Envisioning the Downtown - The Design of Third Places to Revitalize Town-Gown Downtowns
Sin, Courtney Hon Wall
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This thesis redefines the typology of Third Places and the design considerations that influence envisioning downtown revitalization of mid-size cities that are embracing a town-gown partnership. The exercise ultimately explores and addresses the importance of integrating civic growth with community cultivation to instigate the development of a new kind of place. Responding to the endangerment of place in the twenty first century city, the proposal is inspired by the historical “common place” typology and urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s concept of the “Third Place”. By linking the origin of rhetoric with the neutral space between work and home, Third Places revive the social realm whereby people can informally gather, interact and celebrate the human condition amidst the ever changing urban and cultural fabric. Unlike established suburban cities, Third Places still exist in many declining mid-size cities. As the University of Waterloo’s presence in the downtown continues to expand in the City of Cambridge, there is a critical need for Third Places to continue moderating healthy socioeconomic and cultural development. The thesis presents three distinctive design proposals for the existing Fraser Block site located in Cambridge Ontario’s City Centre to a key informant focus group. Each development proposition offers a different contemporary design approach to the site while maintaining the basic design goal of creating a mixed use building that will become a future social incubator and vibrant neighbourhood gathering place. Primarily this thesis attempts to provide a discourse on the potential impact of Third Places within the context of revitalizing a mid-size city downtown as it embraces the presence of a satellite university campus. A heuristic is proposed to instigate the cultural capacity of the community to envision their downtown. By interpreting the results gathered from the key informants, basic design considerations and recommendations can be offered to communicate how the downtown can be revitalized. The recommendations can also be used to help property owners, developers, the city, and the architect understand the working goals of Cambridge’s growing downtown culture.