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Urban Acupuncture - Treasure Hill

Authors:
  • The International Society of Biourbanism

Abstract

Everywhere in the air was the smell of a slow death. But the energy had not left the place. It was everywhere: in the ruins of the bulldozed houses, in the furniture, altars and photo albums of abandoned houses and in the anarchy of the illegal small gardens by the river. [3] The remaining inhabitants were scared. I felt the human energy in Treasure Hill very strong but also that it was now directed towards death, destruction. I needed to make a plan how to tune this same energy towards construction, like turning over the compost that has been the smelly part of the farm just to become the most fertile top soil. I was careful to manipulate these hidden energy flows and the small elements that I introduced to Treasure Hill can be compared to the needles in acupuncture. I call this urban acupuncture.
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URBAN ACUPUNCTURE TREASURE HILL
Marco Casagrande
The original article is published in Taiwan Architect magazine, 2006.
Taiwan is on the threshold of an urban ecological awakening. This is the time to
decide which way the Taiwanese cities will go. Much of the heavy industry have
already moved to the surrounding countries and the citizens are looking forward to
the clean-up and environmental rehabilitation of the post-industrial cities. But
which way will this go: will Taiwan continue copying the artificial Western urban
face-lifts or will it be the Japanese Singaporestyle ecofascism? Or is Taiwan able
to look deep into the mirror and see, realize and use its own original Taiwanese
Chinese hidden social values and energies and develop a new compost like organic
way of environmentally sustainable urban living?
I came the first time to Taipei in 2002 invited by architect Chi Ti-Nan to participate the
Urban Flashes symposium.
[1]
I was very much touched by the city - mainly by the street
level humanistic energies but Taipei left me also wondering why the soft core of the
humanistic city did not meet with the official one. It was almost like analyzing two
different cities when reading the official data and maps about Taipei and to walk the
streets.
I came back the year after with the invitation of the Taipei City Government this time to
spend some time studying the human / organic layer of the city and how to react to it by
means of urban planning. This is the time, in October 2003, when I first entered the
Treasure Hill settlement near Gonguang.
[2]
I was shocked by Treasure Hill. It was an
urban farming community enclave inside the modern city powered by grandmothers. By
the time Treasure Hill was dying. The official city had given to this illegal settlement a
death penalty and the bulldozing was already on its way. The farms were turned into
lawns and the farmers were moved into apartment houses. Everywhere in the air was the
smell of a slow death. But the energy had not left the place. It was everywhere: in the
ruins of the bulldozed houses, in the furniture, altars and photo albums of abandoned
2
houses and in the anarchy of the illegal small gardens by the river.
[3]
The remaining
inhabitants were scared. I felt the human energy in Treasure Hill very strong but also that
it was now directed towards death, destruction. I needed to make a plan how to tune this
same energy towards construction, like turning over the compost that has been the smelly
part of the farm just to become the most fertile top soil. I was careful to manipulate these
hidden energy flows and the small elements that I introduced to Treasure Hill can be
compared to the needles in acupuncture. I call this urban acupuncture.
[4]
Treasure Hill community at the start of the Organic Layer action in 2003.
An Urban Poem
I became the cleaner man in Treasure Hill. There was no garbage bins and the small
snaking allies were full of filth. The people were hiding behind their windows but I saw
that they were old. In the foot of the hill some three stories of houses had been
demolished, bulldozed away and instead of the houses there was green grass. A lawn
instead of a settlement - because officially now this was a park zone. For nature lawn is
the same as concentration camp. It is nothing. It produces a shameful amount of oxygen
and is merely the roof of a worm. And these people had been living there for some 50
years and these people were gardeners, I saw the fragments everywhere village people,
growing their own food. City had stepped in and the village people had to go. Same old
story.
