Sunday, May 22, 2005

Move Along -- No Congregating Here

My wife and I visited the Mall of Georgia for the first time yesterday evening -- a busy Saturday night. We had dinner with other members of our extended family at a restaurant attached to the mall and then wandered around exploring the place for an hour or so.

One of the striking features of the Mall of Georgia is that it attempts to create an old-fashioned town square with a band shell, rides for smaller kids, and a fountain kids can play in as part of its overall ambiance. Many people have said that malls are the new town squares -- the Mall of Georgia is just more explicit about it. It was engineered by a company called PBS&J and they have more details about what it took to construct the place.

As we walked through the "town square" I noticed several signs in various areas -- what would be "side streets" in a typical town -- that said something like "Please Walk On. No Congregating Here."

The signs made me think about the differences between free and controlled spaces. There's a natural openness to spaces that encourage and allow for chance meetings that's very special. It's what's missing from the ubiquitous modern buildings with no inviting first floor cafes and shops and what makes them so cold and sterile.

It made me wonder how many churches explicitly try to control their spaces to the point where they're really saying to people "Move along -- no congregating here." It strikes me that intentionally including spaces for informal gathering and congregating -- and then having the courage to not put up signs saying "Move along..." -- would be very helpful for many local religious centers.

Research in what makes computer programmers more effective, as noted in Tom DeMarco's book Peopleware shows that they need a combination of private space where they can write code in peace and quiet, coupled with small group meeting space where they can come together and share information.

I think we all need a combination of personal private space and public sharing space.

Let's help the organizations we are part of do a better job of providing the latter.


Blogger the reverend mommy said...

Peopleware -- first or second edition?
Just glad I don't work in the uniform plastic basement....
Most sacred spaces tend to be gentler, softer -- full of smells (wood polish and candles) and softer lighting, decorative embelishment. Then you go into the "Adminstrative Hall" -- *here* is the antiseptic plastic blah.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Cogit8tor said...

I've always enjoyed the fact that many Unitarian Universalist congregations use the same space for worship and for large scale fellowship. Somehow it feels more appropriate to worship in a place that's also where we've shared good food, good secular music, kids activities, and such than in a single-purpose space that's full of pews and only used on Sundays. I guess that's part of my anti-Ediface Complex.

10:40 PM  
Blogger the reverend mommy said...

I'm of two minds. Multipurpose space seems so efficent.

Yet I am glad we wil have a chapel (for the first time in a long time) because there is something about having a set-apart space to go be quiet in -- where the noise and chaos of this world cannot enter.

I set aside my room this way -- I refuse to have the bills, computers, television in my room. It needs to be set aside and thus become a retreat. I like the idea of having a retreat place, a sanctuary within the church building.

Of course, I am an idealist...

8:46 AM  
Blogger Cogit8tor said...

A small space with a dedicated purpose is fine. What frustrates me are large spaces used 10% of the time. And private offices with good sound-proofing and opaque doors that close are sanctuaries for application developers.

11:49 AM  

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