Theses Master's

Signs in Urban Spaces in Ethnic Enclaves: A Case Study of Manhattan Chinatown

Jiang, Yi

This study focuses on signage as an element of physical urban culture, and its role in the development of ethnic enclaves, using Manhattan Chinatown as a case study. The study area is bounded by Canal Street, Baxter Street, Worth Street and Bowery, an area known as the historic core where Chinatown began and still continues to this day. This research takes a closer look at signage in Manhattan Chinatown and its relationship with different stages of development in Chinatown by analyzing the spatial distribution, appearance and additional statistical information on signs in the historic core area across three time periods: 1940, 1980, and 2017. Signage provides direct insight into the struggle between internal and external images of the neighborhood: when there are more commodified, expressive signs, they contribute to how people perceive the space, which further helps external forces shape the community. The shifting characteristics in Manhattan Chinatown’s streetscapes further contributes to the image of the neighborhood and influences the market by changing how the place is perceived by visitors and consumers. This study suggests that in order to preserve or develop the ethnic enclave, one must first understand the conflicting external and internal forces that have been influencing the area. By understanding the balance of these forces, planners can eventually take the image and authenticity of the neighborhood into consideration in the planning process more effectively and with better consideration for the needs and desires of the ethnic community.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Meisterlin, Leah M.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 29, 2018