3
So I became the cleaner man. The first day the people were hiding and I started to clean
and transport trash from their streets down of the hill to be picked up. The next day the
same. On the third day there were already some buckets waiting for me and on the fourth
day the people were cleaning themselves too. Together with me was also an increasing
amount of architecture students from Tamkang University and National Taiwan
University. Soon the little settlement of Treasure Hill was cleaned from the garbage and I
started to build up stairs to connect the remained stairways of the torn down houses.
By that time Treasure Hill was a dead end and I needed to create a loop for circular
movement.
In the end of 3 weeks I had 200 students working with me and architect Hsieh Ying-Chun
had come down from the mountains too.
[5]
With Hsieh every morning we met and agreed
who builds where. I don’t know what language we spoke. In the end the steps were built
and even a small parade took place. Treasure Hill could stay and the bulldozing was
stopped. In the place of the lawn where once the houses had stood was now a vegetable
garden, food and the inhabitants were eager to cultivate the land. City learned to
appreciate this small sustainable settlement a small urban poem. It helped that the poet
Liao was in the charge of the Department of the Cultural Affairs.
Restored vegetable garden in Treasure Hill, 2003.
4
Treasure Hill was important for me maybe because I felt that the place was so real and
the city around it was so fictive. So many external powers in the city dominating the
humanistic energy and in Treasure Hill none. Now after a couple of years I am happy to
see that Treasure Hill still survives. I survived the heat and the construction process
partly due Missis Chen, the matriarch of the settlement, who gave me Chinese medicines
and feed me fish and a lot of beer. The gardening is going well of course, since these
people know what to do if given a chance. There is still a lot of lawn, a useless layer of
artificial nature which should be a garden too.
It is good that the city is injecting new energy to the place by some artists working there
but I also felt the danger of the real settlement becoming a background for art pieces.
Now when I go there most of the junk laying around the mango trees and water streams
are from art works light stands, posters, pieces or worthless installations etc. If art
becomes the junk of Treasure Hill, what is that? People don’t have to exploit Treasure
Hill or use it for anything, people should just appreciate it. What comes to art or action in
a place like Treasure Hill build another one. Build a new Treasure Hill, the Ultra
Village in the hearts of Taipei.
I also feel that in Treasure Hill surfaces many of the future possibilities of
environmentally sustainable urban living. Treasure Hill is like the attic of a house that
contains objects of the times once lived, the good old times as the grandmother says.
Narrative objects, objects with memories. Attic is the most subconscious space of a house
and attic is the memory of a house. As I feel it, Treasure Hill is the attic of Taipei.
[6]
The
memory and the link between the modern man and nature human nature as part of
nature.
Forget the Forgetting
The grandmothers of Treasure Hill are showing the way to Taipei. When the old farming
based values of Treasure Hill and those of the surrounding modern city will meet a new
kind of ecological urbanism might be born. I don’t mean with this taking steps back
5
technologically but on the contrary suggest to reinforce the existing urban farming
qualities of the Treasure Hill with state of the art high environmental technology
solutions and so view the Treasure Hill settlement as a living laboratory of sustainable
urbanism. The new technologies and solutions must respect the way of life of the
Treasure Hill veterans the active solar panels and mechanical biological treatment units
of organic waste must make room for the grandmothers.
The Treasure Hill settlement is built originally as an anti-aircraft position on terraced on a
mountain and facing straight to south. These are ideal conditions for effective use of solar
energy. The banks of the nearby Xindian River are used as platforms for highway bridges
leaving the ground level open. The river also acts as a wind corridor all the way from the
river mouth in Danshui. The banks of the Xindian and later Danshui Rivers are suitable
for urban wind energy farms.
Under the highway bridge besides Treasure Hill can easily be positioned hermetically
closed in-vessel MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment) units to ferment organic urban
waste including digested sludge. The units are using anaerobic bacteria and do not smell.
The outcome of the MBT is clean water, top soil and bio gas later on to be conditioned
into electricity.
By these means the Treasure Hill community can be completely sustainable what comes
to its electricity use and waste treatment. Besides this it will gain fertile top soil for its
farms. Also other environmental technology solutions should be tested, such as biological
gray water filtering and step by step the big clean-up of the Danshui River.
