Amita Sinha

Volume 5, Issue 2, September 2018
pp. 20 – 33

Amita Sinha is a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA where she has been teaching social and cultural factors in design since 1989. Her ethnography of a small park in Lucknow was published in Architecture+Design, September 2005. Sinha is the author of Landscapes in India: Forms and Meanings (University Press of Colorado, 2006; reprinted by Asia Educational Services, 2011) and editor of Landscape Perception (Academic Press, 1995) and Natural Heritage of Delhi (USIEF and INTACH, 2009). She recently co-edited Studies in Heritage Conservation and Management: Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Conservation in South Asia (Routledge, 2017). She is currently working on her second book Cultural Landscapes of India: Imagined, Enacted, and Reclaimed.


Small urban parks are catalysts in promoting place-based communities. Their ‘centeredness’ is essential for successful social use as Jane Jacobs pointed out in Death and Life of Great American Cities. Subsequent studies of urban parks by Clare Cooper Marcus confirm that insight. Case studies of small urban parks in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign in Illinois, USA support this urban design principle. Ethnographic research reveals three dominant subcultures in their social life-play, movement, and pause. All three subcultures are supported by two types of small parks – neighbourhood and community parks. Although both are centered, their urban context impacts the quality of social life. Mixed land use and high volume of traffic around community parks result in a public space for the larger community. Neighbourhood parks in the midst of single family houses and lined by streets with low volume of traffic, on the other hand, have a stronger sense of collective identity and feelings of ownership among their users. They are ‘parochial’ rather than truly ‘public’ and therefore more successful in fostering social capital in a place-based neighbourhood community.

Small Parks, Ethnography, Community, Neighbourhood, Public, Parochial