Third Spaces through the Lens of Data

Third Spaces Value System

Third spaces value system. Created by the Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics team, a value system outlines the minimum viable criteria for 21st century third places. While a space is physical area that holds the capacity for social activation via its core DNA, a place is a socially activated or meaningful space for a community. The Third Spaces project values must measure both the capacity for, and performance of, space as socially activating and creative.

The primary goal of the Third Spaces data analysis, visualization, and narrative representation project is to better understand and tell the story of Boston's third spaces, and to develop a clear set of data-linked metrics for the analysis of these socially generative places.

While third spaces have always been critical components to the vitality of urban communities, it is still difficult for municipal governments to intentionally and directly focus on investing in the cultural and social capital that third spaces generate because metrics that focus on outputs that go beyond traditional economic measures do not currently exist in a repeatable or systematic format. In collaboration with the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) team, Supernormal is exploring new data sources and narrative formats that paint a rich picture of the human experience of these urban spaces over time, and across distance and activity.

Beyond the translation of quantitative information into rich descriptions of civic quality, the goal of the project is the design and implementation of welcoming, connected, and fundamentally creative third spaces for all of Boston's people. These are a new generation of public spaces (programmatic and spatial) for 21st century civic life that foster total neighborhood health and a civil society.

Supernormal is beginning with an investigation of daily human experience in one of the city's least visible and well-served populations to create metrics for the understanding and production of spaces that reflect and improve the lives of all Bostonians.

Third Spaces Diagram

What exists now. Third places are a diverse collection of public and private spaces, uses, and program types. From both the top-down and bottom-up, the public-private collaboration is assessing what is working well now, and where there are opportunities for improvement.


Elizabeth Christoforetti, Will Cohen


Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, City of Boston


In progress. Images and analysis coming soon.