ArticlePDF Available

More Than Coffee: An Exploration of People, Place, and Community with Implications for Design

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

This study was an exploration of the physical and social characteristics that encourage gathering behavior in selected coffee shops in Tallahassee, Florida, in the context of literature suggesting social gathering places contribute to the social capital of communities. Gathering places enhancing community in this manner have been called third places. The study was qualitative in nature and included the techniques of visual documentation, observation and behavioral mapping, interview, and survey. Photographs were taken of each coffee shop, and an inventory was made of all furniture, equipment, and significant architectural features. Floor plans were drawn for the three coffee shops and detailed observations and behavioral mapping were recorded on the floor plans as well as in field notes. Each coffee shop was observed for twenty-five hours for a total of seventy-five hours. Fifteen interviews were conducted to better understand how patrons felt about the coffee shop and the meaning these places held for them. Surveys were distributed to 94 patrons to reveal patron attitudes toward the physical and social aspects of the coffee shop as well as their feelings regarding the community in which they live. The data was coded and four categories emerged: physical characteristics, people, activities, and feelings and attitudes. The key findings regarding the physical characteristics included patron’s top five design considerations in the ideal coffee shop. These characteristics, presented in order of preference included: cleanliness, appealing aroma, adequate lighting, comfortable furniture, and a view to the outside. Other themes emerged related to people, their activities, and their feelings and attitudes regarding the coffee shop. Each coffee shop was found to have its’ own unique social climate and culture related to sense of belonging, territoriality and ownership, productivity and personal growth, opportunity for socialization, support and networking, and sense of community. Regarding feelings of community, survey findings from coffee shops patrons showed a positive correlation between length of patronage and sense of attachment to their community. In addition, feeling attached to the community was positively correlated to their happiness with living in Tallahassee.
Content may be subject to copyright.
e Florida State University
DigiNole Commons
Electronic eses, Treatises and Dissertations e Graduate School
3-2-2004
More an Coee: An Exploration of People,
Place, and Community with Implications for
Design
Lisa Kinch Waxman
Florida State University
Follow this and additional works at: hp://diginole.lib.fsu.edu/etd
is Dissertation - Open Access is brought to you for free and open access by the e Graduate School at DigiNole Commons. It has been accepted for
inclusion in Electronic eses, Treatises and Dissertations by an authorized administrator of DigiNole Commons. For more information, please contact
lib-ir@fsu.edu.
Recommended Citation
Waxman, Lisa Kinch, "More an Coee: An Exploration of People, Place, and Community with Implications for Design" (2004).
Electronic eses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 1228.
THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS AND DANCE
MORE THAN COFFEE: AN EXAMINATION OF PEOPLE, PLACE, AND
COMMUNITY WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR DESIGN
By
LISA KINCH WAXMAN
A Dissertation submitted to the
Department of Art Education
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Awarded:
Spring Semester, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Lisa K. Waxman
All Rights Reserved
The members of the Committee approve the dissertation of Lisa Waxman on March 2,
2004.
_____________________________
Tom Anderson
Professor Directing Dissertation
_____________________________
Sande Milton
Outside Committee Member
_____________________________
Dave Gussak
Committee Member
_____________________________
Tock Ohazama
Committee Member
Approved:
________________________________________
Marcia Rosal, Chair, Department of Art Education
________________________________________
Sally McRorie, Dean, School of Visual Arts and Dance
The Office of Graduate Studies has verified and approved the above named committee
members
ii
This dissertation is dedicated to my husband Bernie, daughter Gabrielle, mother
Joan Kinch, and to the memory of my father, Fred Kinch.
iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Special thanks to my directing professor, Tom Anderson, a wonderful teacher and
mentor whose mix of guidance and encouragement were essential to the completion of
this dissertation. Thanks also go to committee member Sande Milton, King of SPSS,
who guided my survey writing and data analysis. I would also like to thank Tock
Ohazama, colleague and architect, who provided insight into built environment issues, as
well as Dave Gussak, who also provided valuable direction in framing this research.
Completing a dissertation involves not only the student, but the entire family as
well. I am grateful to my husband Bernie, whose support and cheerful optimism were
unending during my program. Thanks to my daughter Gabrielle, a kind, thoughtful
teenager, who understood I needed time to write. I was thankful for the company of both
Bernie and Gabrielle during numerous trips to the coffee shops.
I also appreciate the support of my colleagues in the Department of Interior
Design at Florida State University. I am especially grateful to David Butler, my
department chair, who was completely behind my efforts. Peter Munton was also
influential in my studies, teaching the first environment and behavior class I took as an
undergraduate, which consequently influenced my choice of thesis and dissertation
topics.
I appreciate the efforts of former FSU President Sandy D’Alemberte and his wife
Patsy Palmer, who opened the door that allowed me to begin my studies. Thanks to
Provost Larry Abele, Steve Edwards, former dean of the faculty, Jerry Draper, former
dean of the School of Visual Arts, and Sally McRorie, current dean of the School of
Visual Arts for their support in this endeavor as well.
iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Tables vii
List of Figures xiv
Abstract xvi
1. INTRODUCTION 1
Purpose of the Study 4
Justification of the Study 4
Research Questions 5
Research Procedures Framed as Objectives for the Study 5
Assumptions and Limitations 6
Definitions 6
Summary 8
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE 9
Introduction 9
Background Information 10
Search Techniques 10
Environment and Perception 11
Personal Impressions of Places 12
Environment and Behavior 15
Place Attachment 17
Place Identity 22
Personality and Place 25
Design Features 27
Communities and Neighborhoods 28
Third Places 32
The History and Role of Early Coffee Houses 33
Summary 36
3. METHODOLOGY 39
Purpose of the Study 39
Research Questions 39
Research Procedures as Framed as Objectives for the Study 39
Brief Overview of the Study Design 40
Theoretical Foundation of the Method 40
Research Overview 45
Approaching the Analysis 53
Summary 57
v
4. FINDINGS 58
A Guided Tour 58
Introduction 59
Physical Design Characteristics 61
The People and Activities 96
Feelings and Attitudes 112
Connection to Community 127
Summary 130
5. INTERPRETATION AND CONCLUSIONS 134
Introduction: Is it Really About Coffee? 135
Interpretation of Results Related to Physical Characteristics and Design 136
Social Considerations in the Coffee Shops 150
Meanings and Benefits 152
The Coffee Shop as a Third Place 158
Implications for Designing the Coffee Shop 162
Contribution to Community Life 164
Summary 166
Recommendations for Further Research 169
APPENDICES 171
REFERENCES 280
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 292
vi
LIST OF TABLES
4.1. Respondents Rating of the Design and Ambient Characteristics at
Aristotles 67
4.2. Respondents Rating of the Design and Ambient Characteristics at
Black Dog 70
4.3. Respondents Rating of the Design and Ambient Characteristics at
Borders 73
4.4. Respondents Valuation of Design and Ambient Characteristics of
the Ideal Coffee Shop 76
4.5. Frequency With Which Coffee Shop Patrons Report Interacting With
Staff and Patrons 100
4.6. Demographic Characteristics of the Coffee Shop Patrons 101
4.7. Percentage of Patrons Sitting Alone or in Groups 101
4.8. Percentage of Patrons Sitting Alone in Sheltered vs. Non-Sheltered
Seats 102
4.9. Average Length and Frequency of Coffee Shop Patronage 123
4.10. Correlations for Social Interaction & Length and Frequency of
Patronage 125
4.11. Correlations for Social Interaction 126
4.12. Correlations Between Socialization, Length and Frequency of
Patronage and Feelings Regarding Community 128
5.1. Evaluation of Coffee Shops Regarding Characteristics of Third Places 160
5.2. Guidelines for Designing a Coffee Shop 162
N.1. Sex: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 215
N.2. Sex: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 215
vii
N.3. Age: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 216
N.4. Age: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 216
N.5. Education: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 217
N.6. Education: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 218
N.7. Length of Patronage: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 219
N.8. Length of Patronage: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 220
N.9. Frequency of Patronage: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 221
N.10. Frequency of Patronage: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 222
N.11. Frequency with which Patrons Drive to the Coffee Shop: Individual
Coffee Shops 222
N.12. Frequency with which Patrons Drive to the Coffee Shop: Data
from Coffee Shops Combined 223
N.13. Frequency with which Patrons Walk to the Coffee Shop: Data from
Individual Coffee Shops 223
N.14. Frequency with which Patrons Walk to the Coffee Shop: Data from
Coffee Shops Combined 223
N.15. Frequency with which Patrons Use Outside Seating: Data from
Individual Coffee Shops 224
N.16. Frequency with which Patrons Use Outside Seating: Data from
Coffee Shops Combined 224
N.17. Frequency with which Patrons Have Enough Light to Read:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 225
N.18. Frequency with which Patrons Have Enough Light to Read:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 225
N.19. Frequency with which Patrons Find the Music Appealing:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 226
N.20. Frequency with which Patrons Find the Music Appealing:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 226
viii
N.21. Frequency with which Patrons Find Acoustics Appealing:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 227
N.22. Frequency with which Patrons Find Acoustics Appealing:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 227
N.23. Frequency with which Patrons Find the Aroma Appealing:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 227
N.24. Frequency with which Patrons Find the Aroma Appealing:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 228
N.25. Coffee Shop is Clean: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 228
N.26. Coffee Shop is Clean: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 228
N.27. Visual Appeal of Coffee Shop: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 229
N.28. Visual Appeal of Coffee Shop: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 229
N.29. Comfort of Furniture: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 230
N.30. Comfort of Furniture: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 230
N.31. Appeal of Colors: Data from Coffee Shops 231
N.32. Appeal of Colors: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 231
N.33. Appeal of Décor: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 232
N.34. Appeal of Décor: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 232
N.35. Socialize with Patrons: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 233
N.36. Socialize with Patrons: Coffee Shops Combined 233
N.37. Socialize with Staff: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 234
N.38. Socialize with Staff: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 234
N.39. Participate in Group Meetings Organized by the Coffee Shop:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 235
N.40. Participate in Group Meetings Organized by the Coffee Shop:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 235
ix
N.41. Participate in Group Meetings Organized by Self:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 236
N.42. Participate in Group Meetings Organized by Self:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 236
N.43. Enjoy People Watching: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 237
N.44. Enjoy People Watching: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 237
N.45. Hear Interesting Conversation: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 238
N.46. Hear Interesting Conversation: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 238
N.47. Smoke at Coffee Shop: Data from Individual Coffee Shops 239
N.48. Smoke at Coffee Shop: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 239
N.49. Ideal Coffee Shop- Opportunity to Drive: Data from Individual
Coffee Shops 240
N.50. Ideal Coffee Shop-Opportunity to Drive: Data from Coffee Shops
Combined 240
N.51. Ideal Coffee Shop-Opportunity to Walk: Data from Individual
Coffee Shops 241
N.52. Ideal Coffee Shop-Opportunity to Walk: Data from Coffee Shops
Combined 241
N.53. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Outside Sitting Area: Data from
Individual Coffee Shops 242
N.54. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Outside Sitting Area: Data from
Coffee Shops Combined 242
N.55. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of View to Outside: Data from
Individual Coffee Shops 243
N.56. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of View to Outside: Data from
Coffee Shops Combined 243
N.57. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Adequate Lighting: Data from
Individual Coffee Shops 244
N.58. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Adequate Lighting: Data from
x
Coffee Shops Combined 244
N.59. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Appealing Music: Data from
Individual Coffee Shops 245
N.60. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Appealing Music: Data from
Coffee Shops Combined 245
N.61. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Bulletin Board: Data from
Individual Coffee Shops 246
N.62. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Bulletin Board: Data from
Coffee Shops Combined 246
N.63. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Comfortable Furniture:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 247
N.64. Ideal Coffee Shop-Availability of Comfortable Furniture:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 247
N.65. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Overall Visual Appeal:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 248
N.66. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Overall Visual Appeal:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 248
N.67. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Visually Appealing Colors:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 249
N.68. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Visually Appealing Colors:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 249
N.69. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of Visually Appealing Décor:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 250
N.70. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of Visually Appealing Décor:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 250
N.71. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Appealing Acoustics:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 251
N.72. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Appealing Acoustics:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 251
N.73. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of Access to Natural Light:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 252
xi
N.74. Ideal Coffee Shop-importance of Access to Natural Light:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 252
N.75. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of a Clean Shop:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 253
N.76. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of a Clean Shop:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 253
N.77. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of Appealing Aroma:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 254
N.78. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of Appealing Aroma:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 254
N.79. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of Socialize with Patrons:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 255
N.80. Ideal Coffee Shop-Importance of Socialize with Patrons:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 255
N.81. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Socializing with Staff:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 256
N.82. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Socializing with Staff:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 256
N.83. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Participating in Group Gatherings:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 257
N.84. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Participating in Group Gatherings:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 257
N.85. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Ability to Purchase Food:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 258
N.86. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Ability to Purchase Food:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 258
N.87. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Ability to Purchase Beverages:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 259
N.88. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Ability to Purchase Beverages:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 259
N.89. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Ability to People Watch:
xii
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 260
N.90. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Ability to People Watch:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 260
N.91. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Hearing Interesting Conversation:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 261
N.92. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Hearing Interesting Conversation:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 261
N.93. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Opportunity to Smoke:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 262
N.94. Ideal Coffee Shop- Importance of Opportunity to Smoke:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 262
N.95. Patron Responses Toward Feeling Part of Community:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 263
N.96. Patron Responses Toward Feeling Part of the Community:
Coffee Shops Combined 263
N.97. Patron Responses Regarding Feeling Happy in Tallahassee:
Data from Individual Coffee Shops 264
N.98. Patron Responses Toward Feeling Happy in Tallahassee:
Data from Coffee Shops Combined 264
O.99. Descriptive Survey Results: Aristotle’s 265
O.100. Descriptive Survey Results: Black Dog 268
O.101. Descriptive Survey Results: Borders 270
O.102. Descriptive Survey Results: Data from Coffee Shops Combined 272
xiii
LIST OF FIGURES
4.1. View of the Outside of Aristotle’s 62
4.2. Front of the American Legion Hall 64
4.3. Deck of the Black Dog Café 64
4.4. Exterior of Borders Bookstore and Coffee Shop 65
4.5. View of the Outdoor Seating Area at Borders 66
4.6. Floor Plan of Aristotle’s Coffee Garage as Drawn in May of 2003 77
4.7. View of Aristotle’s Lower Level Looking at Lower Entrance and
Garage Door Window 78
4.8. View of Upper Level of Aristotle’s With Study Bench and High Tables 79
4.9. View of Chalkboard Tables at Aristotle’s 80
4.10. Favorite Seats at Aristotle’s in May of 2003 81
4.11. Access to Black Dog via the Ramp to the Deck 81
4.12. Access to Black Dog via the West Entry Door 82
4.13. View of the West Side of the Black Dog Including Veterans Museum 83
4.14. View of the West Side of Black Dog Including Piano and Toy Box 84
4.15. Favorite Seats Inside Black Dog During Summer 2003 85
4.16. Floor Plan of Borders as Drawn in July of 2003 86
4.17. Two-person Tables and Chairs at Borders 87
4.18. Favorite Seats at Borders Coffee Shop in July of 2003 88
4.19. View of Lower Level of Aristotle’s Looking at Service Area 92
xiv
4.20. American Legion Veteran’s Museum 93
4.21. Black Dog Counter with Christmas Lights 93
4.22. View of Seats Along the Windows at Black Dog 93
4.23. View of the Coffee Bar and Service Area at Borders 95
5.1. View of the Outside of Aristotle’s with Large Windows on Left 143
5.2. Outside Seating at Aristotle’s and View of Parking Lot 144
5.3. View from Black Dog Deck 144
5.4. View of Borders Outside Seating Area 145
5.5. Favorite Seats at Aristotle’s 147
5.6. Favorite Seats at Black Dog 149
5.7. Favorite Seats at Borders 150
xv
ABSTRACT
This study was an exploration of the physical and social characteristics that
encourage gathering behavior in selected coffee shops in Tallahassee, Florida, in the
context of literature suggesting social gathering places contribute to the social capital
enhancing community. Gathering places enhancing community in this manner have been
called third places. In that context, the coffee shops’ contribution to feelings of
attachment to community was examined as well. The study was qualitative in nature and
included the techniques of visual documentation, observation and behavioral mapping,
interview, and survey. Photographs were taken of each coffee shop, and an inventory
was made of all furniture, equipment, and any significant architectural features. Floor
plans were drawn for each of the three coffee shops and detailed observations and
behavioral mapping were recorded on the floor plans as well as in field notes. Each
coffee shop was observed for twenty-five hours for a total of seventy-five hours. Fifteen
interviews were conducted to better understand how patrons felt about the coffee shop
and the meaning these places held for them. Surveys were distributed to 94 patrons to
reveal patron attitudes toward the physical and social aspects of the coffee shop as well as
their feelings regarding the community in which they live.
