Located in the Adam's Morgan neighborhood of Washington DC, Tryst is an ever-adapting "Third Place" that is used by diverse groups of people throughout the day and well into the night. It operates as a large "Living Room / Hall" for the community and outside visitors, providing a place to meet friends, encounter strangers, or simply to be by yourself and read a book or write a paper. In this era of Disney-esque themed, mega restaurants and bars, there are many lessons we can learn from such "Halls for Community" that can help local businesses attract larger clienteles, and create places that are cherished by regulars and visitors alike. The following photographs illustrate some Sensible Design Concepts that seem to work well.
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1. LOCATION: Tryst is embedded in the heart of the neighborhood on one of the main streets (18th St). It is easily accessible by public transit, walking and biking, as well as cars. 18th Street has a wide variety of eating establishments, bars and nightclubs, which help keep the street activated 18/7 and provide cross pollination of patrons.
2. THE STOREFRONT: Large, clear panes of glass provide a great view to the inside and give cues as to what to expect both in terms of goods being offered and the general atmosphere to be expected. A simple rope delineates the public and private space, without becoming barriers. Planters help to soften the edge.
3. SIZE: For Halls of Community, critical mass does matter; both to make economic sense (Such Places cannot be forbiddingly expensive), and to create enough energy to keep people interested, to compel them to linger and to return. Tryst is roughly 3000 Square Feet in area (90' x 35'). This includes the kitchen and service area.
4. LAYOUT: The general layout is simple: an open floor plan with tall ceilings (15' minimum) to help light penetrate into the deep space (A skylight is helpful).
5. INTERACTION & DISPLAY: Tryst has a large bar / barista / service counter on one side that enables patrons to evaluate the goods on offer and interact with a staff which is very much a part of the people watching experience. Plus, the aromas of coffee, beer and snacks helps to create a convivial atmosphere. Even though the main kitchen is hidden from view, one can partially see their food being prepared / served behind the counter. Such direct, visible connection to food is a strong experience that people tend to sub-conscoiuosly remember for a long time!
6. ATMOSPHERE: The scene is definitely casual, with a variety of seating options and deliberately slow service to allow people to sink into the comfortable couches and decompress from the intense urban experience outside.
7. HIERARCHY OF SPACES: The large floor plan is subdivided into a series of smaller living rooms with couches, chairs and tables. This helps to humanize the space, provide acoustical absorption and create comfortable nooks. I found this aspect to be very effective in encouraging people to have the right type of conversations: A chat with the bartender, a friendly exchange of words with people on the table across from yours, or simply be by oneself and finish an assignment, tucked away in a corner, with no one but your server aware of your presence.
8. THE VIEW: Once inside, we are invited t look back and admire the urban ballet unfolding on the street. The folding doors dissolve the barriers between public and private space, and we are encouraged to look outside and plan our next jaunt around town!