2020 National Planning Conference

Third Place: Architecture, Spirit, and Community

Monday, April 15, 2019 from 2:45 p.m. - 4 p.m. PDT

CM | 1.25

Location: 2002

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  • Understand the key universal characteristics of what distinguishes third-place environments with a strong spirit of place.
  • Learn how to apply the guiding principles of enhancing and creating spirit of place at three different scales: individual building/site, district, and city.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the social value, inclusiveness, and timelessness of genius loci and why people are drawn to such environments.


What is it about those secular places we frequent where we can feel comfortable being alone yet have an inclusive sense of belonging to something bigger? How do they embody a genius loci whose fellowship appeals to all walks? Whether it be a favorite restaurant, community arts center, outdoor plaza, or playground, they all have commonalities in human scale, opportunities for interactions with strangers, and an almost spiritual quality where all participants are equal and all are one collective community.

Today, developers try to hijack the third-place concept by bringing it in house and embedding it into their amenity packages, much like suburban country clubs provide a familiar setting for one social and economic class. This pattern reinforces segregation, adding to the deterioration of our social fabric. Examine why spirit of place is integral to a genuine third place, how to create them, and the role art and cultural programming play in realizing success. Explore authenticity, the importance of historic and cultural preservation, and drawing design inspiration from the environment, topography, and built context. Reflect on the importance of involving the community in the creation and continued support of third places.

This course is approved to offer 1.25 LUs (AIA).

Session Speakers

Jon C. Krider, AICP
Session Organizer and Moderator
Arlington County
Arlington, VA

Joshua Aidlin
Aidlin Darling Design
San Francisco, CA

Nicolia C. Robinson, AICP
Cooper Carry