A gathering place is anywhere that people can congregate, to allow group interaction, whether for entertainment, informal recreation, debate, decision-making, worship, commerce, or simply, camaraderie in sharing a life’s moment – a graduation, recognition, retirement, a passing. Such places as New York’s Central Park simply allow people to “gather and stare,” among other out-of-home activities.
The term “gathering place” has become popular among developers and public sector entities, and their design consultants, in describing one of the great goals in creating and/or retrofitting places. These places may be the most essential aspect of building communities of people. People enjoy being among other people, it is part of what defines us as human beings. There is also an interesting relationship of such gathering to the lifetimes of those people that enjoy them.
Gathering places are the places where many of our memories are created. We remember the parade we attended as a child. We remember the ice cream and fireworks we enjoyed with our own children at the same gathering place. We fondly recall the sports team celebration held in this same place. On a holiday we recall the glory of strolling along a great street or boulevard, taking in another culture, shopping, and being in the moment. Gathering places are a fascinating repository of the collective life’s experiences of a host community, the place of communal memory.
No matter how compelling in-home entertainment may be, consumers will always want those resonating moments with other people. Some gathering places are about the camaraderie, others about the special occasions (Times Square), still others are about the “gather and stare” promise. The great places among all others deliver on that feeling of belonging, of discovery, of good times. Perhaps the common factor is the memories that are made – whether the interstitial moments of our lives or those of great import.
As experiential designers and placemaking (place-making) consultants, StoneCreek Partners has collaborated in an array of public and private place enhancement and guest experience augmentation efforts. These communal places are one kind of shared space where purposeful placemaking can yield great result.