Taipei City Government should see the possibilities in Treasure Hill and react on them.
The grandmothers and urban farming must stay but new environmental technologies must
also be tested in a way that later on can be multiplied in Taipei and in the rest of the
Taiwanese cities. The solutions must be site specific but the suitable environmental
technology solutions already exist. It is only a question of will to combine these two.
6
Finland has been reviewed several years in a row by the World Economic Forum as the
leading country in the environmental technology solutions of the world and could be a
good partner as the know-how provider.
Asia has an urban culture of thousands of years old including ancient environmentally
sustainable megacities. The hectic rhythm of the modern city makes us to forget this.
Now is time to forget the forgetting. With Treasure Hill Taiwan can find its own way
towards urban ecology.
Marco Casagrande is a Finnish architect and urban planner and visiting professor in
Tamkang University. In his work he is focused in the research of environmental
technology solutions as the bases of site specific urban ecology. Casagrande represented
Taiwan in this year’s Venice Biennale (2006) in the Taiwan Pavillion exhibition Paradise
Revisited, curated by Roan Chin-Yueh.
7
DATA BOX
MBT
Mechanical Biological Treatment is the anaerobic bacteria based closed system (in-
vessel) fermentation process of bio waste. Depending on the waste the whole treatment
process from raw material to top soil, water and gas takes 7 14 days. The gas
conditioning plant burns the methane gas into electricity of which 25% goes into running
the MBT unit and 75% can be sold back to the city. The highly controlled MBT -
fermentation process does not produce smell of health risks and can be applied as a
localized urban waste treatment solution instead of centralized incinerators as in Taipei.
With MBT technology the recycling of waste material is practically 100%.
References
1. Micro-Urbanism, Ti-Nan Chi
2. Treasure Hill, Wikipedia
3. Taipei Organic Acupuncture, Marco Casagrande, P2P Foundation 12/2010
4. Urban Acupuncture, Wikipedia
5. Design 2003.10 Treasure Hill, Hsieh Ying-Chun, 2003
6. Con-fronting the Edge of Modern Urbanity GAPP (Global Artivists
Participation Project) at Treasure Hill, Taipei, Kang Min-Jay, 2005
... Urban acupuncture, proposed by various urban pioneers, combines urban design with the traditional Chinese medical theory of acupuncture. According to Casagrande (2012), one of its proponents, cities are complex beings of energy, with different overlapping layers of energy determining citizens' lives and 2 behaviour in addition to the development of the city. With many ways of mixing the environment with urban design, Casagrande developed methods to manipulate the timelines of urban energy flows in order to create an environmentally sustainable urban development, what is called a "third-generation city" (postindustrial city). ...
... The city is seen as a sensitive, multi-dimensional organism, a living environment. By handling blockages and pushing relief energy around this body, it can be more responsive and sensitive to society's needs than traditional institutional forms and large-scale urban renewal interventions [1]. ...
Conference Paper
City centres face many social and environmental challenges, such as environmental pollution, narrowing or lacking green spaces, low urban quality of life and loss of vitality. These challenges have brought calls for sustainable development. The strategy of urban acupuncture has emerged as a model and approach for developing third-generation cities. It combines the principles of urban design with the traditional medical theory of acupuncture: catalytic and energy-intensive interventions in the urban fabric regulate so-called "energy flows" (environmental, social, cultural and informational) within the city. The strategy transforms the scope of acupuncture into the larger urban context, as needles refresh the whole patient's body through the healing of parts. Our research problem is the lack of a comprehensive knowledge of the mechanisms of acupuncture theory and its benefits in the context of city centres. To address the research problem, we built a comprehensive theoretical framework for the concept of acupuncture and the levels of intervention in general. We propose an acupuncture theory for revitalizing city centres in particular, which we then test and apply in a part of the historical Rusafa Center in Baghdad City.
