Third Places are an alternative to your home (first place) and your work site (second place) where you can meet with people, get some work done or just hang out.
Ray Oldenburg wrote a book about the idea called "The Great Good Place" (right) in which he identifies third places, or "great good places," as the public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them.
Third places “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” Oldenburg suggests that beer gardens, main streets, pubs, cafés, coffeehouses, post offices, and other third places are the heart of a community's social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy. They promote social equality by leveling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association, and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.
Most third places just sort of happen but now people are consciously designing third places for social meetings like Catalyst Ranch (left) and places you can go to get some work done like WorkSpring (right) in Chicago.
Click on the heading above to see some of the interesting spaces created for Catalyst Ranch or go to http://www.workspring.com/ to see the same concept but a little less distracting for a shared work environment.