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Judging by the thick folder of press cuttings that have focused on them in recent years, and following iconic experiments such as Les Grands Voisins (in the 14th arrondissement of Paris), Mains d’Œuvres (in Saint-Ouen), L’Hôtel Pasteur (in Rennes), and Le 6b (in Saint-Denis), the 2020s are set to be a big decade for third places—particularly following two COVID-19 lockdowns in France that have profoundly changed the way we look at work, local areas, and how we live our lives. It seems that no mayor in either a rural or urban community can uncover an old stud farm, forge, or commercial premises without dreaming of developing their own third place, while in the wake of Patrick Levy-Waitz’s Rapport tiers-lieux 2021 multiple funding sources have become available, and millions of euros are set to be spent on supporting the rise of third places across France, through the Ministry of Culture/DGMIC’s Quartiers Culturels Créatifs (Creative Cultural Neighborhoods) program, and the National Agency for Regional Cohesion (ANCT)’s Manufactures de Proximité (Neighborhood Workshops) and Fabriques de Territoire (Regional Resource Centers). These initiatives are taking these hybrid places from a niche into a bubble, in a “third place moment” that is characterized by widespread enthusiasm for what is sometimes seen as a model for recovery and regeneration. It also prompts a collective discussion about this shift from the fringe to the mainstream, and calls on us to identify the associated pitfalls and conditions of success…


Third places are being proclaimed as a model for recovery and regeneration, and as all-purpose tools, but are prone to illusions, projections, and misapprehensions that are taking them ever further away from their original identity as hybrid places of culture and experimentation.

Arnaud Idelon
Arnaud Idelon is actively involved in the third place sector, and cofounded Ancoats in 2017 in order to contribute to the development of cultural third spaces and other urban alternatives. As a freelance journalist and radio presenter, he is a commentator on ongoing changes in these places of artistic emergence for various media outlets, and teaches these subjects at university. He is the co-coordinator of the university diploma in “Setting up and managing common spaces” initially developed by Yes We Camp and the Université Gustave Eiffel. He is also helping the General Directorate of Media and Cultural Industries (DGMIC) of the French Minister of Culture with its program to support the emergence of cultural third places (PAM Tiers-Lieux), and is involved in providing editorial support to the Forum Entreprendre dans la Culture (Cultural Entrepreneurs Forum), and assessing the Creative Cultural Neighborhoods (QCC) support program. In 2021 he cofounded Sample, a cultural and community third place in Bagnolet, in order to “ground” in the real world the tools, principles, and practices he has garnered from his recent experience.
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