... Urban acupuncture, proposed by various urban pioneers, combines urban design with the traditional Chinese medical theory of acupuncture. According to Casagrande (2012), one of its proponents, cities are complex beings of energy, with different overlapping layers of energy determining citizens' lives and 2 behaviour in addition to the development of the city. With many ways of mixing the environment with urban design, Casagrande developed methods to manipulate the timelines of urban energy flows in order to create an environmentally sustainable urban development, what is called a "third-generation city" (postindustrial city). ...
... The city is seen as a sensitive, multi-dimensional organism, a living environment. By handling blockages and pushing relief energy around this body, it can be more responsive and sensitive to society's needs than traditional institutional forms and large-scale urban renewal interventions [1]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
City centres face many social and environmental challenges, such as environmental pollution, narrowing or lacking green spaces, low urban quality of life and loss of vitality. These challenges have brought calls for sustainable development. The strategy of urban acupuncture has emerged as a model and approach for developing third-generation cities. It combines the principles of urban design with the traditional medical theory of acupuncture: catalytic and energy-intensive interventions in the urban fabric regulate so-called "energy flows" (environmental, social, cultural and informational) within the city. The strategy transforms the scope of acupuncture into the larger urban context, as needles refresh the whole patient’s body through the healing of parts. Our research problem is the lack of a comprehensive knowledge of the mechanisms of acupuncture theory and its benefits in the context of city centres. To address the research problem, we built a comprehensive theoretical framework for the concept of acupuncture and the levels of intervention in general. We propose an acupuncture theory for revitalizing city centres in particular, which we then test and apply in a part of the historical Rusafa Center in Baghdad City.
... Urban acupuncture, proposed by various urban pioneers, combines urban design with the traditional Chinese medical theory of acupuncture. According to Casagrande (2012), one of its proponents, cities are complex beings of energy, with different overlapping layers of energy determining citizens' lives and 2 behaviour in addition to the development of the city. With many ways of mixing the environment with urban design, Casagrande developed methods to manipulate the timelines of urban energy flows in order to create an environmentally sustainable urban development, what is called a "third-generation city" (postindustrial city). ...
... The city is seen as a sensitive, multi-dimensional organism, a living environment. By handling blockages and pushing relief energy around this body, it can be more responsive and sensitive to society's needs than traditional institutional forms and large-scale urban renewal interventions [1]. ...
Article
City centres face many social and environmental challenges, such as environmental pollution, narrowing or lacking green spaces, low urban quality of life and loss of vitality. These challenges have brought calls for sustainable development. The strategy of urban acupuncture has emerged as a model and approach for developing third-generation cities. It combines the principles of urban design with the traditional medical theory of acupuncture: catalytic and energy-intensive interventions in the urban fabric regulate so-called “energy flows” (environmental, social, cultural and informational) within the city. The strategy transforms the scope of acupuncture into the larger urban context, as needles refresh the whole patient’s body through the healing of parts. Our research problem is the lack of a comprehensive knowledge of the mechanisms of acupuncture theory and its benefits in the context of city centres. To address the research problem, we built a comprehensive theoretical framework for the concept of acupuncture and the levels of intervention in general. We propose an acupuncture theory for revitalizing city centres in particular, which we then test and apply in a part of the historical Rusafa Center in Baghdad City.
... Ho (2017) showed a creative decision-making process of 'tracking, observing, discovering -mind mapping training -curating with thinking,' which provides another possibility to interpret urban environments. Ecological system acupuncture (Casagrande, 2012) explores the transition of post-industrial cities into organic cities. Petrova et al. (2016) offer a controversial perspective that the current strategies for urban micro-renewal still rely heavily on the subjective judgment of urban planners, which is a biased source of information. Based on this phenomenon, she proposed the concept of Urban Acupuncture 2.0. ...
