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The Importance Of Another Space At Home

While the Toowoomba area has so far been spared the imposition of stricter lockdown measures (with no real certainty that this will remain the case into the near future, however), other regions very close by have not avoided the financial, social and emotional affects that come with “stay at home” orders. These impacts are now becoming everyday considerations for architects, renovators, town planners and others associated with our social environment.

A recent article by Kimberley Gillan (‘Third Space’ Vital for Wellbeing, Sydney Morning Herald, August 17,2021) explores some of the ways in which our relationships with the home and our community spaces are changing – and not always for the better.

Gillan sees the home as our first place, our schools and workplaces as second places and the destinations external to those two as our third place, our “happy place where we see familiar faces, have incidental chats and feel part of something”. Places such as hobby sites, farmers’ markets, sports clubs, exercise venues and courses, and other community sites contribute significantly to our overall emotional and physical wellbeing, and yet it is our happy places that are most at risk during lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The benefits that come with incidental encounters with our neighbours and community members generally are psychologically crucial, and when the chances of these encounters are severely limited, the community as a whole suffers the deprivation. Tony Matthews captures the problem: third places “are opportunistic – a lot of it is being in a space at a time. You don’t get on Zoom and run into your neighbours”.

So, what are the experts suggesting we might do to reduce the impact of loss of our “happy places” at home? Here are a few ideas:

  • Try to separate work, family and leisure activities in the home – use different rooms for different purposes;

  • Plan to accommodate leisure activities within the home environment;;

  • Establish small happy havens at home: Danny Juric suggests considering things like a firepit, a pizza oven or a veggie patch;

  • Factor in a “third place” in house design – eg have a dedicated entrance to a home office to facilitate the daily work-family-leisure transitions;

  • Ensure a dining table that also serves as an office and a school space is packed away each day.

It looks like we might be in for something of a long COVID haul, but perhaps we can retain something of our connections with our social and emotional happy places!

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