Toward a Third Place Aesthetics: An Afternoon Symposium on the Aesthetics of Communal Life

April 22, 2022
Department of Philosophy, New School for Social Research

Theresa Lang Community and Student Center (Rm. I202)
55 W 13th St
New York
United States

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


The New School
Aalto University
University of Georgia


The New School

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Important Note

This event is open to the public. To attend, you will be required to present proof of vaccination, booster, and a matching photo ID. No exemptions or exceptions will be allowed. All guests must also wear masks the entire time they are on campus.

Symposium Overview

In The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg coined the term “third places” to refer to the “core settings of informal public life.” Among the third places he discusses are English pubs, French cafes, and American taverns.  In that work, Oldenburg discusses the personal and social value of third places. There is almost no explicit talk of aesthetic matters in the work, and when there is, the focus is on the visual aesthetics of interior design and architecture.  But pubs, cafes, taverns and the like are, at least under ordinary non-pandemic conditions, important locations of aesthetic experience and value. Moreover, the aesthetic experiences and values we find in such a spaces go beyond those associated with design and architecture and include experiences of ambiance or atmosphere, encounters with the individual or general style of such places, the aesthetic dimension of the social interactions that typically take place there, and the way in which third places may manifest creativity and other aesthetic virtues.    

This symposium will serve as an introduction to, and example of, aesthetic theorizing about third places. Meskin’s paper will provide an overview of the topic and make the case for its significance. The papers by Lehtinen and Adams will focus on the aesthetic investigation of specific kinds of third places–specifically, public libraries and outdoor dining structures–and, in so doing, provide concrete examples of third place aesthetics in action.    

Symposium Schedule  

2pm: Aaron Meskin, “Third Places Aesthetics: The Experience of Bars, Cafes, Coffeeshops and Pubs”  

3pm: Sanna Lehtinen, “The Shared Aesthetics of the New Public Library”  

4pm: Zed Adams, “Curbside Cabanas and the Aesthetics of Impermanence”  

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