The data was coded and four categories emerged: physical characteristics, people,
activities, and feelings and attitudes. The key findings regarding the physical
characteristics included patron’s top five design considerations in the ideal coffee shop.
These characteristics, presented in order of preference included: cleanliness, appealing
aroma, adequate lighting, comfortable furniture, and a view to the outside.
Other themes emerged related to people, their activities, and their feelings and
attitudes regarding the coffee shop. Each coffee shop was found to have its’ own unique
social climate and culture related to sense of belonging, territoriality and ownership,
productivity and personal growth, opportunity for socialization, support and networking,
and sense of community. Regarding feelings of community, survey findings from coffee
shops patrons showed a positive correlation between length of patronage and their sense
xvi
of attachment to their community. In addition, feeling attached to the community was
positively correlated to their happiness with living in Tallahassee.
xvii
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
“Places have an impact on our sense of self, our sense of safety, the kind
of work we get done, the ways we interact with other people, even our
ability to function as citizens in a democracy. In short, the places where
we spend time affect the people we are and can become” (Hiss, 1990, p.
xi).
As an interior designer, I am concerned with the design of the built environment
and how those environments impact the people who live, work, and play there. My
primary research interests at this time include those relating to human behavior and the
built environment. I believe in the value of place in enhancing life experiences and in the
power of design to create opportunities for gathering and interaction. Research in this
area can assist designers of the built environment in creating more human-centered
design.
Much has been written in the last twenty years on the concept of a sense of place.
Sense of place is a term used to describe a place of special significance or meaning (Bott,
2000). The experience of place is unique to each individual and is directly related to his
or her lived experiences. Attachment to a place is a set of feelings that emotionally binds
us to that place. “Places root us—to the earth, to our own history and memories, to our
families and larger community” (Cooper-Marcus & Francis, 1998, p. xi). Understanding
the concept of place provides an important framework for understanding the way people
form relationships with places.
When relationships develop between people and places, the result is often a
feeling of place attachment. Low (1992) stated, “Place attachment is the symbolic
relationship formed by people giving culturally shared emotional/affective meanings to a
1
particular space or piece of land that provides the basis for the individual’s and group’s
understanding of and relation to the environment” (p. 165). Proshansky, Fabian, and
Kaminoff (1983) stated that place attachment involves the interplay of emotions,
knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors in reference to a place. Relph (1976) believed that to
be inside a place is to belong and identify with it. Place attachment typically occurs after
people have long or intense experiences with a place and the place acquires great
personal meaning (Gifford, 2002). People may become attached to objects, homes,
buildings, communities, or natural settings.
Social relationships may enhance the activity of people-place bonding. A number
of scholars indicate that bonding with places may be based on the incorporation of
people. The social involvement of family, friends, community, and culture may be
equally, or more important, than place alone (Cooper-Marcus, 1992). Altman and Low
(1992) pointed out the importance of people in the statement “places are therefore,
repositories and context within which interpersonal, community, and cultural
relationships occur, and it is to those social relationships, not just place qua place, to
which people are attached” (p. 7).
Many scholars and social commentators have been concerned that there is a
decreasing ability of people to connect with their communities and the people who live
among them (Fleming and Von Tscharner, 1987; Lippard, 1997; Putnam, 2000: Stumpf,
1998). In Bowling Alone, which addressed the collapse and revival of American
community, Putnam (2000) discussed the increasing disconnect from family, friends,
neighbors, and social structure. He reviewed the concept of social capital, which he
defined as “the connections among individuals—social networks and the norms of
reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them” (p. 19). He further stated that the
decrease in community activity and community sharing results in the shrinking of social
capital which threatens our civic and personal health. There are many potential causes
for the loss of social capital. Stumpf (1998) questioned the American tendency in the last
fifty years to relocate and asked, “Can a civil society take root in the midst of constant
mobility and change” (p. 111). Gifford (2002) believed the more mobile a society
becomes, the less likely place attachment becomes. He said, “The price we pay for
placelessness has not yet been computed” (p. 273).
2
Fleming and Von Tscharner (1987) discussed a similar concern in their book
Placemakers, when they expressed concern that Americans are suffering from a severe
case of placelessness. One place looks just like all the others with no special features or
attributes to bind people to these places, resulting in cities and towns that are less livable.
Researchers in the field of environment and behavior studies, and the engineers,
architects, planners, and designers who use their research are motivated by the conviction
that they can create space and buildings that are more humane and improve the way
people interact with the built environment. What physical characteristics help people
bond to a place and develop a sense of place attachment?
There are several trends that have emerged in the last twenty years that address
some of the concerns of placelessness and lack of place attachment. One of those trends
is New Urbanism (Mohney & Easterling, 1991). The major principles of New Urbanism
include the reintegration of housing, workplaces, shopping, and recreation into a
community in a scale that allows pedestrians to easily walk and perform daily tasks
(Congress for New Urbanism, 2002). New Urbanists believe neighbors are people who
are acquainted with each other and the design of the community should facilitate these
acquaintances and allow for interaction. One of the most important features of a New
Urbanist community is the town center, which should include a public square or green for
gathering. This center provides a place for people to meet and interact. Although debate
is still ongoing regarding the ultimate success or failure of New Urbanist communities,
the public seems to be very interested in the concept of designing to create a sense of
community.
In The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1999) expressed concern that
neighborhood gathering places are disappearing. Oldenburg calls these places third
places. He said these places can be defined as places other than home or work that get us
through the day. “The third place is a generic designation for a great variety of public
places that host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of
individuals beyond the realms of home and work” (Oldenburg, 1999, p. 16). Third places
provide a place to connect with the people of our communities as well as a place to
exchange ideas and news.
3
Framed by the literature presented, the primary issue guiding this study is how to
create spaces that encourage rather than discourage human contact. As an interior
designer, I am concerned with the design of the built environment and my focus is design
related. However, I recognize that there are social, as well as physical, components that
must be explored to fully understand the person-place relationship.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to see what qualities, both physical and social,
encourage people to gather at selected coffee shops. I want to know if, as I suspected
from initial examination, that these places are third places, and, if so, what makes them
third places.
Justification of the Study
Numerous studies have been done on place attachment. These include, but are
not limited to studies on landscape preferences (Riley, 1992; Kaplan, S., 1987; Tuan,
1980), attachment to possessions (Belk, 1992), childhood memories (Chawla, 1992;
Boschetti, 1987; Cooper-Marcus, 1992), workplace attachment (Ahrentzen, 1992; Miller
& Yust, 2001), attachment to place by the elderly (Eshelman & Evans, 2002; Rubinstein
& Parmelee, 1992), attachment to schools (Crumpacker, 1993), attachment to community
(Low, 1992; Hummon, 1992; Feldman, 1990; Unger & Wandersman, 1985; Pellow,
1992), and disruptions in place attachment (Brown & Perkins, 1992). However, most of
these studies focus on the value of place and the phenomenon of place attachment as a
viable emotion. Low and Altman (1992) suggested the research done on place
attachment through the early 1990s focused only on the presence of a phenomenon of
place attachment. They reported that place attachment was treated as if there was a
“consensus about its meanings, scope, and underlying dynamics” (p. 3). In 1992, Low
and Altman felt the time was ripe for a second stage research on place attachment in
which the phenomenon is described with greater rigor and “scholars explore the diversity
of meanings as a basis for subsequent research and application to environmental design”
(p. 3).
4
This study will explore how, or if, the design attributes of places contribute to
people’s attachment to them, as well as how social interaction may be facilitated in those
spaces. The findings from this study may be of value in understanding what qualities
constitute third places, why they are significant to people, and how they may be fostered
in other like situations toward the goal of building a sense of community and enhancing
the social capital of communities.
Research Questions
The primary research question providing focus for this study is: What are the
social and physical qualities that encourage people to gather at three popular coffee
shops in Tallahassee, Florida, and in that context do these shops exhibit the qualities of
third places?
To answer this question, several supporting questions must be asked. As
represented by the participant’s responses and by the observations of the researcher:
1. What characteristics and design features attract people and cause them to feel
attachment to these places?
2. What social interactions or human contacts attract people and cause them to feel
attachment to these places?
3. What meanings do these places hold for the people who visit?
4. What benefits do people perceive from visiting these places?
5. Do these three coffee shops exhibit the qualities of third places?
6. What are the implications for designing community-gathering places?
Research Procedures Framed as Objectives for the Study
The procedures of the study framed as objectives are to:
1. Critically review the current literature on the concept of place attachment and
community design to establish a framework for the study.
2. Critically review the current literature on research methods to establish a
conceptual framework and a practical research strategy for this study.
3. Develop and implement the research using visual documentation, observation,
survey, and interview strategies.
5
4. Analyze, interpret, and evaluate the findings in relation to the purposes of this
study.
5. Draw implications for community-centered design generated from this
examination of places.
Assumptions and Limitations
This study is qualitatively based field research that relies on my own sensibility as
the researcher as the primary instrument for discerning and making sense of information.
The results have been seen by my eyes and filtered by my thoughts and feelings. I have
observed the environments in question for meaning in relation to the questions I asked.
As a check on my own observations I have asked patrons and selected stakeholders about
their observations in relation to my questions both in a survey, through open-ended
interviews, and conversations. It can be assumed that the results of this study have
implications for other like situations and for community design. Nevertheless,
generalizability is neither possible nor sought. Instead, this study will provide rich
description of these places, discussion of how events transpire and how patrons interact
with and in the spaces, and then interpretation and meaning making regarding the use of
these places.
