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When we think about urban environments we picture tall buildings, noisy traffic, and hard surfaces. But the real point of urban environments is people, lots of them, bouncing off each other—eating lunch in the square, going to the theater, crowding around a street performer, sharing a sidewalk. Cities bring people together.

Food also brings people together and one could think of urban spaces as giant family tables. After all, Napoleon didn’t describe Venice’s Piazza San Marco as “the finest drawing room in Europe” for nothing. A $15.00 lemonade at one of its cafés is worth every penny if you make good use of your plaza-side table.

La piazza di tutti piazzi

Community spaces and tables are prevailing in private spaces as well. Metropolis Magazine writes about restaurants across the country that are designing their spaces and menus to become what sociologists call the third place—the place that is not home or work—where you go to hang out.

Local restaurateur Jose Andres recognizes the value of communal celebration and includes a long community table in his restaurants and at Le Pain Quotidien, you may find a fresh baguette and a new friend at the communal table.

Combine food and people and you’re bound to get politics—or at least an interesting discussion around that communal table. In Pittsburgh, Conflict Kitchen serves “food from countries the United States is in conflict with.” Their façade creates a distinct street presence and their menu is as much about sustenance as communication.

Is there a way to use urban design of public space to create “third places” and what are the elements of a successful place? I can picture a communal table in the new Silver Spring Civic Building’s Veteran’s Plaza and imagine the conversations that could take place around it.

instead of a lot of little tables, how about a big table?

3 Responses to “Food Truck Follow-up”

  1. Thayer-D

    What a smashing success this town square is! The planning department and all who contributed should be commended in making this happen. If you did a figure ground study of the fountain to civic plaza square, you’d be hard pressed to find any difference in the best medieval European public spaces. Proof positive that it’s about scale, density, and street life, not architectural style.
    I hope this example encourages other local municipalities to persue a community living room where we can come together.

  2. timber windows

    The glorious plaza should encourage all the municipal authorities to take a note and think to construct a community living room for general gathering. The above room int he picture seems awesome.

  3. claudia

    It is awesome, and from what I can see, even in this heat, people have really taken to it. It reminds me of designers who lay out paths based on desire lines trod by pedestrians taking shortcuts;this is a space that was very much desired, even when it was nothing more than astroturf.

    The skating rink in the winter will add a whole new dimension.