I recently visited the newly opened Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, designed by James Corner Field Operations, which itself follows the model of a modern home—or even an open-plan office. Playground (or playroom) here, taco stand (or kitchen) there, sittable steps overlooking a fountain (instead of a screen), a bocce court (instead of a game table). The benches even have power outlets, the better to lure remote workers outside. The steps, and some additional chaises, offer the opportunity for that slouch. Domino Park may be yet another example of how the living room has been externalized—for others, look to hotel lobbies, malls, and plenty of casual offices—but I wonder to what extent these public spaces can truly deliver on the domestic Room without a Name’s promise of both informality and intimacy.
Nelson and Wright correctly predicted the sea change in family life that reoriented the house around the needs of all members, great and small, and established a floor plan that worked best for most. Today, Nelson’s “daytime living room,” which was pitched more at execs than the rank and file, has expanded to include informal, accessible spaces for both to work, focus, and play. After all, what’s more conducive to a creative breakthrough than a 4:30 PM loll on a sofa? And yet, for all the creature comforts one now finds in offices and atriums, lounges and lobbies, can any amount of public soft seating truly replicate the comforts of home?
Intimacy, as ever, is created not by furniture by but doing things with the ones you love. Whether that’s gathering around the table for a round of Taboo, or that marble-topped kitchen island for a baking project, that nameless space at the center of the home is a blank Valentine: you have to bring the heart.