The study will include observations and interviews. One of the major advantages
of doing interviews and observations is that they capture the richness of the patron’s
experience of place and the meaning these places hold for them (Eisner, 1998). It will be
assumed that those interviewed will answer questions truthfully and to the best of their
ability. It will also be assumed that observations will accurately represent the actual
activity that occurs in the spaces as well as the physical attributes of the spaces.
Definitions
Arousal: A measure of how an environment stimulates our perceptions or excites us. In
general, arousing environments are those that are complex, providing high volumes of
information to all the sense at once. (Mehrabian & Russell, 1974).
6
Behavioral Settings: Small ecological units enclosing everyday behavior. Behavioral
settings include both the social rules and the physical-spatial aspects of our daily lives
(Gifford, 2002)
Built Environment: Physical structures that have been created by people.
Campers: People who come into a coffee shop and spend hours usually studying or
reading.
Cognitive Affordances: The functional qualities of environments that help us to meet
important goals.
Containment: “Refers to a space’s ability to gather people and/or objects.” (Rengel, 2003)
Environment: In the context of this study, environment means built settings such as
homes, offices, schools and streets (Gifford, 2002).
Environment and Behavior Studies: A field of study exploring how the design of the built
environment impacts people and their quality of life.
Environmental Appraisal: “Refers to an individual’s personal impressions of a setting”
(Gifford, 2002, p. 57).
Environmental Assessment: “Refers to the combining of ratings by several observers
(usually experts or setting users) into a broader-based judgment of an environment”
(Gifford, 2002, p. 57).
Environmental Attitude: “An individual’s concern for the physical environment as
something that is worthy of protection, understanding, or enhancement” (Gifford, 2002,
p. 57)
Environmental Competence: When a person knows what to do and how to behave in
relation to the physical setting as dictated by his or her understanding of it (Proshansky,
et al., 1983).
Environmental Control: When a person has the ability to change the setting, the behavior
of others, or his or her own behavior (Proshansky et al., 1983).
Environmental Trust: A measure of the individual’s tendency to feel secure in potentially
threatening environments (McKechnie as cited in Gifford, 2002)
Environmental Psychology: The study of transactions between individuals and their
physical settings. It includes theory, research and practice aimed at making buildings
7
more humane and improving our relationship with the natural environment (Gifford,
2002).
Environmental Psychologists: They recognize two related goals: to understand personal-
environment transactions and use this knowledge to help solve a wide variety of
problems (Gifford, 2002).
Environmental Understanding: Knowing a physical setting, being able to detect changes
in it and to grasp what has to be done about changing it (Proshansky et al., 1983).
Place Attachment: The bonding of people to places. The environmental settings to which
people are emotionally and culturally attached (Altman & Low, 1992).
Social Capital: “Refers to the connections among individuals—social networks and the
norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them” (Putnam, 2000, p. 19).
Territoriality: “Is a pattern of behavior and attitudes held by an individual or group that is
based on perceived, attempted, or actual control of a definable physical space, object, or
idea that may involve habitual occupation, defense, personalization, and marking of it”
(Gifford, 2002, p. 150).
Third Place: “The core settings of informal public life. The third place is a generic
designation for a great variety of public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal,
and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realm of home and work”
(Oldenburg, 1999, p. 16).
Summary
This study will explore coffee shops where people gather, the social and physical
qualities that attract people to these places, and the contribution these places make to the
community. The guiding question is: what social and physical design qualities encourage
people to gather at three popular coffee shops in Tallahassee, Florida, and in that context
do these shops exhibit the qualities of third places? In this chapter I have discussed
several key research studies on sense of place, place attachment, placelessness, social
capital, and third places. In addition, I have outlined the purpose of the study, the
primary and secondary research questions, and the assumptions and limitations. In the
next chapter I will review the related literature in depth.
8
CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Introduction
Researchers in the field of environment and behavior studies explore how the
design of the built environment impacts people and their quality of life (Scott, 1989).
One of the most important goals of an architect or interior designer is to create a good fit
between people and their physical settings. To accomplish this goal, those creating the
space must understand the behavior of people in various environments. Creating an
environment that is functional and visually satisfying, one that fosters a positive attitude
and is likely to contribute to feelings of pleasure and well-being requires knowledge and
experience.
Many scholars believe that human and environment interactions are transactional,
with the individual influencing the environment while, at the same time, the environment
impacts the individual (Gifford, 2002). Both the individual and the environment make a
contribution to the experience. The art of creating successfully designed spaces takes an
understanding of human needs and behavior along with the skills needed to execute the
design of a space (Thomas, 1996). To create spaces that encourage gathering requires an
understanding of why people gather, the benefits gathering offers them, and what design
elements in the built environment support the gathering of people. Oldenburg (1999)
expressed concern about the lack of connection between people in many communities.
His concern focuses primarily on the loss of gathering places, places he calls third places,
which are not work or home, but provide places for casual socialization and gathering.
He worried that neighborhoods are not equipped to meet the needs that allow families or
individuals to stay in one place through a full life cycle. There is no attachment to
communities and no reason to put down roots; places are too easy to leave behind.
Stumpf (1998) wrote about the value of staying put. He expressed hope that the attitudes
9
of Americans are changing in regard to communities. He said, “Culturally, America is
trying to stay put and is consequently changing slowly and for the better. By staying put,
populations are investing in their communities not only with cultural meaning, but also
with a modicum of economic stability” (p. 114). He concluded by asking, “How can
anything grow without putting down roots” (p. 115)? The link between designing well
built spaces in which community members can gather, and feelings of attachment and
connection to community is worth investigating.
Background Information
This review of literature will explore the existing research on the concept of place
and place attachment, as well as the human-environment interaction that occurs in spaces.
By better understanding the dynamics of the interaction between people and the
environment, architects and designers can do a better job of creating spaces that fit the
needs of those who use them. Articles selected for this review of literature include those
covering environment and behavior studies, environmental perception, environmental
assessment, place-identity, place attachment, community building, gathering places,
hospitality design, and social capital. The review of literature will be organized into the
following headings: (a) search techniques, (b) environmental perception, (c) personal
impressions of places, (d) environment and behavior, (e) place attachment, (f) place-
identity, (g) personality and place, (h) design features, (i) communities and
neighborhoods, (j) third places, (k) the history and role of coffee shops, and (l) a
summary.
Search Techniques
Many sources of research and literature were sought for this review. They include
dissertations, research articles, textbooks, conference proceedings, and various secondary
sources that proved to be useful. Both manual and computer searches were helpful in
finding articles. Computer databases that were particularly useful in the search included
Dissertation Abstracts, Avery Architectural Index, Eric, Psych Info, Ingenta, and
WebLuis. Keywords that gave the best results (often used in combination) include
architecture, interior design, place, place attachment, sense of place, psychology, and
10
aesthetic preference. A manual search also worked well in finding articles. The last
fifteen years of the journals Environment and Behavior and the Journal of Interior
Design (formerly Journal of Interior Design Education and Research) were searched
manually yielding many appropriate articles.
Environmental Perception
The study of environment and behavior begins with the basic process of
perceiving the environment. Perception involves the gathering of information as well as
the assessment of the environment (Gifford, 2002). Gifford and Ng (1982) stated that
people are primarily visual beings and perception of the environment involves all of the
senses. People come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures and will not all perceive
the environment the same way. They come to a place with attitudes and past experience
that influence what they will experience in a given place and time. In addition, there will
be variability in perception due to differences in sight or hearing that may limit or alter
perception (Coren, Porac, & Ward, 1984). Individual characteristics such as gender,
education, prior experience with a setting, and preferences for a setting all affect
perception (Nasar, Valencia, Abidin, Chuech, & Hwang, 1985). For example, people
raised in cities, with a higher frequency of straight lines and rectangular objects will have
different perceptual experiences than those raised in rural, uncarpentered settings, where
rounded lines characterize the landscape and layout of houses (Coren et al.).
Perception of a space is also influenced by the physical features in the built
environment (Gifford, 2002). Research by Theil, Harrison, and Alden (1986) showed
that in rooms described as enclosed, the walls, ceilings, and floors make different
contributions to feelings of enclosure. In their study, the ceiling was judged to be the
most enclosing, and the floor the least, with walls ranked in the middle. Sadalla and
Oxley (1984) found that the way people perceive rooms may influence feelings of
crowding, status, confinement, and other important aspects of a space. In their
exploratory study, rooms that were more rectangular were perceived as larger than rooms
with configurations closer to a square. The researchers suggest that rectangular rooms
may be seen as less limiting than square rooms because they allow occupants of the room
to place themselves at greater interpersonal distances.
11
Color is another factor that can be perceived differently by people in various
situations. Colors appear differently when viewed by themselves versus in combination
with other colors and features in a space (Lloyd, 1989). In addition, colors appear
differently under different lighting conditions. The warm light of an incandescent light
will reflect color differently than a cool fluorescent light.
Personal Impressions of Places
People tend to develop feelings about places and attach meaning to those place
experiences. Gifford (2002) listed six different kinds of personal impressions in making
an appraisal of a space: descriptions, evaluations, judgments of beauty, emotional
reactions, meanings, and risk or safety. These environmental appraisals may overlap
occasionally, but are distinct in concept. The personal assessment of a place, whether
positive or negative, is influenced by a person’s background. Social class, gender, age,
mood, and educational level all influence personal impressions of places as well. In
addition, the person’s intentions while they are in the setting also influence their
assessment of the place.
The term sense of place refers to the transaction between people and place (Hay,
1998). There are different reactions and foundations for these reactions. A tourist or
transient visitor may experience a sense of place on a superficial level seeing only some
of the place for a short period of time. Long-term visitors are able to spend more time in
the space and experience a partial level of the sense of place. Immigrants experience a
personal level of place, while those at the cultural level experience that place as an
integral part of their entire society.
It is interesting to note that numerous studies have shown that the design
preference of architects and designers differ from that of the general public (Duffy, Baily,
Beck, & Barker, 1986). Some studies have explored why architect’s preferences differ
and what specific features of the design of the built environment influence their
preference (Gifford, Hine, Muller-Clemm, & Shaw, 2001). Delvin and Nasar (1989)
found that houses designed by architects tend to be more novel and coherent than non-
architect designed houses. Architects, likely influenced by their training, prefer more
unusual housing forms while non-architects prefer more typical house designs. In a
12
related study, when various nursing homes designs were evaluated, administrators and
designers preferred plans that encouraged social interaction, while residents preferred
plans that allowed for privacy (Duffy et al.). This discrepancy raises the question, if
designers and administrators make most of the design decisions, are the needs of the
residents considered?
Frewald (1990), found that people preferred building facades that referenced the
past, had detailed, curved, decorated, grooved, or three-dimensional surfaces.
Characteristics that were favored by participants also included spaces that might provide
shelter or additional spaces to explore. Herzog and Gale (1996) found preferences for
older buildings over contemporary buildings when the older buildings had been cared for.
When buildings were not cared for, the opposite was true with more contemporary
buildings being preferred. The study highlighted the impact of building age and the care
of both the building and the landscape on building preference. Another study by Nasar
and Hong (1999) found people prefer streets with trees and vegetation, but dislike streets
with obtrusive signs. Research on signs by Nasar (1987) introduced three properties for
evaluating spaces: complexity, which included the amount of detail and design elements,
coherence, the degree to which a scene appears ordered, and novelty, the uniqueness of a
place’s appearance. Nasar’s study found people preferred moderately complex and
highly coherent signs. In another study by Nasar (1994), he explored the abstract
qualities involved in the evaluation of the environment and listed three kinds of qualities:
formal, symbolic, and schemas. The formal qualities involve the complexity and order of
the design. The symbolic qualities are shown in the style. Schema refers to how usual or
unusual the design is. His research showed that a building considered pleasant to many
people would often include elements that are orderly, moderate in complexity, and
include familiar styles. Buildings considered exciting had designs that were atypical,
complex, and low in orderliness. Therefore, preferences may be explained in more
concrete measures such as number of windows in a room, or more abstract terms such as
complexity and coherence.
Steven and Rachel Kaplan have conducted studies on landscape preferences
(Kaplan & Kaplan, 1982; Kaplan, 1987). They suggested that preferences for settings
come from our past, specifically the evolutionary past of our species. Their research also
13
showed that people form preferences very quickly after relatively short exposure to new
settings. Their research suggested people prefer settings that allow them to accomplish
essential goals such as safety and finding food or shelter. The Kaplans believed that
people need to make sense of their environment and prefer environments that are clear
and allow the environment to be understood. They developed a preference framework
that includes the following categories: (a) coherence, which allows the viewer to make
sense of the environment, (b) complexity, which involves the viewer, and (c) legibility,
which allows the viewer to make sense after exploring, and (d) mystery, which allows the
viewer to learn more as he or she becomes more involved in the environment. Many
other researchers have begun to use mystery and complexity as indicators of preferences
in various environmental assessments (Herzog & Smith, 1988; Scott, 1993; Kaplan,
Kaplan, & Brown, 1989; Herzog & Miller, 1998). Scott (1989) examined the
relationship between visual attributes of the interior environment and preference. She
found that spaces that had a sense of mystery were rated higher than those without. The
Kaplans also stressed familiarity as an important component of preference (Kaplan &
Kaplan, 1982). Their research showed that new places might seem dangerous to the
viewers unfamiliar with a space. However, once the viewer has made sense of the space,
preferences may decline as mystery declines.