... This more-than-human design aims to place equal emphasis on human and non-human interests, and provide a space for bat rehabilitation and human restitution. Through the careful crafting of suitable multispecies spaces, we suggest that this can be seen as taking an 'urban acupuncture' approach: a bio-urban theory (Casagrande, 2013) that borrows from traditional Chinese medicine to deliver "tactical, small-scale interventions on the urban fabric, aiming in ripple effects and transformation on the larger urban organism (Kaye 2011)" that "relieves stress and industrial tension in the urban environment" (Casagrande, 2019, p.137). While speculative, this design could occur within the foreseeable future as a leisure attraction for Trondheim. ...
Chapter
The crisis of the contemporary city is mainly related to urban fragility and socio-spatial complexity. The effects of urbanization in the last two centuries produced a lot of abandoned and derelict areas that need to be restored and developed in a more ecological way. The paper starts analyzing the recent scientific studies and design tendencies in urban planning such as landscape ecological urbanism, green infrastructure, regeneration, and urban acupuncture. On these premises, it is developed a design proposal based on the ‘multi-scalar design’, able to integrate the territorial vision linked to the green infrastructures with the small interventions typical of the urban acupuncture. This design approach is applied to open spaces, ecological networks, and green infrastructures but also in order to regenerate the urban organism's neuralgic parts. Moreover, the current urban design practices act mainly on public spaces enlarging their number and size. In the meantime, the safety of public spaces is rising as a focal problem for urban policies. Therefore, the design proposal is completed giving particular attention to guidelines for urban safety design methodologies, such European protocols and so on. The idea of joining these approaches at different levels, from the territorial dimension to the micro-urban one, is defined the ‘s-RGB Design’ (safe-Regenerative Green Blue Design). The multi-scalar ecological approach is generally applied to small, abandoned areas that can trigger virtuous regeneration processes, paying attention to the safety of urban spaces and combining the planning of green infrastructures with a new safe urban acupuncture.
Article
Full-text available
This paper introduces a series of five articles that clarifies the theory and practices of “Urban Acupuncture” applied in China and Egypt. The first article gives us a detailed overview on what is meant by the term urban acupuncture, its origins and history, and its interpretation through the perspectives of different architects and scholars. The second article takes us to an architecture level, taking a look at the housing conditions in the Lilong neighborhood in Shanghai and how a TV program was used as an approach of development. In the next two articles, we move down to the street level. The third article introduces two case studies in Shanghai, named Narrative Shanghai & Hutong parklet, where acupuncture is accomplished from the angles of hardware and software. In the fourth article, we travel a long way to Cairo, specifically in Downtown district, where we have an overlook on the in-between spaces between buildings and how implementing art and culture within these spaces can act as a catalysts for revitalizing the whole area. In this article, we take a look at two passages, Kodak passage & Philips passage. The final article takes us back to China to the community level. The aim is to analyze the renewal approach in two case studies: The “Hutong” Bubble in Beijing & “Tianzifang” in Shanghai.
Article
Communities living in Latin American slums present more vulnerability of diseases, high rates of infant mortality, and low life expectancy, generally as a result of the high levels of soil contamination. Furthermore, in our case study of the 4th District of Porto Alegre, the community depends on recycling materials from waste for their livelihood. In consequence, the public spaces are used as a garbage dump, accentuating health problems and making social interactions difficult. In this context, our applied research group aims to construct social spaces, improving the inhabitants’ quality of life through participative methodologies that encourage the use of the public spaces of these districts without prejudice of the economic system based on garbage. Our strategy relies on the actions and interactions of humans and the place in sub developed urban areas.
Chapter
The crisis of urbanism is analyzed as a vital phenomenon that prepares the Third Generation City—its connection with nature and its flesh. The industrial city is, on the contrary, fictitious. The example of the settlement of Treasure Hill, near Taipei, is given. As an organic ruin of the industrial city, Treasure Hill is a bio-urban site of resistance and an acupuncture point of Taipei, with its own design methodology based on Local Knowledge. This ruin is the matter from which parasite urbanism composts the modern city. Another example is offered by observing the daily life in Mumbai’s unofficial settlements. Urban acupuncture, the Third Generation City, and the conceptual model of Paracity speak to the community that rests in the hands of its own people.
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