Leisure Preferences and Open Space Needs in an Urban Chinese American Community

Tingwei Zhang and Paul H. Gobster

Zhang, T., & Gobster, P. (1998). LEISURE PREFERENCES AND OPEN SPACE NEEDS IN AN URBAN CHINESE AMERICAN COMMUNITY. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 15(4), 338-355.


Leisure preferences and open space needs were explored within a discrete, homogeneous ethnic community: the Chinese Americans of Chicago's Chinatown. Face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions were used to identify outdoor leisure patterns and preferences, in general, and with respect to new park development being planned for the community. Findings show that although some popular activities are no different from what might be expected for the mainstream Anglo American population, the meaning and significance of these activities have clear and unique ties to Chinese culture. Preferences for the new Chinatown park development mirror activity preferences, emphasizing facilities that enhance the natural environment for passive activities. Notable differences in activity preferences were found within the sample of respondents according to age, generational status, and other factors. Park planning considerations and future research needs are identified.

Main finding
The study revealed that the 'leisure' preferences of Chinese Americans in Chicago's Chinatown were similar in terms of activities to the mainstream population but were clearly differentiated in terms of cultural meaning and significance. For example, relaxing (including walking, people-watching, sitting, and chatting) was a dominant outdoor activity but the Chinese American respondents considered the set of activities as unified and not separable as leisure or non-leisure. The preference for location of outdoor activities within the confines of Chinatown despite space constraints is another aspect which could reflect a desire to acculturate or a common desire to seek opportunities close to home.

Description of method used in the article
The study focused on Chinese Americans and the Chinatown community in Chicago. Face to face interviews (n=203) were conducted based on gender and age group. Focus groups were also conducted including children. The respondents/participants were asked about outdoor activity preferences.

Of practical use

Organising categories