Paul Oliver (1987) has observed that the meaning attached to architecture varies
across cultures. Some cultures value detail and ornamentation on their buildings, while
other prefer simpler styles. He also raised the issue of whether attachment to place is
intensified during times of cross-cultural contact and cultural change. Riley, (1992)
wrote about attachment to landscape, but the lessons can be carried over into the built
environment. He pointed out that the change in North America from folk culture to
popular culture has had an impact on place attachment. Folk culture involves forms that
vary over space and regions, are inspired by tradition, and are typically created by people.
Mass cultural forms vary over time, are shaped by the media, and are made for people,
rather than by them. He emphasized the difference in what he calls the “ordinary” or
“common” landscape which reference the shared values of a culture. Riley speculated
that folk landscape may offer a sense of security, permanence, and the ability to return to
the same place because of the slower pace in which changes take place.
14
Environment and Behavior
The way we interact with the environment can be influenced by a number of
things including factors involving our personal space, how we define territories, feelings
of crowding, and the need for privacy. Personal space is defined by the individual and
involves a portable territory that goes with the person. Everyone is surrounded on all
sides by personal space and the size of the space varies from person to person and is
dependent on the situation (Sommer, 1969). This personal space is a function of many
things, including gender, personality, mental health and age (Gifford, 2002). When
individuals find themselves in a social situation, other factors come into play that may
influence how they alter access to their space as they interact with others.
The physical setting can also have an impact on how people control their personal
space. Hall (1959) discussed the messages that people send, through their body language
and use of space, that inform others of relationships between people or territories that
they have claimed. Adams and Zuckerman (1991) found that close distances were more
uncomfortable for people when lights were dim. In studies on ceiling height, men were
found to need more space than women, especially when the ceiling height was low
(Savinar, 1975). Research has shown that men generally keep greater distances from
each other than women (Gifford, 1982). Daves and Swaffer (1971) found that
individuals were more likely to use spaces in the corners of the rooms rather than in the
center. In a study examining spatial use indoors and outdoors, Cochran, Hale, and
Hissam (1984) found that when people sat outside they allowed people to get physically
closer to them than when they were sitting inside. In general, it appears that when the
physical space is limited, people are less comfortable with people physically close than
when space is relatively unlimited.
Successful interaction with the built environment often requires defining and
establishing a territory. Gifford (2002) defined territoriality as, “a pattern of behavior
and attitudes held by an individual or group that is based on perceived, attempted, or
actual control of a definable space, object, or idea that may involve habitual occupation,
defense, personalization, and marking of it” (p. 150). One system of classifying
territories was defined by Altman (1975) and included: primary territories, which are
15
owned by individuals or groups; secondary territories, which might include places such
as a person’s desk at work; and public territories, places such as sidewalks, coffee shops,
or bars, which are open to virtually anyone. People often mark their territories with
objects or through body language (Gifford, 2002). Examples of marking territories
include leaving books or backpacks on a library table, or decorating work places with
pictures and mementos. Research on territoriality in dormitories by Mercer and
Benjamin (1980) found that males claim larger territories than females. The study
suggested that men are more territorial than women even before they leave college. In a
study on territoriality in neighborhoods, Taylor (1988) found that neighborhoods with
improved territorial functioning, residents were better able to identify their neighbors,
experienced fewer problems controlling territories, and felt more responsible for the
neighborhood spaces. Gifford (2002) recommends that “based on our list of human
behavior patterns that are linked to territoriality, designs for territoriality should attempt
to reduce aggression, increase control, and promote a sense of order and security” (p.
166).
Crowding can also be a factor influencing the way people interact with space.
Crowding refers to the way a person experiences the number of other people in a space.
Their feelings of crowding are influenced by personal, situational, and cultural factors
(Gifford, 2002). Responses differ, but some people may avoid eye contact or avoid
social interaction with others in a crowded situation. The physical setting also plays a
part in how crowded a space seems. Studies on dormitories showed that when the design
consisted of long corridors rather than short corridors or clusters of suites, residents
experienced greater feelings of crowding and stress (Baum, Aiello, & Calesnick, 1978).
Studies by Mandel, Baron, and Fisher (1980) found rooms that received more sunlight
were perceived as less crowded. Another study found that when people had to pass
through a number of spaces when going from room to room, a term they defined as
architectural depth, they experienced less psychological distress and social withdrawal.
These people had a place to get away. This concept is emphasized in the Not So Big
House Book by Sarah Susanka (1998). She emphasized that value of away rooms in
mediating feelings of crowding and distress. Furniture arrangements were also found to
play a role in the perception of crowding. When seats were arranged so they faced away
16
from each other, the room was rated as more crowded than when they were facing each
other (Werner, 1977). Osmond (1957) called the arrangements that faced each other and
facilitated social interaction sociopetal arrangements, while the arrangements that did not
encourage social interaction were called sociofugal.
All people need privacy to some extent, with some needing more than others
(Gifford, 2002). Privacy is related to issues of personal space, territoriality, as well as
crowding. The design of our homes, offices, and public spaces can enhance or detract
from our ability to get the privacy we need. Studies have shown that satisfaction with
privacy is a function of how much the design of the physical environment allows us to
control access to ourselves (Sundstrom, Town, Brown, Forman, & McGee, 1982;
Kupritz, 1998)). One study explored the kind of spaces that encourage people to talk and
reveal things about themselves (Chaikin, Derlega, & Miller, 1976). They found the
rooms perceived as “soft”, that were furnished with cushioned chairs, rugs, wall
decorations, and warm incandescent lighting were found to encourage more self-
disclosure than rooms perceived as “hard” with bare floors, hard chairs, and fluorescent
lighting. Archea (1977) emphasized the importance of the built environment in
controlling privacy. He believed the physical environment plays a huge role in the
information distribution process, how and when people communicate information about
themselves. His study showed the arrangement of the physical environment can
concentrate, diffuse, segregate, or localize information, thereby serving as a mediator to
privacy.
Place Attachment
Place attachment refers to the idea that people develop special bonds with certain
settings that hold deep meaning to the individual (Low & Altman, 1992). Place
attachment involves the bonding of people to places. “Place attachment emphasizes the
manner in which we personally construct our notions of place” (Gifford, 2002, p. 273).
The word “attachment” refers to affect while the word “place” refers to the
“environmental setting to which people are emotionally and culturally attached” (Low &
Altman, 1992, p.5). Affect, emotion, and feeling are central to the concept of place
attachment and appear consistently in studies on this topic. Relph (1976) believed that to
17
be “inside” a place is to belong and identify with it. Tuan (1980) suggested the existence
of a state of “rootedness” in which one’s personality merges with one’s place. He felt the
primary function of place is to engender a sense of belonging and attachment.
Proshansky et al. (1983) stated that place attachment involves the interplay of
emotions, knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors in reference to a place. Place attachment
typically occurs after people have long or intense experiences with a place and the place
acquires great personal meaning (Gifford, 2002). People may become attached to
objects, homes, buildings, communities, or natural settings. Rubinstein and Parmelee
(1992) stated “attachment to place is a set of feelings about a geographic location that
emotionally binds a person to that place as a function of its role as a setting for
experience” (p. 139).
Early researchers in environment and behavior studies were not particularly
interested in the concept of place attachment (Altman & Low, 1992). Past research
focused more on psychological approaches including cognitive functioning, and beliefs
and understanding of the environment. Prior to the 1970’s, interest in emotional and
cultural attachment to the physical environment was not particularly interesting to
researchers. Historically, researchers were more interested in the characteristics of
Western cultures that include migration and change, and emphasized how people adapt to
new situations. Comparisons across cultures were of greater interest than changes and
developments within cultures.
In the last twenty-five years, researchers have become more interested in issues
regarding personal space, territoriality, family and group use of space, crowding,
environmental meaning, and other related topics (Altman & Low, 1992). An increased
interest in the impact of culture on environmental preferences as well as interest in social
issues, such as designing for elderly and children, homelessness, relocation, mobility, and
community development have resulted in more research regarding these issues in
connection with environments. Human emotions as they relate to place have begun to
capture the attention of researchers and practitioners.
Riley (1992), in discussing attachment to landscape, asked ‘how important is
attachment to the landscape in the biological foundations of human experience” (p. 22)?
He questioned whether humans have the same needs as animals in regard to establishing
18
territories. He proposed the question of whether human behavior may best be defined as
strategies rather than instincts. He said, “if territorial behaviors and ‘attachments’ are
instinctive and immutable, then it is more likely that both individual and cultural
attachments are derived from them” (p. 23). Appleton (1975) said attachment to refuge is
basic, but is translated into culturally and individually favored forms. Riley added, “the
biological attachment is the foundation upon which cultural norms are based, and
individual attachments are, in turn, a subset of a culturally determined array” (p. 23).
Setha Low (1992) reviewed a number of studies on place attachment and
suggested that place attachment is established through a variety of cultural mechanisms.
She suggested six cultural means of transmission including genealogy, loss and
destruction, ownership, cosmology, pilgrimage, and narrative. Genealogy links persons
with places through the historical identification of a place with a family. Loss and
destruction may build or strengthen place attachment if places are lost. Cosmological
place refers to a culture’s religious and mythological views on person-place attachment.
For example, some cultures may see their home as the spiritual center of the world. A
religious or secular pilgrimage may be made to places that hold special meaning for
people. Narrative may be an important part of place for some people when stories
explain how people lived or answer questions.
Feldman (1990) found that 84% of a sample of employees in downtown Denver
identified themselves with a particular type of settlement. These settlements might
include the city neighborhood, suburban area, small town, or mountain, to name a few.
She referred to this tendency to identify with a particular area as settlement identity. She
concluded that people choose a type of settlement, such as city or suburb, that best fits
their identity and, although they may move, they typically move to a place that is similar
in settlement type.
In a related study, Newell (1997) explored the relationship between culture and
choice of favorite places. She asked participants from three different countries to identify
a valued or favorite place; specifically one they would like to save for posterity.
Participants were also asked to indicate the reason for their choice. The three countries
participating in the study all had the same top four choices in type of place. They
included places that helped people to relax, recharge, had ecological benefits, or
19
enhanced feelings of safety. Overall, there were many more similarities than differences
across cultures.
Place attachment is a “complex phenomenon that has many inseparable, integral,
and mutually defining features, qualities and properties” (Low & Altman, 1992, p.5). It
can be looked at in a transactional perspective where place attachment is not composed of
separate or independent parts, components, dimensions, or factors. The people and place
interact together to form the experience. It is important to remember that groups,
families, community members, and even entire cultures often collectively share
attachment to various places (Lawrence, 1992; Low, 1992, Hummon, 1992). Rubinstein
and Parmelee (1992) suggested that life experiences have an emotional quality that
produce a bond with the places in which these experiences occur.
It is important to note that the physical qualities are only one dimension of place
experience (Chawla, 1992). The importance of social relationships that occur in places
must not be overlooked. Social relationships may enhance the activity of people-place
bonding. A number of scholars indicate that bonding with places may be based on the
incorporation of people. The social involvement of family, friends, community, and
culture may be equally, or more important, than the place alone (Cooper-Marcus, 1992).
Altman and Low (1992) pointed out the importance of people in the statement, “places
are, therefore, repositories and contexts within which interpersonal, community, and
cultural relationships occur, and it is to those social relationships, not just place qua
place, to which people are attached” (p. 7). Crumpacker (1993) studied a school that had
served students for generations, but was scheduled to be torn down and replaced. Her
goal was to find what made the school so successful for so long. She found that the
school provided much more than an education to students. It provided a place to share
folklore, to establish relationships, to provide a web of support, and it served as a
repository of memories for the community. Students and teachers reported a sense of
belonging, of being known to others, and of ownership. Riley (1992) studied attachment
to landscape. He emphasized that attachment often comes from memories of nurturing
and loving relationships that occur in a setting, rather than physical setting itself. He
said, “we remember the landscapes where good things happened to us. The landscape is
20
part of the experience, it can become a symbol for that experience, but it is not the
primary event” (p. 19).
Cooper-Marcus (1992) had studied environmental memories from several
different angles, including the memories of design students, adults reproducing
significant childhood settings in their adult homes, and elderly recalling their significant
dwelling memories. In exploring these memories, she uncovered several themes. The
first was the theme of gaining control over a space in order to feel a positive sense of self-
identity. The second involved manipulating, molding, or decorating space in order to
create a setting of psychological comfort. The third theme included the issue of
continuity with significant places. Cooper-Marcus said, “if our sense of identity develops
and changes through our lives as a result of relationships with a variety of significant
people and places, then it makes sense that we might wish to echo those places in
dwellings we choose, and place mementos of such people within them” (p. 88). She
pointed out that feelings occur in spaces, thereby connecting those feelings with that
space in a way that is unique to each person. She emphasized her belief that the place-
person relationship is transactional rather than causal.
