The Coffee Shop: Social and Physical Factors Influencing Place Attachment

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The Coffee Shop: Social and Physical factors Influencing Place Attachment Lisa Waxman, Ph.D., Florida State University (co-authored by Marco Marin)

This study explored the characteristics that encourage gathering behavior and contribute to place attachment in selected coffee shops in the context of literature suggesting social gathering places contribute to social capital. These gathering places, with the potential to enhance community in this manner, have been called third places. The study was qualitative in nature and included the research techniques of visual documentation, observation and behavioral mapping, interview, and survey. A transactional approach to this study was chosen to better understand the meaning of the person-environment relationship. Each coffee shop was observed for twenty-five hours for a total of seventy-five hours. Eighteen interviews were conducted and surveys were collected from 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 key findings regarding the physical characteristics showed the top five design considerations included: cleanliness, appealing aroma, adequate lighting, comfortable furniture, and a view to the outside. A number of themes emerged related to people, their activities, and their feelings and attitudes regarding the coffee shop. Each coffee shop was found to have a 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 of attachment to their community.

introDuction Researchers Unger and Wandersman (1985) discussed the importance of the community to the human social, emotional, and cognitive experiences. Rivlin (1987) explained that the connections to community create a bond between people and place in which people and place are molded into a whole. Although the value of place and community seems clear, there has been much social commentary regarding the 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). Putnam expressed concern that the decrease in community activity and community sharing results in the shrinking of social capital which threatens our civic and personal health. In The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg (1999) emphasized the importance of neighborhood gathering places in enhancing the lives of people. Oldenburg defined these gathering places as third places, and further explained that these places are not home or work, but the places that help get people through the day. Oldenburg describes the third place as “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” (p. 16). Third places provide a place to connect with the people in communities as well as a place to exchange ideas and news. However, Oldenburg expressed concern that many third places are disappearing, and

Journal of InterIor DesIgn


Volume 31

Number 3


the cOffee shOp: sOciaL and physicaL factOrs infLuencing pLace attachment


The experience of place is unique to each individual and is directly...
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