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Hassan, A.; , .; Qibing, C. Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 22 June 2024).
Hassan A,  , Qibing C. Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2024.
Hassan, Ahmad, , Chen Qibing. "Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 22, 2024).
Hassan, A., , ., & Qibing, C. (2022, June 18). Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas. In Encyclopedia.
Hassan, Ahmad, et al. "Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas." Encyclopedia. Web. 18 June, 2022.
Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas

Around the world, scholars and institutions may differ in their definition of park green space (PGS). In his definition of PGS, Olmsted, the architect of New York’s Central Park, focuses on its green and public attributes and the functions it serves, i.e., the functional public green space apart from the gray areas (mainly artificial structures such as buildings, roads, squares, and facilities). The term “dense urban area” generally refers to a limited urban area with a high floor-area ratio, high population density, high building coverage, highly concentrated high-rise buildings, and low space openness.

dense urban area park green space

1. Need for Attention Restoration for Residents in Dense Urban Areas

1.1. Social Stress Induced by Rapid Urbanization

Cities, as centers of human life, can provide not only better living conditions for people but also regional economic development. Urbanization has become a worldwide trend with a focus on the development of all countries [1]. Whatever views one holds about urbanization, they exert an increasingly subtle influence. As greater density is the essence of urbanization [2], some scholars state that high-density living is the future direction of urbanization and would change our way of life [3]. From the global perspective, there is an increasing trend for high density in the accelerating process of urbanization [4]. It is expected that in the next decade, urban populations will rise sharply in both developed and developing countries and may account for 85% and 56% of the total population, respectively [5]. The development of urbanization has placed increasing stress on city-dwellers [6]. Studies have found that the psychological stress experienced by the inhabitants is related to the negative feelings caused by crowded conditions [7]. Interpersonal proximity leads to more social interaction, a significant factor in generating psychological stress [8]. Lack of privacy caused by close distance causes anxiety [9]. The competition between space and social resources can also create psychological stress for the inhabitants [10].

1.2. The Close Relationship between Stress and Attention Restoration

The Kaplans stated in their study that stress falls into two categories. One is a direct or perceived injury. The other is the lack of resources caused by intuition, chronic exhaustion, and the rise of autonomic arousal. The resources include external resources (such as money and social relations), physiological resources (such as physical strength and function), and psychological resources (such as attention and emotion) [11]. It can be seen that stress and attention restoration can be interactive and inter-transformational and that attention restoration can protect against stress [3].
Therefore, our brains need restoration to prevent stress [12]. Many scholars have discovered that the natural environment has the capacity to attract an innate affection from human beings who respond positively to the combination of features such as plants, water, stones, and animals [13]. The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) proposed by the Kaplans defines the four components of the restorative environment [14]. Being away (an environment that physically and psychologically detaches an individual from daily concerns and thoughts); Extent (immersion in an environment that is rich and coherent enough to constitute another world for exploration); Fascination (an environment that can hold one’s attention effortlessly); Compatibility (an environment matching the personal inclination and purposes). A green environment with these components can affect a gradual four-stage process of cognitive recovery from fatigue [15]. The first stage is a clearing of the mind and a restoration of peace of mind. The second is voluntary attention to fatigue recovery. The third stage allows the individual to be gently distracted and engaged in a low-stimulation activity, which reduces the internal noise and provides a quiet internal space for relaxation. The fourth stage, also the deepest stage, is a reflection on important personal matters, such as priorities, actions, or goals.

2. Related Concepts of Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas

2.1. Park Green Space

Around the world, scholars and institutions may differ in their definition of park green space (PGS). In his definition of PGS, Olmsted, the architect of New York’s Central Park, focuses on its green and public attributes and the functions it serves, i.e., the functional public green space apart from the gray areas (mainly artificial structures such as buildings, roads, squares, and facilities). However, the Swedish architect, Blom, defines PGS as a natural and cultural complex reconstructed on the basis of the existing natural environment and lays stress on its ecological and cultural elements. In his book “Landscaping,” Taiwanese scholar Lin Lejian defines PGS as a green space where (1) the public can enjoy activities for joy, leisure, relaxation, and recreation in order to keep themselves healthy and raise their cultural awareness; (2) the public can have free access to its supporting facilities; (3) the public may find refuge against natural disasters. In recent years, China has issued several standards related to park green space (PGS), which are described below. (1) There is the Standard of Basic Terms for Urban Planning (GB/T 50280-98), in which the green space is defined as a designated space for ecological improvement, environmental protection, recreation for the residents, and landscaping. The Standard classifies the green space into the following five categories: park green space, production green space, protection green space, supporting green space, and other green space. Park green space refers to the public green space open to the public for recreation, which should be of adequate size and have a substantial green area and service facilities. (2) There is also the Standard of Classification of Urban Green Space (CJJ85-2002T) and the Standard of Urban Land Classification and Construction Land Planning (GB50137-2011), both of which define PGS as the public green space open to the public for recreation with the function of ecology, beautification, and emergency. This entry takes the Standard of Urban Land Classification and Construction Land Planning (GB50137-2011) as the definition of park green space for research and classification.