Chawla (1992) wrote about childhood place attachments and discussed the
importance of place as it relates to social attachments. “Place attachments can be
important because they contribute to the present quality of a child’s life, or because they
leave enduring effects after childhood is over” (p. 73). She added, ‘if we borrow the
criteria used to measure social attachments, we have the following provisional definition:
children are attached to a place when they show happiness at being in it and regret or
distress at leaving it, and when they value it not only for the satisfaction of physical
needs, but for its own intrinsic qualities” (p. 64). Through her work, Chawla (1992)
concluded that places provide three types of satisfaction: “security, social affiliation, and
creative expression and exploration” (p. 68). Chawla said that there is a major gap in
research to determine how children acquire the environmental values they express.
Specifically, what kinds of messages do children receive from social models and the
media “regarding the sort of places they should be attached to, and what factors influence
their interpretations” (p. 83)?
21
Time and change can also influence attachment to place (Altman & Low, 1992).
Several researchers have discussed the influence of temporal issues on people-place
bonding. Rubinstein and Parmelee (1992) studied elderly people residing in institutions
to explore the attachment to homes that reflect their adult lives and how those homes
impact favorably or unfavorably on their present living circumstances. They stated
“while attachment to place may be lived either currently or as part of memory, it exists
within the larger context of the events of the life course, how they are interpreted, and the
need to maintain a coherent sense of self over time” (p.139). The experiences and the
social interactions that occur in a space enable a person to attach meaning to the place.
Attachment to a place may mean attachment not only to the place, but also to the time in
life cycle that the place represents. However, the simple recognition of a place is not
enough to cause attachment. “Rather, place attachment is a more energized, compelling,
or vivid affectual state born of one’s linking significant life events, key developmental
themes, or identifying processes with a particular environment” (Rubinstein & Parmelee,
1992, p. 142). For elderly, an attachment to place is one way to keep the past alive as
well as maintaining self-identity, and protecting against change.
Place attachment serves a number of functions for people and their culture. Place
attachment has the potential to offer predictability in a daily routine, a place to relax from
the more formal roles of life, and the opportunity for control in various areas of life (Low
and Altman, 1992). It also provides the opportunity to link with friends and community
in a visible and concrete way. The connection to history and to culture may occur
through place or through symbols that are associated with places. “The place may,
therefore, be a medium or milieu which embeds and is a repository of a variety of life
experiences, is central to those experiences, and is inseparable from them” (p. 10).
Place Identity
Proshansky (1978) defined place identity as the individual’s incorporation of
place into the larger concept of self. Proshansky et al. (1983) suggested that one of the
important components in developing a sense of place attachment is place identity, which
can be seen as a substructure of self-identity. These authors stated that to develop a sense
of self, people must learn to distinguish themselves from others. They also felt that self-
22
identity is not just limited to distinguishing the self from others, but also from things and
the spaces in which things are found. The sense of self is defined by the relationship to
others and the various physical settings that are part of everyday life. Place identity is
defined by the cognitions people have about the physical world in which they live.
“These cognitions represent memories, ideas, feelings, attitudes, values, preferences, and
complexity of physical settings that define the day-to-day existence of every human
being” (p. 59). They suggested that place-identity should not be seen as a coherent and
integrated substructure of self-identity. It is best thought of as “a potpourri of memories,
conceptions, interpretations, ideas, and related feelings about specific physical settings as
well as types of settings” (p. 60). Place identity provides a sense of continuity, self-
esteem, self-efficacy, and a sense of distinctiveness (Twigger-Ross & Uzzell, 1996).
Hummon (1992), in his writing on community attachment, said that by researching place
and identity, people can better understand the way places are imbued with personal an
social meanings and that those places serve as an important sign or locus of self.
Relph (1976), felt that places can been seen as an integral part of the human
experience. He said, “there is for virtually everyone a deep association with and
consciousness of the places where we were born and grew up, where we live now, or
where we have had particularly moving experiences” (p. 60). Buttimer (1980)
emphasized the importance of balancing home and the “horizons of reach” and says it is
necessary for the maintenance of the self-identity and emotional well-being. Cooper
(1974), in her self-described “think piece” The house as a Symbol of Self stated, “it seems
as though the personal space bubble which we carry with us and which is an almost
tangible extension of our self expands to embrace the house we have designated as ours”
(p.131). She felt people tend to find solace and protection in spaces, particularly their
homes. People may see themselves as fragile and vulnerable and desire a house that is
“familiar, solid, inviolate, and unchanging” (p. 144). These environments give
information back to the person that reinforces their self-identity. French philosopher,
Gaston Bachelard (1964), author of The Poetics of Space, said, “the house shelters
daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace” (p.
6). He adds, “therefore, the places in which we have experienced daydreaming
reconstitute themselves in a new daydream, and it is because our memories of former
23
dwelling places are relived as daydreams that these dwelling places of the past remain in
us for all time” (p. 6).
One of the particularly interesting aspects of place identity is that at some point
our place experiences become memories. Proshansky et al. (1983) found our memories
tend to be thematic and stylized, similar to memories of our social situations. Once they
become part of our memory these place experiences are often modified and transformed
by cognitive processes and the ongoing experiences we continue to have with the
physical environment. For many, the physical setting may often seem more like a
backdrop to life than part of the actual experience. The person is likely more aware of
the people than the physical setting. Psychologists have traditionally paid more attention
to the impact of social roles on the development of self-identity. Proshansky et al. stated,
“the places and spaces a child grows up in, the spaces he or she comes to know, prefer,
and seek out or avoid also contribute significantly to self-identity” (p. 74). Rubinstein
and Parmelee (1992) stated, “while attachment to place may be lived either currently or
as part of memory, it exists within the larger context of the events of the life course, how
they are interpreted, and the need to maintain a coherent sense of self over time” (p. 139).
Most physical environments are also social environments with norms regarding
acceptable behavior. Many cultures clearly define how spaces are to be used. Spatial
meaning is culturally transmitted and is integrated into the place identity of the individual
through his or her experiences with the world (Proshansky et al., 1983). There are social
definitions of settings that consist of norms, behaviors, rules and regulations that define
the use of various spaces. These definitions are not universally shared, but are part of the
socialization process. People learn space and behavior norms early in life and develop
coping mechanisms for creating privacy and managing territories, personal space and
crowding. Even groups within a culture may attach different values and meaning to
spaces that define the unique qualities of their group.
Proshansky et al. (1983) introduced three important skills reflecting an
individual’s ability to successfully interact with the environment. The first skill,
environmental understanding, means knowing a physical setting, being able to detect
changes in it and to understand what has to be done about changing it. Environmental
competence, the second skill, reflects the person’s knowledge of how to behave in
24
relation to the physical setting. The last skill, environmental control, is the ability to
change either the setting, the behavior of those in the setting, or ones’ own behavior to
accommodate the situation. These skills allow the user of the space to reduce
discrepancies between place-identity and the physical environment, which might inhibit
their ability to use the space to the fullest.
It is important to remember that attachment to place and place-identity are
dynamic and influenced by changes in society, changes that occur in individuals in
various stages of life, and the changing social roles people may play throughout their
lives (Proshansky et al., 1983). These social roles are integrally tied to self-identity and
the roles and social attributes that define the person. Place identity will vary as a result of
the social roles and attributes that distinguish different groups in a culture. These roles
influence what people do, think, and believe and effect the preferences for spaces and the
way those spaces are used.
Personality and Place
Understanding personality is an elemental aspect in the journey to understanding
how people use spaces. There are a number reasons why personality is an integral part of
the study of environment and behavior. Gormly (1983) found evidence that the person’s
level of sociability can predict the kind of setting the person prefers. Juhasz and Paxson
(1978) found that personality type influences preference for various architectural styles.
They found a preference for highly controlled physical settings among people who felt a
strong ability to control their own fate. Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory sheds some light on
the subject of personality and space (Lewin, 1951). He proposed that the person exists
within the psychological environment, and that the person and the psychological
environment join together to form a life space. He described everything outside this life
space as foreign hull. The life space and the foreign hull are both permeable with the
person and the environment both exerting influence upon each other. Rubinstein and
Parmelee (1992), in discussing the notion of place in the lives of elderly, emphasis
Lewin’s Field Theory and stress the importance of the unique experiences of individuals,
and the role those experiences play in influencing the nature of interactions with and
interpretations of various spaces. They state, “attachment depends not only on the
25
characteristics of the place, but also upon personality, needs, life course concerns, and
one’s own interpretation of one’s life” p. 143)
McKechnie (1974) developed an Environmental Response Inventory (ERI),
which measured eight different concepts related to the interaction of people with the
environment. He proposed this assessment tool to learn how individuals think about and
relate to the everyday environment. The eight concepts include: 1) pastoralism- the
tendency to oppose land development, preserve open space, accept natural forces as
influences, and prefer self-sufficiency, 2) urbanism- the tendency to enjoy high-density
living and appreciate the varied interpersonal and cultural stimulation found in city life,
3) environmental adaptation- the tendency to favor the alteration of the environment to
suit human needs and desires, oppose development controls, and prefer highly refined
settings and objects, 4) stimulus seeking- the tendency to be interested in travel and
explorations, enjoy complex or intense physical sensations, and have very broad interests,
5) environmental trust- the tendency to be secure in the environment, be competent in
finding your way around, and be unafraid of new places or of being alone, 6)
antiquarianism- the tendency to enjoy historical places and things, prefer traditional
designs, collect more treasured possessions than most other individuals, and appreciate
the products of earlier eras, 7) need for privacy- the tendency to need isolation, not to
appreciate neighbors, avoid distraction, and seek solitude, and 8) mechanical orientation-
the tendency to enjoy technological and mechanical processes, enjoy working with your
hands, and care about how things work. This framework provides a new way to examine
environmental preferences. Many researchers have raised the question that there may
even be more dimensions of environmental personality and suggested further research in
this area (Gifford, 2002).
Several other measures of personality and environment interaction explore how
people handle environmental stimuli. Mehrabian (1969) developed an instrument to
measure the ability of people to screen or not screen out environmental stimuli.
Screeners are better able to deal with sound, texture, odor, or heat and better able to
overcome distractions, while non-screeners are less able to overcome the same
distractions.
26
Another researcher to develop an instrument to measure personality type in
relation to environment and behavior studies was Joseph Sonnenfeld (1969). Sonnenfeld
developed four concepts including environmental sensitivity, environmental mobility,
environmental control, and environmental risk-taking. Environmental sensitivity
measures the amount and complexity of the environment’s perceived impact on the self.
Environmental mobility measures the propensity to move about and to even migrate to
places. Environmental control measures how much individuals believe the environment
controls them, or they control the environment. Environmental risk taking looks at
whether a person is likely to take risks and if they are aware they are taking risks.
Sonnenfeld found some very interesting spatial preferences through research using the
categories listed above. Women and older adults scored lower on the environmental risk
indicator while younger men preferred risky and exotic places. People in creative
occupations were more likely to prefer exotic locations.
Behavior in, and attachment to, places varies from person to person (Riley, 1992).
However, researchers have played little attention to the individual variability. Tuan
(1971) suggested an inverse relationship between the psychological importance of the
environment and the ability of an individual to cope with it. For example, an elderly
person needs a more accommodating environment than a young, able-bodied person.
Design Features
Deasy (1985) reminded designers that modern life depends on cooperation
between individuals. The design of places should make cooperation, whether it involves
waiting for pedestrians in the crosswalk or holding the door for someone, easy and
convenient. Without design attributes that foster cooperation, people are “subject to
unnecessary friction and conflict” (p. 10). Deasy also believed that the opportunity to
make friends, and the concept of personal worthiness are directly affected by the design
of the environment.
Deasy (1985) listed eight recommendations that are important considerations
when designing environments. These consist of friendship formation and group
membership, which involves the ability of a place to contribute to the gathering and
interaction of people, and the creation of groups. He added the issue of territoriality,
27
which relates to feelings of belonging or assumed rights and privileges. He also included
personal space, which includes issues regarding access to personal space and the spacing
and separation we need when dealing with other people. Personal status is another
recommendation that employs various means by which we define ourselves.
Communication is also an aspect of design that Deasy felt should be considered. Design
can foster good communication through appropriate ambient conditions that support
interaction in various forms. People search for cues on the best way to navigate the
environment. Deasy called this cue searching and also recommends that this be included
in good human-centered design. Personal safety must also be considered. People should
be safe and feel they are safe if environments are to be successful.
Communities and Neighborhoods
Neighborhoods
The literature review turns now to communities, neighborhoods, and some of the
design features that shape them. Studies show that neighborhood satisfaction is related to
overall psychological well-being and satisfaction with life in general (Carp &
Christensen, 1986; Fried, 1982). There are a number of factors that influence satisfaction
in communities and neighborhoods including “personal, social, physical, and cultural
factors” (Gifford, 2002). Fried (1982) listed physical conditions, political climate,
convenience, and social relations as components of neighborhood satisfaction.
