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Taipei organic acupuncture
Taipei organic acupuncture
Bug Dome by WEAK! in Shenzhen, China. An unofficial social club for illegal workers next to the Shenzhen City Hall.
Bug Dome by WEAK! in Shenzhen, China. An unofficial social club for illegal workers next to the Shenzhen City Hall.

Urban acupuncture is a socio-environmental theory that combines contemporary urban design with traditional Chinese acupuncture, using small-scale interventions to transform the larger urban context.[1] Sites are selected through the analysis of aggregate social, economic and ecological factors, and are developed through a dialogue between designers and the community. Just as the practice of acupuncture is aimed at relieving stress in the human body, the goal of urban acupuncture is to relieve stress in the built environment.[2] In Taipei, there was an urban acupuncture workshop that aimed to "produce small-scale but socially catalytic interventions" into the city's fabric.[3][dubious ]

Urban organism

Originally coined by Catalan architect and urbanist Manuel de Sola Morales,[4][failed verification][5][unreliable source] the term has been recently championed and developed further by Finnish architect and social theorist Marco Casagrande. This school of thought eschews massive urban renewal projects in favor of a more localized and community approach that, in an era of constrained budgets and limited resources, could democratically and cheaply offer a respite to urban dwellers.[6][unreliable source] Casagrande views cities as complex energy organisms in which different overlapping layers of energy flows are determining the actions of the citizens as well as the development of the city. By mixing environmentalism and urban design Casagrande is developing methods of punctual manipulation of the urban energy flows in order to create an ecologically sustainable urban development towards the so-called 3rd Generation City (postindustrial city). The theory is developed in the Tamkang University of Taiwan[citation needed] and at independent multidisciplinary research center Ruin Academy.[7] With focus on environmentalism and urban design, Casagrande defines urban acupuncture as a design tool where punctual manipulations contribute to creating sustainable urban development, such as the community gardens and urban farms in Taipei.[citation needed]

Participatory planning

In theory, urban acupuncture opens the door for uncontrolled creativity and freedom.[citation needed] Citizens are enabled to join the creative participatory planning process, feel free to use city space for any purpose and develop their environment according to their will.[8] This "new" post-industrialized city Casagrande, dubbed the Third Generation City, is driven by people who are concerned about the destruction that the modern machine is causing to nature including human nature. They want sustainable co-operation with the rest of the nature.[9] In a larger context, a site of urban acupuncture can be viewed as communicating to the city outside like a natural sign of life in a city programmed to subsume it.[10]

Urban acupuncture bears some similarities to the new urbanist concept of Tactical Urbanism. The idea focuses on local resources rather than capital-intensive municipal programs and promotes the idea of citizens installing and caring for interventions. These small changes, proponents claim, will boost community morale and catalyze revitalization.[11][failed verification] Boiled down to a simple statement, "urban acupuncture" means focusing on small, subtle, bottom-up interventions that harness and direct community energy in positive ways to heal urban blight and improve the cityscape. It is meant as an alternative to large, top-down, mega-interventions that typically require heavy investments of municipal funds (which many cities at the moment simply don't have) and the navigation of yards of bureaucratic red tape.[citation needed] The micro-scale interventions targeted by "urban acupuncture" appeal to both citizen-activists and cash-strapped communities.[12] In Mexico urban acupuncture converts temporary housing, like sheds in the slums, to simple homes that allow for "add-ons" later, based on need and affordability. This strategy transforms the slum zone, without relocating families that have been living together for generations.[13] In South Africa Urban Acupuncture is viewed as a possibility to provide a means for people to unlock their creativity and the advantages thereof, for example, innovation and entrepreneurship concentrating on parts of the city, i.e. communities thereby providing opportunities to those areas which do not have the sort of infrastructure that is found in mainstream cities. This approach can provide a more realistic and less costly method for city planners and citizens as an effective way to make minor improvements in the communities in order to achieve a greater good in the cities.[14]

Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, suggests urban acupuncture as the future solution for contemporary urban issues; by focusing on very narrow pressure points in cities, planners can initiate positive ripple effects for the greater society. Urban acupuncture reclaims the ownership of land to the public and emphasizes the importance of community development through small interventions in design of cities.[15] It involves pinpointed interventions that can be accomplished quickly to release energy and create a positive ripple effect.[16]

Taiwanese architect and academic Ti-Nan Chi is looking with micro urbanism at the vulnerable and insignificant side of contemporary cities around the world identified as micro-zones, points for recovery in which micro-projects have been carefully proposed to involve the public on different levels, aiming to resolve conflicts among property owners, villagers, and the general public.[17]
A loosely affiliated team of architects Wang Shu, Marco Casagrande, Hsieh Ying-chun and Roan Ching-yueh (sometimes called WEAK! Architecture) are describing the unofficial Instant City, or Instant Taipei, as architecture that uses the Official City as a "growing platform and energy source, where to attach itself like a parasite and from where to leach the electricity and water… [The Instant City's] illegal urban farms or night markets is so widespread and deep rooted in the Taiwanese culture and cityscape that we could almost speak of another city on top of the "official" Taipei, a parallel city – or a para-city." WEAK! is calling urban acupuncture depending on the context as Illegal Architecture, Orchid Architecture, the People's Architecture, or Weak Architecture.[18] The theory of urban acupuncture suggests that scores of small-scale, less costly and localized projects are what cities need in order to recover and renew themselves.[19]

Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award

The winner of the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award Cape Town 2012 is the neighborhood project "Mothers Unite" demonstrating the power of urban acupuncture.[20] Mothers Unite was founded in 2007 and provides a safe haven from the gangsterism, drugs and violence that are part and parcel of street and home life in the area. Built with donated shipping containers, the village is made up of a library, kitchen, office, sheltered area, playground and food garden.[21]

Urban ecological restoration

In ecological restoration of industrial cities Urban Acupuncture can take form as spontaneous and often illegal urban farms and community gardens punctuating the more mechanical city and tuning it towards a more sustainable coexistence with the natural environment.[22] Urban Acupuncture areas can receive, treat and recycle the waste from the surrounding city acting as eco-valleys within the urban fabric. In River Urbanism the Urban Acupuncture areas can include underground stormwater reservoirs and act as flood relief for the surrounding city as a sponge and they can act as biological filters purifying water originated from polluted rivers.[citation needed] Urban acupuncture is a point by point manipulation of the urban energy to create a sustainable town or city, which Marco Casagrande has dubbed '3rd Generation Cities'.[23]

Urban acupuncture in art

American artist Gordon Matta-Clark is credited[by whom?] with developing a system for identifying pockets of disrepair in the built environment—the first step in the framework of urban acupuncture.[citation needed] Artist Miru Kim explores industrial ruins and structures making her look at the city as if it's a living organism. She claims to feel not only the skin of the city, but also to penetrate the inner layers of its intestines and veins, which swarm with minuscule life forms.[24] Referring to a public environmental art work, Cicada, Casagrande explains:

Cicada is urban acupuncture for Taipei city penetrating the hard surfaces of industrial laziness in order to reach the original ground and get in touch with the collective Chi, the local knowledge that binds the people of Taipei basin with nature. The cocoon of Cicada is an accidental mediator between the modern man and reality. There is no other reality than nature.[25]


See also



  1. ^ "Urban Acupuncture: Regenerating Public Space Through Hyper-Local Interventions". ArchDaily. 25 September 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  2. ^ ‘Urban acupuncture’ to alleviate stress in informal settlements in Mexico – Alejandro Lastra & Dorina Pojani, Journal of Urban Design 2/2018 doi:10.1080/13574809.2018.1429902
  3. ^ Ruin Academy – Casagrande Lab. In Architectural Theories of the Environment: Posthuman Territory, ed. Ariane Lourie Harrison. Routledge, 2013.
  4. ^ Rubió, Manuel de Solà-Morales. Progettare città. Vol. 23. Electa, 1999.
  5. ^ De Solà-Morales, Manuel. "The strategy of urban acupuncture." Structure Fabric and Topography Conference, Nanjing University. 2004.
  6. ^ Could cities' problems be solved by urban acupuncture? – Leon Kaye, The Guardian 21 July 2010
  7. ^ Anarchist Gardener Issue Two HK special 安那其建築園丁港深建築雙城雙年展特別版 – Nikita Wu, Ruin Academy 2/2012
  8. ^ Compost City – Guoda Bardauskaite p. 30-31, Sustainable Urban Design Journal 1 2011
  9. ^ Urban Acupuncture – Raune Frankjær, Rethink: Urban Interaction 10/2012
  10. ^ Urban Acupuncture – Kelly Chan, Architizer 1/2012
  11. ^ 'Urban acupuncture' touted for cash-strapped cities – David West, New Urban Network 7/2011
  12. ^ 'Urban acupuncture' touted for cash-strapped cities Archived 15 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine – David West, Better Cities & Towns 7/2011
  13. ^ Star architect leaves it all to build homes for the poor Archived 12 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine – Yam Phui Yee, Good Times – The Conscience of the Nation
  14. ^ Urban Acupuncture – Mariam Mahomed, Urban Spaces Review 2012
  15. ^ Urban Acupuncture Archived 25 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine Understanding Space 2011
  16. ^ Curitiba: Jaime Lerner’s Urban Acupuncture Archived 4 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine – Bill Hinchberger, Brazilmax 2/2006
  17. ^ Chi Ti-Nan develops a project to preserve Hong Kong coastline Tai Long Sai Wan Archived 31 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine World Architecture News 4/2011
  18. ^ Illegal Architecture in Taipei Archived 26 May 2012 at – Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan Architizer 3/2011
  19. ^ Could Cities Benefit from Small-Scale, Local "Urban Acupuncture" Projects Like This? – Kimberly Mok Treehugger 1/2012
  20. ^ Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award – 19 April 2012 Archived 8 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine Mothers Unite 4/2012
  21. ^ Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award 2012 – winner announced Archived 25 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine Deutsche Bank Corporate Social Responsibility 4/2012
  22. ^ Taipei Organic Acupuncture – Marco Casagrande, P2P Foundation 12/2010
  23. ^ Amsterdam: Urban Acupuncture creates new life in the suburbsDanish Architecture Centre, Sustainable Cities 6/2010
  24. ^ My underground art explorations – Miru Kim TED 2/2009
  25. ^ Could Cities Benefit from Small-Scale, Local "Urban Acupuncture" Projects Like This? – Kimberley Mok Treehugger 1/2012

Further reading