2.2. Dense Urban Area

The term “dense urban area” generally refers to a limited urban area with a high floor-area ratio, high population density, high building coverage, highly concentrated high-rise buildings, and low space openness. It serves the following functions of a city: complex and compatible, compact and intensive. Academically, there is no agreed quantitative criterion as to what a dense urban area is, but it is generally agreed that it involves both building density and population density. A city or urban area with a population of 15,000 and over p/km2 and a 2.0 and over floor-area ratio can be regarded as a dense urban area [16][17]. It can be seen that park green space in dense urban areas has the following distinctive characteristics: limited area, a variety of functions, high usage, greater openness, compatibility with the surroundings, and a variety of users.

2.3. Park Green Space in Dense Urban Areas

Based on the two concepts above, parks in dense urban areas have to strike a balance between limited land resources and functions and integrate the public space and the natural environment to meet the needs of recreation and health [18].
Chengdu is a highly developed city in Sichuan Province, China, with a high population density. In 2017, Chengdu had a population of 6.57 million in a 371 km2 urban area, exceeding the criterion of 15,000 people/km2, while in the central urban area (about 60 km2, within the 2nd Ring Road), the population density has gone far beyond the criterion. As a result of the circle-layer spatial structure created during the process of urbanization, the park green spaces in this area are mainly distributed in spots and belts. Based on what has been mentioned above, the central urban area of Chengdu is an ideal area for research on the functions of the park green space in a dense urban area. This entry chooses the dense urban area—the central urban area within the 2nd Ring Road—as the area for research. Here, four representative free public parks have been selected as the sample plots for the experiment, namely, Wangjiang Tower Park, Southern Suburban Park, Huanhuaxi Park, and People’s Park.

3. Moderation Effect of Empathy on Environment Perception and Psychology

Perception involves both simple senses and complicated awareness [19]. In practice, the senses and awareness are virtually inseparable, for they are part of a continuous process in which awareness reflects the sensory stimuli and converts them into an organized experience [20]. Awareness further processes the information derived from the senses. If you watch the leaves falling from the trees in a park in the autumn, you are receiving sensory information. However, if you feel lonely and melancholy at the sight of the falling leaves, it is your awareness that is at work. Rudolf Arnheim believes that vision is the mechanical perception of objects, while visual awareness is the perception of the expressivity of objects, a particular aesthetic awareness [21]. The perception of landscapes can be regarded as a process in which senses and awareness are interwoven [22]. The experiencers have similar senses about the same object, but they may differ greatly in awareness. Generally, the senses are within the scope of psychological study [23], while awareness is within the orbit of philosophical study. Based on phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty believes that the continuous movement of one’s body in a space integrates the subjective world and the objective world. In this process, awareness associates symbols with meanings and forms with content. Hence, the perception of the landscape derives from both physical and psychological cognition, and the awareness of the landscape synthesizes all the senses and converts them into a complicated and continuous experience of landscape perception.
In all these perception experiences, vision plays a leading role. People rely more on vision than the other senses, as 87% of external information comes through this channel [24]. Sensory stimuli, to a great extent, govern one’s perception of the environment.
Sobel believes that empathy is the basis for studying perceived behaviors related to the environment [25]. Researchers have found that empathy is a neural representation [26], and the ultimate goal of the reactivation of the neural presentation is to help an individual perceive the environment and the connotations and spirit it carries and produce similar or the same behaviors and emotions. Preston and de Waal presented their Perception-Action Model (PAM), believing that shared representation is the basis of empathy. When an individual perceives the emotions of others, a shared representation will be activated, and one will experience similar emotions to others [27]. Cognitive empathy is explained by psychological theories.
Brain imaging has shown that psychological theories about empathy mainly involve brain areas such as the sulcus temporalis superior (STS), temporoparietal junction (TPJ), temporal pole (TP), and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), which form a neural network that can represent other people and self. Among them, the MPFC plays a significant role in understanding other people’s psychology and cognition of the surrounding environment. Some scholars have shown the respondents figures related to psychological theories and empathy. Their findings have revealed that MPFC and TPJ are active in the processing of emotional information and speculation about the psychological inferences of other people [28]. Both activations would, to a certain extent, relieve anxiety, fear, and psychological stress [29]. In this process, the brain has been enhanced and drilled through deliberate exercises. The efforts of the subjective will bring about psychological change, i.e., neuroplasticity. By “planting” certain sentiments and deliberately adjusting one’s cognition, perception, and behaviors, a person can improve his/her related brain areas and psychological state. Empathy on exposure to the external environment will generate greater sensitivity in the cerebral activities, representing an adaptive advantage [29]. It suggests a certain but not an absolute link between empathy and psychology. Other correlations still remain to be researched.


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