Satisfaction with communities and neighborhoods is also influenced by physical
characteristics. A study by Taylor (1982) found that lack of green space and physical
deterioration were related to neighborhood dissatisfaction. Not unexpected,
neighborhoods with trees, well-landscaped yards, and places to walk resulted in more
satisfied residents (Hull & Harvey, 1989). The design and physical shape of the
community is impacted by zoning and other laws that influence the types of buildings,
streets, and parks that are built (Gifford, 2002).
One dimension of the neighborhood can be defined by the boundaries. A study
by Guest and Lee (1984) found that most respondents could define a beginning and
ending of their neighborhood, although they might not all agree on the boundaries (Guest
& Lee, 1984). Rivlin (1982) described several types of neighborhoods. The first is the
28
integral neighborhood, which has much face-to-face interaction, cohesiveness gained
through neighborhood support of local interest and values, and participation in
organizations outside the neighborhood. The second is the parochial neighborhood,
which has fewer ties to outside organizations, is more inward directed, and may even
discourage participation in the community at large. The third type is the anomic
neighborhood, which has little face-to-face contact, little sense of identification, and few
contacts with the outside. Unger and Wandersman (1985) suggested a neighborhood
consists of three components: social interaction, symbolic interaction, and attachment to
people and places. Social interaction benefits a community because residents give
emotional support, supply one another with useful information, and help each other get
things done. Symbolic interaction, as used in the context of this reference, refers to
cognitions, such as cognitive maps of the neighborhood and status symbols. Although
status symbols are often thought of negatively, they provide a shared sense of meaning in
a neighborhood. Attachment refers to the emotional connection to a neighborhood.
There are a number of issues that contribute to attachment to community. Studies
show that when confidence about a neighborhood is high, the people who live there care
about the neighborhood, and are willing to stay and work to improve it (Varady, 1986).
People of different ages and backgrounds typically have different preferences. A study
by Regnier (1985) found that older people preferred outdoor places out of the sun where
they could sit and watch people. Families with children prefer access to green spaces
where kids can play (Michelson, 1977).
Can social ties influence attachment to community? Fried (1982) wrote for many
years about social ties as they relate to satisfaction in neighborhoods. His work with
Gleicher showed that residents relocated from older neighborhoods to newer, cleaner
housing, often grieved for their lost homes and neighborhoods (Fried & Gleicher, 1961).
Fried began his career writing about the value of social ties to neighborhood satisfaction,
but later, after conducting other studies, reported satisfaction had more to do with the
physical quality of a neighborhood. A study by Handal, Barling, and Morrissy (1981),
explored the social and physical features of neighborhoods and found that physical
features had more influence on satisfaction. This implies that social ties may not be as
important as they once were. Our social needs may be met at work, school, or other non-
29
neighborhood places (Gifford, 2002). Other studies seem to contradict this idea and
emphasize the important ingredient of social ties.
Research by Mesch and Manor (1998) found that attachment to place grew
through positive social interaction and the resident’s compatibility with the community.
Catrill (1998) found that attachment to place increased as the length of residency
increased. Other studies reveal that attachment is not necessarily reduced when the
neighborhood is in decay. Bonaituo, Aiello, Perugini, Bonnes, and Ercolani (1999)
speculated that this attachment to places that many people may see as run down, is due to
the quality of the social relations that occur there.
The architects and designers who create the buildings within communities may be
interested in knowing what physical features influence place attachment. Catrill (1998)
found access to nature was an important component of place attachment.
New Urbanism
In the last twenty years, many communities and organizations have attempted to
find solutions to some of the issues of placelessness in neighborhoods. One of these
organizations is the Congress for New Urbanism, formed in 1993. Their members
believe that well-designed cities and towns can contribute to the connection between
people and their communities. Although the charter is five pages long, the key
philosophy can be summed up in the first two sentences: “The Congress for New
Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing
separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and
wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-
building challenge.” The charter further stated, “We stand for the restoration of existing
urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of
sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the
conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy” (Congress
for New Urbanism, 2002).
The major principles of New Urbanists include the reintegration of housing,
workplaces, shopping and recreation into a community with a scale that allows
pedestrians to easily walk to perform daily tasks (Congress for New Urbanism, 2002).
Kunstler (1993), who wrote about the paving of America, emphasizes this concept of
30
pedestrian scale and believed cars have deprived people of the skill of good place-
making. Neighbors will get to know one another if they are often walking from place to
place rather than parking their cars in garages and remotely lowering the door. Although
the automobile is not eliminated, other forms of transportation, such as walking or
cycling are encouraged (Congress for New Urbanism, 2002).
One of the most important features of a New Urbanist community is the town
center (Congress for New Urbanism, 2002). New Urbanists believe the town center
should include a public space for gathering such as a green or a square, places to shop, a
connection to mass transportation, and public buildings, such as a post office or
recreation center. Lucy Lippard (1997), stated, “as soon as we move to a city, we search
for our own center in it.” Sucher (1995) wrote that a neighborhood is made up of
physical objects including houses, streets, parks and stores. However, he also stated the
most important part of the neighborhood is that it is made up of neighbors.
Neighborhoods would be pointless without neighbors and neighborliness. If neighbors
are people who are acquainted with each other, at least by sight, then the design of the
community must facilitate this friendship formation and allow for interaction (Sucher,
1995). Cities are about bumping into old and new friends in unplanned and serendipitous
encounters, and the layout of the public spaces, the streets, the buildings, and the
sidewalk can all enhance that opportunity. Sucher also believed people flee cities
because they do not do a good job as places where casual contact can flourish and create
a sense of community.
To help facilitate this connection between people and community, there are
several design elements that can be included. It is recommended that individual
architectural projects should be seamlessly linked to their surroundings (Congress for
New Urbanism, 2002). Building entrances, including those in houses, should be on the
front of the buildings rather than the back. The relationship of the building to the
sidewalk is a key decision in how the architecture will relate to the neighborhood
(Sucher, 1995). Bringing the building to the sidewalk to provide easy access has been
shown to work in New York, Paris, London, Carmel, Nantucket, and Park City. Many
residential communities also encourage houses with front porches to facilitate interaction
among neighbors (Mohney and Easterly, 1991).
31
Putnam (2000) discussed New Urbanism in regard to social capital in the book
Bowling Alone. He stressed the need to further measure the impact of the ideas on
community involvement. He said, “The new urbanism is an ongoing experiment to see
whether our thirst for great community life outweighs our hunger for private back yards,
discount megamalls, and easy parking” (p. 408). He added, “In the end, Americans will
get largely the kind of physical space we demand; if we don’t really want more
community, we won’t get it” (p. 408).
Third Places
Social commentator Ray Oldenburg (1999), author of The Great Good Place
discussed the importance of “third places”, those places other than our home or work that
help people get through the day. Oldenburg looked to societies that he felt have a good
balance between home, work, and other places. He said, “The examples set by societies
that have solved the problem of place and those set by the small towns and vital
neighborhoods of our past suggest that daily life, in order to be relaxing and fulfilling,
must find its balance in the three realms of experiences. One is domestic, a second is
gainful or productive, and the third is inclusively sociable, offering both the basis of
community and the celebration of it” (p. 14).
Oldenburg (1999) listed eight characteristics of third places. Third places must be
neutral ground where people can easily join and depart on another’s company and where
no one has to play host. Oldenburg said, “In order for the city and its neighborhood to
offer rich and varied association that is their promise and their potential, there must be
neutral ground upon which people may gather” (p. 22). The second characteristic of a
third place is that it serves as a leveler. Levelers, the name given to an extreme left-wing
political party under Charles I, wanted to abolish all differences of position or rank that
existed among men. It eventually became used more broadly to define anything “which
reduces men to an equality” (p. 23). When a place serves as a leveler, it is defined as an
inclusive place. The third characteristic of a third place is that conversation is the main
activity. Oldenburg said, “nothing more clearly indicates a third place than that the talk
there is good” (p. 26). The fourth characteristic of a third place is that it is accessible.
This means that a person may go there alone at almost any time of day, feel welcome,
32
and find an acquaintance. Sociologist Philip Slater (as cited in Oldenburg, 1999, p. 32)
said, “a community life exists when one can go daily to a given location and see many of
the people he knows.” The fifth characteristic of a third place is that you see the same
folks there, the regulars. Oldenburg said, “what attracts regular visitors to a third place is
supplied not by management, but by fellow customers” (p. 33). The regulars give the
space character. The sixth characteristic of a third place is that the physical structure is
visually plain and has a low profile. Oldenburg said the third place should be an
expected part of life…part of our everyday landscape. These places should be an integral
part of our communities. He said newer places are more likely to be chain
establishments, in prime locations, attempting to capitalize on transient customers. The
seventh characteristic of a third place is that the mood is playful. Oldenburg said this
playful spirit is of the utmost importance and “here joy and acceptance reign over anxiety
and alienation” (p. 38). Huizinga (1949) emphasized that value of play and how the
feeling of being apart together and sharing something important contributes to the play
experience. He believed part of the reason people return to a place involved the desire to
recreate and recapture the pleasant play experience that occurred there. Oldenburg also
emphasized the urge to return to third places where people have had a positive experience
in the past. The final characteristics of a third place is that it is a “home away from
home.” Psychologist David Seamon (1979) believed home roots us and provides a
physical center around which we organize our comings and goings. Oldenburg (1999, p.
39), said, “that if the individual has a third place, the place also ‘has him’.”
The History and Role of Early Coffee Houses
Since the focus of this research is on gathering places, particularly coffee shops,
the next section will address the history of coffee shops. Coffee shops can be viewed as
one type of third place. Oldenburg (1999) explained that most third places “draw their
identity from the beverages they serve” (p. 183). Different cultures have celebrated a
variety of beverage houses including, but not limited to, ale houses, beer gardens,
teahouses, soda fountains, and wine bars. Oldenburg said, “whatever mental and
emotional states the daily struggle induces, the third place and its social lubricants are the
33
correctives” (p. 184). The behavior exhibited as a result of these beverages is likely
culturally influenced and may vary between cultures.
People of Vienna claimed to have had the first coffeehouses in Europe
(Oldenburg, 1999). However, Oldenburg said it is more likely the first coffeehouses
were likely Arabian and began in the mid sixteenth century. The introduction of the
practice of coffee drinking to the Near East in the late fifteenth century provoked a legal
controversy that lasted 150 years. There were several attempts to suppress its use,
particularly in Mecca and Cairo in the early sixteenth century. However, the arguments
surrounding the drinking of coffee were likely directed at the coffeehouses themselves.
The coffeehouses were conducive to social intercourse and conversation and political
debate occurred with nocturnal social gatherings were common. Although there were
many years of controversy surrounding these coffeehouses, they were gradually
assimilated into society.
In seventeenth century England, the coffeehouse was an important part of the
social fabric. The coffeehouse served as the center of business and cultural life. People
from all walks of life were welcome in the early English coffeehouses. These
coffeehouses were often called Penny Universities because patrons paid a penny for
admission and were treated to lively intellectual conversations (Ellis, 1956). Several
times a day the newspaper would be read aloud so that the illiterate could keep current
with the daily news. One of the qualities of a third place as stated by Oldenburg (1989) is
that third places serve as a leveler, placing all men on an equal level. In addition, many
of the English coffeehouses had a code of order that was posted in each house to create
an atmosphere of gentlemanly behavior (Ellis, 1956). These codes often included rules
stating that all patrons were welcome and could sit anywhere they wanted. There were
no seats that could be claimed restricting some patrons to less desirable areas of the
coffeehouse. This ensured that all patrons were respected and that people of diverse
backgrounds were made to feel welcome. Oldenburg (1999) says the primary imperative
of the English coffeehouse was that “all were to be equal under its roof” (p. 186).
Another code of order banned the playing of cards or dice. Swearing was not allowed in
the coffeehouse and those found guilty were required to pay a twelve-pence fine. If a
fight ensued, the offender was required to treat those whom he had offended.
34
Women were excluded from these seventeenth century English coffeehouses,
which might have made men more comfortable but created domestic strife. Women
wrote a petition, The Women’s Petition Against Coffee (Ellis, 1956), which was
controversial and expressed concern regarding the dangers of coffee causing impotence
in the male. Women also claimed their men were being reduced to gossips and tattletales
and they were spending too much of the family income at the coffeehouse. A year after
the Women’s Petition Against Coffee, King Charles II issued a Proclamation for the
Suppression of Coffeehouses. He was concerned that coffeehouses fostered idleness, and
kept workers from their trades. However, his real concern was likely the highly political
atmosphere of the coffeehouse and fear that the discussions therein were not favorable to
his government. There was a great public outcry at the suggestion that the coffeehouses
be suppressed and he eventually retracted the proclamation. The people felt the existence
of the coffeehouses and the ability to gather and speak freely in those establishments was
essential in maintaining free speech and free will (Oldenburg, 1999).
The English coffeehouse greatly contributed to the ability of people to mingle
with others and become sensitive to the situations of their fellow countrymen. It served
as a place to take the pulse of the people. Newspapers also used coffeehouses to circulate
their papers (Ellis, 1956). Many of the articles in the paper were addressed to women
and, although they were not allowed in the coffeehouses, it was assumed the men would
bring the paper, and the messages, home. The rise of the newspaper in England can be
greatly attributed to the presence of the coffeehouse.
