Spaces (13 Nov)

Coffee bar Originally uploaded by Payton Chung

Star Lounge in Ukrainian Village was built as a bar, but now serves coffee & tea. The bar and counters lining some walls create a nice mix of seating options instead of the usual plethora of half-empty 2-top tables that typify coffee houses; there’s plenty of space for people to work solo or to strike up a conversation. There’s also the communal-table option, but I get a feeling that’ll never really catch on in Chicago. (I do remember one hotel breakfast room in Japan which had communal tables with low dividers — similar to what appears to be called an index table, often seen in library reference areas — which pretty effectively divided the table but not the room.)

Earlier, I’ve posted that walking, cycling, and transit (les modes doux = “sweet modes”) are subject to a positive feedback loop (virtuous circle) as usage grows, while driving creates a negative feedback loop (vicious circle). Now, the quintessential U of C question: but how does it work in theory? David Levinson and Kevin Krizek in Planning for Place and Plexus call these Complementors vs. Competitors. The other pedestrians on the sidewalk are (usually) complementors. The other drivers on the road are competitors. Both of these effects follow from transportation’s network effects, but also result from the peculiar dynamics of automobility vs. other modes — in particular, the very high marginal cost of adding capacity due to the vehicle’s immense demand for space. More compact, space-efficient modes can be scaled up at little cost; and when so scaled they also contribute to the “more is better” positive feedback loop underlying good urbanism.

2 thoughts on “Spaces (13 Nov)

  1. you wrote:
    >There’s also the communal-table option, but I get a feeling that’ll never really catch on in Chicago. <

    Actually, there is evidence that communal-tables are working in Chicago. Urban Belly restaurant on California and Lovely Bakery on Milwaukee have both setup multiple communal tables. And from my patron experience at both establishments, the communal-tables were being shared by independent parties.

  2. Inside the redone Intelligentsia on Randolph, where 80% of the seats are at counters or a communal table. Still packed with people, too!

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