses can thrive while also helping to attract and retain new talent.

Indy welcomes all, right? Let’s work together and create more spaces that help us achieve that.

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Our next episode of DAYLIGHT will feature a discussion on Inclusive Design. Sign up here.

DAYLIGHT // Season 1, Episode 1: Designing the Third Place featured a discussion centered around the currently-in-development Bottleworks District, which sits on the north end of Mass Ave in downtown Indianapolis. Our moderator was Angela Smith Jones, Deputy Mayor of Economic Development for The City of Indianapolis and featured panelists Jeff Milliken (RATIO), Isaac Bamgbose (Hendricks Commercial Properties), Edward Batista (Bluebeard), and Desma Belsaas (Schmidt Associates). Stay tuned, we will be launching a podcast of the event soon. 

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Marlee Brabin is a member of PUP’s Programming Committee. She works as a registered architect at ONE 10 STUDIO Architects and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from Ball State University and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Cincinnati. After working briefly in LA and NYC, she landed back in Indy with the goal of taking a more active role in our local community and helping elevate the level of design in Indy. Marlee also serves as a board member of Rebuilding Together Indianapolis, co-chair of the Young Architects Forum of Indianapolis, as well as assists with various other committees of the Indiana chapter of the American Institute of Architects.