The coffeehouse was an important part of English life for almost two hundred
years. However, by the mid 1900s, the impact of the coffeehouse on English society had
greatly diminished (Ellis, 1956). Ironically, some people believe that the availability of
newspapers contributed to the decline of the coffeehouse because people could get their
daily news from the paper rather then from each other. Eventually, the all-important
leveling that was part of the coffeehouse scene broke down with people associating only
with those of similar trades. The original principles that the coffeehouses were founded
on were ignored. Oldenburg (1999) said, “it is not fitting that the English coffeehouses,
once third places without parallel, should ultimately evolve into elegant wax museums
for the living dead. Where there is not talk, there is no life” (p. 192).
35
Although they were not the first, Viennese coffeehouses can claim that they have
endured the longest (Oldenburg, 1999). The lifestyle of the Viennese is such that citizens
enjoy more daily interaction in public settings. Unlike the English coffeehouses, the
Viennese never banned women. Every afternoon, Viennese housewives would visit the
coffeehouse for coffee, chocolate, or sponge cake. The men had already gathered there at
lunch, so there was no conflict between these two groups sharing the space. The
Viennese coffeehouses are known for excellent waiters and beautiful surroundings.
Unlike the English coffeehouse, the early Viennese appraised the patron’s station in life
and seated them accordingly. Some people claimed tables as their own and permanently
reserved them. While the daily newspaper led to the decline of coffeehouses in England,
the Viennese loved to sit in the coffeehouse and read. Some described the Viennese
coffeehouse more as a reading room resembling a library in the arrangement of the tables.
Many people kept regular hours at the coffeehouses and conducted business there as well.
The Viennese coffeehouses saw some decline under the Nazis, but recovered and are still
popular today.
Summary
The review of literature has shown the importance of understanding how people
interact with the built environment. Architects and interior designers need solid research
on which to base their design decisions. The research in environment and behavior
studies can be of great help to architects and interior designers in creating a good fit
between people and the environments they live, work, and relax in. Designers believe
that the quality of these environments can enhance the overall quality of life.
The review of literature included a review of theories on environmental
perception and personal impressions of place. A number of theories were reviewed
including those covering the senses and individual differences in perception, variations in
perception due to culture and background, and differences due to gender, education, and
prior life experiences. The physical features of the built environment and their influence
on feelings of enclosure, crowding, and confinement were also discussed. Personal
preferences, including the differences between architects and non-architects were
36
covered. The term sense of place and the varied individual experiences regarding sense
of place were discussed.
The literature review also addressed place attachment, place-identity, and
personality and place. Place attachment theories, which cover the bonding of people to
place, lay the foundation for this study. Place-identity is often seen as a substructure of
self-identity and is defined by the cognitions people have about their physical world.
Place attachment often occurs when people have had long and sustained interactions with
places. The ability to interact with others and the social aspect of space is often
important in establishing place attachment (Riley, 1992). In other words, it is often
difficult to separate people from the spaces that have inhabited and the spatial
experiences they have had. Place attachment, in terms of public gathering places, is
addressed in some research studies, more often on outdoor public parks and plazas.
However, there is no large body of work on privately owned, indoor public places.
Communities and neighborhoods, New Urbanism, and third places were also
discussed. The literature review summarized the research on satisfaction with
community life and neighborhoods, and how that is linked to the physical and social
attributes of the community. The literature differs on the importance of social ties in
establishing neighborhood connections. Some literature suggests that social ties may not
be as important as they once were. Other studies seem to contradict this idea,
emphasizing the essential value of the social component to place attachment and
satisfaction with community. The philosophy of New Urbanism includes a number of
beliefs including the reintegration of housing, workplaces, shopping and recreation into a
community with a scale that allows pedestrians to easily walk to perform daily tasks
(Congress for New Urbanism, 2002). Another important feature of New Urbanism is the
town center, which serves as a place for people to gather and get to know their neighbors.
The concept of a third place is that people need a place, other than their home or office, to
gather, socialize, or relax. There are eight characteristics of third places that have been
established by Ray Oldenburg (1999).
The literature review also included research on design attributes that contribute to
good human-centered design. Deasy (1985) considered issues such as friendship
formation, group membership, territoriality, personal space, personal status,
37
communications, cue searching, and personal safety. His research does not address how
these features are incorporated into public gathering places, such as coffee shops, and
how these issues might be addressed through design of such places.
In conclusion, the literature showed that more research is needed in the area of
indoor gathering places and their value to people and to communities. In addition, the
design attributes that make these places successful or unsuccessful is also necessary for
designers and architects if they are to create human-centered spaces. The methodology
necessary to explore this topic is covered in the next chapter.
38
CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to see what qualities, both physical and social,
encourage people to gather at selected coffee shops. I wanted to know if, as I suspected
from initial examination, that these places are third places, and, if so, what makes them
third places.
Research Questions
The primary research question providing focus for this study is: What are the
social and physical qualities that encourage people to gather at three popular coffee
shops in Tallahassee, Florida, and in that context do these shops exhibit the qualities of
third places?
To answer the primary question, several supporting questions were asked. As
represented by participants’ responses and by the observations of the researcher:
1. What physical characteristics and design features attract people and
cause them to feel attachment to these places?
2. What social interactions or human contacts attract people and cause them to feel
attachment to these places?
3. What meanings do these places hold for the people who visit?
4. What benefits do people perceive from visiting these places?
5. Do these three coffee shops exhibit the qualities of third places?
6. What are the implications for designing community-gathering places?
Research Procedures Framed as Objectives for the Study
The procedures of the study framed as objectives were to:
39
1. Critically review the current literature on the concept of place attachment and
community design to establish a framework for the study.
2. Critically review the current literature on research methods to establish a
conceptual framework and a practical research strategy for this study.
3. Develop and implement the research using survey, observation, and interview
strategies.
4. Describe, analyze, interpret, and evaluate the findings in relation to the purposes of
this study.
5. Draw implications for community-centered design generated from this examination
of places.
Brief Overview of the Study Design
I answered the questions above by conducting an examination of three coffee
shops using the techniques of observation, interview, survey, and visual documentation
and analysis. Visual documentation, observations, survey, interviews, and analysis
allowed me to explore and understand the spaces and the behavior exhibited in the
spaces. The survey was used to gain access to descriptively qualitative information
regarding user preferences in regard to the design of the coffee shops.
Theoretical Foundation of the Method
The methodology selected for this research is qualitative in design. Qualitative
methods can be used “to obtain the intricate details about phenomena such as feelings,
thought processes, and emotions that are difficult to extract or learn about through more
conventional research” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 11). Eisner (1998) said, “qualitative
inquiry penetrates the surface” (p. 35). This method of inquiry seeks thick description of
events and the meaning these events have for those who experience them (Eisner, 1998).
Meaning is shaped and constructed by those who experience the events and is influenced
by the tools those people bring to the experience. These tools may include the unique
background and life experience of the individual. The lens through which the field site is
viewed belongs to the researcher (Crumpacker,1992).
40
As with all qualitative research, this research did not begin with a hypothesis,
because emergence is the foundation of qualitative methodology (Strauss & Corbin,
1998). Instead, I began with some initial observations and understandings garnered from
the review of literature and allowed the theory to emerge as the study progressed. This
type of research can be categorized as grounded theory. Strauss and Corbin listed several
characteristics of grounded theorists. These theorists must have the ability to step back
and critically analyze situations, must recognize bias, think abstractly, and be flexible and
open to helpful criticism. They should also be sensitive to the words and actions of
respondents and have a sense of absorption and devotion to the work process.
Eisner (1998) said that using the self as an instrument was an important
characteristic of qualitative research. He said, “the self is the instrument that engages the
situation and makes sense of it” (p. 34). Eisner argued that qualitative inquiry should
place a high premium on the strengths of the researcher. He added that investigators
doing fieldwork do things in a way that “makes sense to them, given the problem in
which they are interested, the aptitude they possess, and the context in which they work”
(p. 169). He emphasized the importance of our sensory system as the instrument
“through which we experience the qualities that constitute the environment in which we
live” (p. 21). He said we learn to see, hear, and feel and that “the ability to see what is
subtle but significant is crucial” (p. 21). The ability to see what counts in a situation is
important to doing good qualitative research. Eisner (1998) said, “Both sensibility and
schema provide the means through which we make sense of a complex qualitative array.
Sensibility alerts us to nuanced qualities and the schema relevant to a domain, the
significance of what to seek and see. Without sensibility the subtleties of the social world
go unexperienced. Without a schema no sorting into significance is possible” (p. 34).
Researchers conducting qualitative research are more concerned with process and
less concerned with outcomes or products (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). In short, qualitative
researchers are concerned with how things occur. Fraenkel and Wallen (2000) felt this
type of research is a dynamic system and attention to process is important and the
researcher should assume that change is constant and ongoing. They added that
“[researchers] are likely to observe how people interact with each other; how certain
kinds of questions are answered; the meanings that people give to certain words and
41
actions; [and], how people’s attitudes are translated into actions…” (p. 503). “Qualitative
researchers tend to analyze their data inductively” (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998, p. 6).
Bogdan and Biklen said that theory should be developed from the bottom up by taking
pieces of evidence, grouping them together, and searching for connections. Bogdan and
Biklen described the process as “…constructing a picture that takes shape as you collect
and examine the parts” (p. 6). They typically tend to see what unfolds and “play it as it
goes” (p. 503).
These are the general qualities I attempted to integrate into this study, using my
own informed sensitized self as the instrument, seeking unfolding meaning in rich detail
towards an end of understanding something significant of why people gather at three
selected coffeehouses. The specific strategies I used are visual documentation,
observation, survey, and interview. The theoretical basis of these methods will be
discussed next.
Visual Documentation
Visual documentation is part of this study because the design features of the space
could best be documented visually. Photography is one form of visual documentation
used in this study. “Photography can produce data that enlarge our understanding of
sociological processes…photographs record details that may engage viewers to reflect
upon larger cultural realities” (Harper, 2000 p. 727). In this case, photographs allowed
the scene to be revisited through the analysis process and provided documentation in the
findings chapter. Written documentation of visual design attributes also accompanies the
photographs. This written documentation is found in the form of an Architectural
Features Checklist.
Observations
Observation was part of the inquiry process because the attitudes of the people
who frequent the coffee shops, and the meanings the coffee shops hold for visitors could
effectively be studied through observations. Blumer (1969) proposed “exploration” and
“inspection” as the most appropriate processes through which the “empirical social
world,” that is, “the world of everyday experience” may be assessed and analyzed (p. 35).
The opportunity for rich description recorded in a naturalistic setting allowed themes to
emerge that let the role of the coffee shop unfold.
42
Eisner (1998) explained that a researcher might enter an observation setting with a
“specific observational target” (p. 176), what he called prefigured foci. Prefigured foci
might be created independently by the researcher, or in concert with others. These foci
become a “major object” (p. 176) of the observer’s attention and “everything that bears
upon that objective is a candidate for interpretation” (p. 176). Although it is common for
the researcher to enter an observational session with prefigured foci, it is also important
to “allow the situation to speak for itself” (p. 176), and to allow emergent foci to come
forth. Eisner stressed the importance of knowing when to shift gears and allow new ideas
that were not conceived prior to the observation session to emerge. He said, “knowing
when it is appropriate to shift gears and when to acknowledge the surprises of
observation makes for both good science and good art” (p. 177). My prefigured foci
came from the literature review and prior visits to coffee shops. My emergent foci
emerged during the process of the study itself.
Qualitative researchers are concerned with the context of a setting and therefore
they must observe what is going on first hand. They want to know where, how, and
under what circumstances things came to be. Fraenkel and Wallen (2000) expanded on
the importance of studying real world situations as they unfold naturally. They felt the
process should be nonmanipulative, unobtrusive, and noncontrolling in nature. Eisner
(1998) listed field focus as one of the characteristics of qualitative research. By this he
meant studying the places in which humans interact as well as the study of surrounding
inanimate objects, including the architecture. To understand the environment of a coffee
shop, I visited three coffee shops and immersed myself in those spaces.
During the process of observing the coffee shops, the physical environment, along
with all of the activities occurring within, were described in detail. Patterson (1976)
emphasized the value of observation as a method for understanding architecture in his
statement that the observation “of exterior physical signs” (p. 269) as well as the
arrangement of interior furnishing can provide clues to “how the room is used by the
occupants” (p. 269). The researchers observe, record what they see, and transcribe their
observations. It is important that the richness of detail be kept as close as possible to its
original form. This rich description format is consistent with qualitative research
practices (Bogdan and Biklen, (1998). Bogdan and Biklen said, “the world should be
43
examined with the assumption that nothing is trivial, that everything has the potential of
being a clue that might unlock a more comprehensive understanding of what is being
studied” (p. 6). Nothing is overlooked or taken for granted.
