There has always been the walk with a friend, the companionable, social stroll in a quiet setting, to catch up, to share the news, to chat. A path to accommodate social strolls has requirements, but they are few. The same settings we seek for solitary strolls—a park or green place away from traffic noise and major distractions—but wide enough so we can walk abreast and others can pass by.
Still, specialized parts of buildings and spaces between buildings have been created in ancient and modern times to accommodate social strolls.
Peristyles, the columned porches of ancient Greece, were designed for comradely conversation or contemplation around temples and other public buildings.
In classical Rome, these colonnaded porches moved indoors and became private, surrounding a courtyard garden to the rear of the house, The interior peristyle evolved into the cloister, where we can easily imagine monks or nuns conversing while strolling under cover and while viewing the garden the arcades surrounded.
To those historic companionable strolls, a new kind of path has been added in recent years, one designed to prompt chance meetings among people from diverse backgrounds leading to what might be called collaborative strolls intended to spark scientific discoveries and commercial innovation.
Creating paths that promote such encounters and strolls is forming a veritable movement within business centers and burgeoning cities responding to the need for face-to-face encounters between people from different departments, different businesses, or different institutions in the high tech industries and institutions that will drive economic growth in this century.
To that end, business clusters, cooperative spaces and corporate campuses, corridors and common areas, indoors and out, are being strategically located and laid out to prompt these not-quite-random encounters leading to conversations that with luck spark new ways of seeing, unusual solutions to old problems, and unexpected commercially viable results.
As an example, Google—known for its interactive interior building spaces—has a branch with 1,000 employees in Kirkland, Washington, and announced early in 2013 its intention to build a second adjacent campus. The buildings and campuses are designed to support Google’s innovative “open and collaborative culture.” The city, for its part, is working to convert an abandoned rail line into a trail for use by pedestrians, bicycles, and possibly light rail, to be known as the Cross Kirkland Corridor, that will in part connect and serve the two campuses, other in-town businesses and nearby cities.
Pedestrian friendly metropolitan areas, collaborative business models, and aging demographics suggest that social strolling may be about to enter a new golden age.