Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Use and Experience of Neighborhood Parks in Singapore

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Use and Experience of Neighborhood Parks in Singapore

Article excerpt


The provision of nearby open spaces or neighborhood parks for recreation in residential areas is an important part of urban planning. The use and management of neighborhood parks have attracted considerable research attention in Western scholarship on parks (e.g., Jacobs, 1969; Bangs & Mahler, 1970; Gold, 1972, 1977; Hester, 1984; Hutchison, 1994). Neighborhood parks are among the most frequently studied open spaces in the United States (Francis, 1987). Some of this research is beginning to point to the social, psychological, and therapeutic benefits of open space use (Ulrich and Addoms, 1981; Ulrich, 1984; Verderber, 1986; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). Kaplan and Kaplan have suggested that `nearby nature' is important to people, the natural environment is often experienced as a preferred or aesthetic environment that plays an important role in the recovery from mental fatigue.

Yet little is known about how people across densely populated Third World cities respond to and use neighborhood parks in their day-to-day living milieu: What do they actually see when they look at the ubiquitous neighborhood parks? What are their attitudes towards neighborhood parks? What are their overall evaluations of such open spaces? How do these evaluations relate to what they feel about neighborhood spaces as embodied in the ideas or meanings they ascribe to these experiences? Some of these questions will be addressed in this paper.

Specifically, the aim of this paper is to explore the ways in which residents use and perceive neighborhood parks in a non-western city, Singapore. In particular, it reports on a study which yielded information on residents' experiences of neighborhood parks including the social and material relations pertinent to such experiences. Such an exercise is important because it provides an understanding of how and why people relate to open space albeit in a non-western city. This is not only of practical importance in the face of growing pressure for planners to provide open space that people want, but also fundamental to theoretical discussions on the provision of open space in cities.


Theoretical Orientation

The interest in the public's perceptions and experiences of neighborhood parks can be situated in the wider theoretical developments that have been taking place within recreational planning since the 1970s. An important starting point in contemporary recreational research has been the rejection of the simple activity-based models and the acceptance of the idea that the key issue in recreation is the quality of experience enjoyed by the participant (Driver & Tocher, 1970).

Reflecting a growing recognition of the importance of planning from the perspective of the public, the changing emphasis has led to a concern with modeling the recreation process in order to conceptualize the experience for the purposes of research and planning. This has spawned a great deal of research that describes the recreation experience (e.g., Driver, 1977; Tinsley & Kass, 1979; Ulrich, 1981), and more recently, that understands people's behavior in natural environments or people's relationship to these environments (e.g., Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Driver, Brown, & Peterson, 1991; Ulrich , Dimberg & Driver, 1991). Ulrich and his associates (Ulrich, Simons, Losito, Florito, Miles & Zelson, 1991; Ulrich, Dimberg, & Driver, 1991) have provided some empirical results to support the importance of nature and obliquely of open space in urban living. As an example, Ulrich, Simons, Losito, Florito, Miles and Zelson (1991), on the basis of design experiment involving physiological measures of subjects, have suggested that exposure to natural scenes rather than urban environments produces faster and more complete recuperation or recovery from stress.

It is not necessary to resurrect the specifics of human-environment interactions here (for a review see Ittelson, 1973; 1978). …

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