Survey
Surveys are useful when researchers are interested in the opinions of a large group
of people (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2000). “Surveys may be used for descriptive,
explanatory, and exploratory purposes” (Babbie, 2001, p. 238). Ideally, the problem to
be investigated should be sufficiently interesting and important enough to motivate
individuals to respond (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2000). Survey items should be clear and
unambiguous. In addition, the survey item should be precise so that the respondent
knows exactly what the researcher is asking. It is very important to pretest survey
questionnaires. A pretest can help check for errors, confusing questions, or questions that
might be misinterpreted. In this study, 31 surveys were distributed in two coffee shops,
and 32 surveys were distributed in another for a total of 94 surveys. The survey gathered
demographic information on the respondents as well as information on ambient design
features and social activity.
Interviews
In qualitative research “the researcher has direct contact with and gets close to the
people, situation, and phenomenon under study; researchers’ personal experiences and
insights are an important part of the inquiry and critical to understanding the
phenomenon” (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2000, p. 504). Seidman (1998) said that interviewing
is a basic mode of inquiry. He said, “I interview because I am interested in other
people’s stories” (p. 1). Seidman believed that story telling is an essential part of the
meaning-making process and that interviewing allows the researcher to understand the
experiences of others. Interviews were selected as part of the inquiry process as a way to
allow the meaning the coffee shops hold for the patrons to emerge through their stories
and experiences. Interviews allowed the observations and surveys conducted as part of
this study to be put in context. In addition, the interview phase of this research study
allowed me to get close to the people who frequent the coffee shops, and to better
understand what the coffee shop meant to them.
44
Prior to the interviews, the researcher should establish a climate of trust, rapport,
and “authentic communication patterns with participants” (Janesick, 2000, p. 384). “A
qualitative interview is essentially a conversation in which the interviewer establishes a
general direction for the conversation and pursues specific topics raised by the
respondents” (Babbie, 2001, p. 292). Although an interview checklist was used for this
study to ensure that all topics were addressed, the interview format allowed the
interviewer to modify the checklist as appropriate to keep the conversation flowing.
Babbie also said that instead of trying to halt your respondent’s line of discussion, learn
to take what he or she has just said and branch that comment back in the direction
appropriate to your purposes.
With these theoretical considerations in mind, the research strategy will now be
clarified in detail.
Research Overview
Research Phases
Data gathering and analysis in this study included six phases. The first phase of
the research included setting the theoretical groundwork by reviewing and synthesizing
the literature. This phase is discussed earlier in this chapter and is covered more fully in
Chapter 2. The second phase included selection of the sites to be used in the study. The
third phase included visual documentation of the exterior and interior architectural and
design features of the coffee shops through photographs and physical inventory. The
fourth phase involved observation and behavioral mapping of the people who patronize
coffee shops. The fifth phase involved distributing a survey instrument to patrons to
assess attitudes and preferences regarding the coffee shop environment. The sixth phase
included interviews with the patrons to gain insights into their attitudes regarding the
coffeehouses, the design of the coffeehouses, and the meaning these places hold for them.
Prior to the start of the study, permission to interview and survey coffee shop
patrons was obtained from the owners or managers of the coffee shops. Human subjects
approval was also obtained from Florida State University (see Appendix A).
Site Selection. For the purposes of this study, three coffee shops were selected as
sites. All three coffee shops chosen are located in Tallahassee, Florida and include a
45
large national chain coffee shop (Borders), a locally owned coffee shop frequented by a
variety of community members (Black Dog Café), and another locally owned coffee shop
near Florida State University campus popular with college students (Aristotle’s). The
sites were chosen primarily because, upon initial examination, they seem to have many of
the criteria of third places. The criteria of third places were outlined in detail in the
review of literature. However, the salient characteristics are summarized here once more.
Third places provide opportunities for people to gather in a place that is not work or
home. In addition, people from all walks of life are welcome and there is no admission
requirement (other than the expectation that food or a beverage will be purchased).
People are allowed to linger in coffee shops as well. The relaxed and open atmosphere of
coffee shops also provides the opportunity to observe patrons without interfering with
their activities or influencing their behavior.
Although the criteria of third places, as established by Oldenburg (1999), were
used as a general guideline for site selection, these places have not yet been identified as
meeting all of the criteria of third places. Many of the sites, following short-term
observation, clearly met some of the criteria of third places, but the final determination as
to whether these places meet all of the criteria of third place is made at the conclusion of
the study.
Visual and Written Documentation of the Site. The Architectural Features
Checklist (Appendix B) served as an instrument to frame the collection of details of the
physical features of the site, building, and interior. This inventory sheet was modeled
after the Physical and Architectural Features Checklist developed by Moos and Lemke
(1984). Moos and Lemke developed their instrument to assess the physical and
architectural characteristics of sheltered care facilities for elderly. Therefore, this form
was adapted to adequately record the features of coffee shops.
On the Architectural Features Checklist, the design features of the coffee shop
exterior architecture were noted, as well as the location relative to major roads, the ability
to walk from surrounding neighborhoods, access to nearby shops, parking availability,
and any other exterior or site considerations that were notable. The interior architecture,
ceiling height, colors, finish materials, furniture type, access to natural lighting, type of
artificial lighting, access to electricity, views to outside, views of spaces inside,
46
availability of outside seating, ability to move furniture, availability of speakers for music
or announcements, and any other notable characteristics were recorded as well. Prior to
the observation sessions, a floor plan was drawn and copied for each coffee shop
denoting walls, windows, doors, furniture placement, service areas, and any other
important semi-permanent design features for use in accurately recording the people and
activities that take place in the space (Appendix C). Photographs of the exterior and the
interior of each space were also taken and used as visual document of the interior and are
illustrated throughout Chapters 4 and 5.
Observation Sessions. Observations assisted me in understanding how the
coffee shops were used and how the design features related to the activities that took
place in the space. Each floor plan was modified as necessary during observation
sessions to note any changes in furniture or other movable features. Each patron was
assigned a letter on the floor plan denoting his or her location in the space (see Appendix
D). On an accompanying sheet, this letter was recorded along with the details regarding
the activity of the person. Patrons’ seat location, gender, race, approximate age, number
of companions, level of interaction and length of conversations, the presence of books or
magazines, use of computers, length of stay, whether they rearranged the furniture, and
any other interesting activities were noted. Fieldnotes were taken to ensure that all of the
activity was recorded. Later, these fieldnotes were expanded for clarity and further
reference and coding (see example in Appendix E).
In addressing the length of time required to adequately observe a situation, Eisner
(1998) said, “the question is not so much the length of time as the quality of the evidence
the researcher has to support descriptions, interpretations, and appraisals” (p. 192).
Strauss and Corbin (1998) suggested that data be gathered until a saturation point is
reached and new data reveals nothing new that can be added to the study. Saturation may
occur when data gained, in this case from observation or interview sessions, reveals
redundant information similar to that obtained in previous sessions. Each of the three
coffee shops were observed for at least twenty five hours with care taken to observe on a
variety of days and times. More specifically, each space was observed on weekends,
weekdays, and evenings to better understand the full range of people who visit and
activities that took place there. I began each session by recording the date, day of the
47
week, and time of day. Next, an overall assessment of the ambient conditions of the
space during that particular observation session was recorded. The acoustical
environment during that session, the general illumination level, the weather conditions
outside, the general level of crowdedness, and any changes in the space or furniture
layout was noted.
Survey. For the purposes of this study, the survey was distributed to people who
frequent the coffee shops being studied (see Appendix F). The opinions of those who use
the coffee shops on a daily basis provided useful information on their preferences for
various design and built environment features. I attempted to include people from a
variety of age groups, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. Patrons were offered a
complimentary beverage if they completed the survey, which proved to be extremely
helpful in recruiting participants.
The survey instrument includes both close-ended and open-ended questions. The
close-ended portion of the survey gathered basic demographic information on the
participants. The survey used in this study was based on Moos and Lemke’s (1984)
Multiphasic Environmental Assessment Procedure Ideal and Expectation Forms. Moos
and Lemke’s original instrument measured opinions on the ideal physical and
architectural characteristics of sheltered care facilities. Their questionnaire asked a
number of things, but included questions that rated the importance of different features in
an ideal setting. I modified these forms for this project. This survey had two parts. The
first part included an evaluation of the characteristics and features of coffee shops
included in the study. The second part asked patrons about the characteristics and
features of their ideal coffee shop. By assessing their current coffee shop and their ideal
coffee shop, preferences were revealed. Finally, there were several short open-ended
questions addressing participants’ motivation for visiting these spaces and to assess what
the coffee shop means to them.
Interview Sessions. To further understand the coffee shop environment and the
meaning the coffee shops hold for patrons, interviews were conducted. Interviews
allowed me to better understand the motivation for visiting, the value these places have to
the people who visit, and the design features preferred by the participants. A
combination of judgment sampling and opportunistic sampling was employed in selecting
48
those to be interviewed. Judgment sampling involves selecting informants based on their
status or expertise which endows them with special knowledge (Honigmann, 1970).
Opportunistic sampling seizes any handy group that has the potential to provide relevant
information. A balance of gender, age, and race was sought.
Nine patron interviews and three employee interviews, and three interviews with
owners or managers took place for a total of fifteen interviews. The sample of patrons
selected for interviews was taken from people who regularly patronized the selected
coffee shops. These regular patrons were identified during the observation sessions.
Three patrons were selected from each of the three coffee shops. To get the employees’
perspective, one employee from each coffee shop was also interviewed. Finally, the
owner (whenever possible) or manager was interviewed as well. The owner of Black
Dog, the assistant manager of Aristotle’s, and the general manager of Borders were
interviewed. Permission and consent to tape record the interview was sought from the
participants prior to the interview and a consent form was signed (see Appendix G). An
interview checklist was created to guide the interview process (see Appendix H). With a
few exceptions, the interview sessions took place in the coffee shops frequented by the
individual patrons. The interviews took approximately 30 and 45 minutes.
The Issue of Credibility
Qualitative research is effective for studying the “subtle nuances in attitudes and
behavior and for examining social processes over time” (Babbie, 2001, p. 298).
However, it is not useful for arriving at statistical descriptions that can be generalized to
larger populations. Janesick (2000) compared the process of qualitative research to
choreography. She said, “the qualitative researcher is remarkably like a choreographer at
various stages in the design process, in terms of situating and recontextualizing the
research project within the shared experience of the researcher and the participants in the
study” (p. 380). She felt that a good choreographer is open to many approaches and
techniques when creating a dance. Similarly, a good qualitative researcher uses many
techniques to “capture the nuance and complexity of the social situation under study” (p.
381). Within the parameters of the research design, the researcher is able to improvise,
“to find out more about some critical event or moment in the lives of the participants” (p.
382). Good qualitative research should use procedures that are open-ended and rigorous
49
and reveal the intricacies of the situation being studied. Although good qualitative
researchers formulate questions to guide their studies, those questions are constantly
under revision with the opportunity to take new shape.
The term triangulation has been used over the years by a number of qualitative
researchers. The basic idea behind the concept of triangulation is that when a situation is
looked at from many angles, a more authentic story will be revealed. Patton (1980)
describes triangulation as a “process by which the evaluator can guard against the
accusation that a study’s findings are simply an artifact of a single data source, or a single
investigator’s bias” (p. 332). Denzin (1978) identified four types of triangulation
including data triangulation, investigator triangulation, theory triangulation, and
methodological triangulation. This study took advantage of data triangulation, which
derives information from several data sources, as well as method triangulation, which
uses multiple methods to study a single problem.
Although Janesick (2000) used the term triangulation in her early writings, she
later adopted the term crystallization “as a better lens through which to view qualitative
research design and their components” (p. 392). She felt that this term recognizes the
“many facets of any given approach to the social world as a fact of life” (p. 392). The
value of this term was clearly defined by Janesick when she said, “crystals grow, change,
and alter, but are not amorphous” (p. 392). She added, “what we see when we look
through a crystal, for example, depends on how we view it, how we hold it up to the light
or not” (p. 392). One of the key issues of crystallization is the use of other disciplines to
inform the research process and “broaden our understanding of method and substance’ (p.
392). So, using this information, this study addressed issues of credibility using the
concepts of triangulation and crystallization.
Validity and Reliability
Janesick (2000) suggested, “validity in qualitative research has to do with
description and explanation and whether or not the explanation fits the description. In
other words, is the explanation credible” (p. 393). In this case, validity and reliability
refer to whether the study makes sense to the audience, those who read and interpret the
findings. It is also important to note that qualitative researchers recognize that there is
more than one way to interpret an event and that there is no one correct interpretation.
50
Eisner (1998) used the term consensual validation to describe agreement among
“competent others that the description, interpretation, evaluation, and thematics” of a
situation are right (p. 112). Eisner also used the term structural corroboration, which is
very similar to the term triangulation, to describe the “means through which multiple
types of data are related to each other to support or contradict the interpretation and
evaluation of a state of affairs” (p. 110). He said we seek a confluence of evidence to
establish credibility, which allows us to feel confident about what we have found in our
research.
The use of a variety of data collection techniques over a number of months
enhances the credibility of this study. Information gained from the observations was
compared to the findings from the interviews and the surveys. The interviews were very
helpful in establishing credibility when those findings were compared to observation and
survey data. I was able to compare the answers on the survey with the in