Friday, November 27, 2015


Published in "La ville rebelle. Démocratiser le projet urbain", 2015 Gallimard, ISBN : 9782072619564

Missis Chen is 84 years old. She has lived together with the Xindian River all her life. Her family used to have a boat, like every Taipei family, and a water buffalo. Sometimes the kids would cross the river on the back of the buffalo. Sometimes an uncle might end up so drunk, that they hesitated, if they could put him back on his boat after an evening together. Children, vegetables and laundry were washed in the river. The water was drinkable and the river was full of fish, crabs, snails, clams, shrimp and frogs to eat.
Missis Chen used to work for sand harvesters, who dug sand out of the river bottom for making concrete. She made food for them. Many of the sand harvesters lived in the Treasure Hill settlement together with Missis Chen’s family. In the past the hill had been a Japanese Army anti-aircraft position, and it was rumored that the Japanese had hidden a treasure of gold somewhere in their bunker networks inside the hill - hence the name Treasure Hill.  

Xindian River was flooding - like all Taipei rivers - when the frequent typhoons arrived in summers and autumns. The flood was not very high, though – the Taipei Basin is a vast flood plain and water has plenty of space to spread out. Houses were designed so that the knee high flood would not come in or in some places the water was let into the ground floor, while people continued to live in the upper floors. In Treasure Hill the flood would also come into the piggeries and other light-weight structures on the river flood bank, but the houses with people were a bit higher up on the hill. All of the flood bank were farmed, and the farms and vegetable gardens were constructed so that they could live together with the flood. Flooding was normal. This pulse of nature was a source of life.

Missis Chen remembers when the river got polluted. “The pollution comes from upstream”, she says, referring to the many illegal “Made in Taiwan” -factories up on the mountains and river banks, which let all their industrial waste into the river. “Now not even the dogs eat the fish anymore.” At some point the river became so polluted that Taipei children were taught not to touch the water or they would go blind. The flood became poisonous for the emerging industrial city, which could no longer live together with the river nature. The city built a wall against the flooding river: a 12 meters high, reinforced concrete flood wall separating the built urban environment from nature.

Taipei flood wall
 “One day, the flood came to Chinag Kai-Shek’s home and the Dictator got angry. He built the wall. We call it the Dictator’s Wall,” An elderly Jiantai fisherman recalls sitting in his bright blue boat with a painted white eye and red mouth and continues to tell his stories describing, which fish disappeared which year, and when some of the migrating fishes ceased to return to the river. In one lifetime, the river has transformed from a treasure chest of seafood into an industrial sewer, which is once again being slowly restored towards a more natural condition. The wall hasn’t moved anywhere. The generations of Taipei citizens born after 1960’s don’t live in a river city.  They live in an industrially walled urban fiction separated from nature.


In 2003 the Taipei City Government decided to destroy the unofficial settlement of Treasure Hill. By that time, the community consisted of some 400 households of mainly elderly Kuomintang veterans and illegal migrant workers. The bulldozers had knocked down the first two layers of the houses of the terraced settlement on the hillside. After that the houses were standing too high for the bulldozers to reach, and there were no drivable roads leading into the organically built settlement. Then the official city destroyed the farms and community gardens of Treasure Hill down by the Xindian River flood banks. Then they cut the circulation between the individual houses – small bridges, steps, stairs and pathways. After that, Treasure Hill was left to rot, to die slowly, cut away from its life sources.

Treasure Hill
Roan Chin-Yueh of the WEAK! managed the City Government Department of Cultural Affairs to invite me to Taipei and introduced Treasure Hill’s impressive organic settlement with self-made root-cleaning system of grey waters through patches of jungle on the hillside; composting of organic waste for fertilizer to the farms and using minimum amounts of electricity, which they stole from the official grid. There was even a central radio system through which Missis Chen could transmit important messages to the community, such as inviting them to watch old black and white movies in the open-air cinema in front of her house. 

At that point the city had stopped to collect trash from Treasure Hill, and there were lots of garbage bags in the alleys. I started to collect these garbage bags and carried them down the hill into a pile close to a point which you could reach with a truck. The residents did not speak to me, but instead they hid inside their houses. One could feel their eyes on one’s back, though. Some houses were abandoned and I entered them. The interiors and the atmospheres were as if the owners had left all of a sudden. Even photo albums were there and tiny altars with small gods with long beards. In one of the houses I could not help looking at the photo album. The small tinted black and white photos started in Mainland China, and all the guys wore Kuomintang military uniforms. Different landscapes in different parts of China and then in some point the photos turned to color prints. The same guys were in Taiwan. Then there was a woman and an elder gentleman posed with her in civil clothes by a fountain. Photos of children and young people. Civil clothes, but the Kuomintang flag of Taiwan everywhere. A similar flag was inside the room. Behind me somebody enters the house, which is only one room with the altar on the other end and a bed on the other. The old man is looking at me. He is calm and observant, somehow sad. He speaks and shows with his hand at the altar. Do not touch – I understand. I look at the old man in the eyes and he looks into mine. I feel like looking at the photo album. The owner of the house must have been his friend. They have travelled together a long way from the civil war of China to Taiwan. They have literally built their houses on top of Japanese concrete bunkers and made their life in Treasure Hill. His friend has passed away. There is a suitcase and I pack inside the absent owner’s trousers and his shirt, both in khaki color. I continue collecting the garbage bags and carry the old man’s bag around the village. The next day the residents start helping me with collecting the garbage. Professor Kang Min-Jay organizes a truck to take the bags away. After a couple of days we organize a public ceremony together with some volunteer students and Treasure Hill veterans and declare a war on the official city: Treasure Hill will fight back and it is here to stay. I’m wearing the dead man’s clothes.

Collective farm in Treasure Hill
We have a long talk with Professor Roan about Treasure Hill and how to stop the destruction. He suggests that Hsieh Ying-Chun (Atelier 3, WEAK!) will join us with his aboriginal Thao tribe crew of self-learned construction workers. I start touring in local universities giving speeches about the situation and try to recruit students for construction work. In the end we have 200 students from Tamkang University Department of Architecture, Chinese Cultural University and National Taiwan University. A team of attractive girl students manage to make a deal with the neighboring bridge construction site workers and they start offloading some of the construction material cargo from the trucks passing by to us. We mainly get timber and bamboo; they use mahogany for the concrete molds.

With the manpower and simple construction material we start reconstructing the connections between the houses of the settlement, but most importantly, we also restart the farms. The bridge construction workers even help us with a digging machine. Missis Chen comes to advise us about the farming and offers us food and Chinese medicine. I am invited to her house every evening after the work day with an interpreter. She tells her life story and I see how she is sending food to many houses whose inhabitants are very old. Children from somewhere come to share our dinners as well. Her house is the heart of the community. Treasure Hill veterans join us in the farming and construction work. Rumors start spreading in Taipei: things are cooking in Treasure Hill.  More people volunteer for the work and after enough urban rumors the media arrives suddenly. After the media, the politicians follow. Commissioner Liao from the City Government Cultural Bureau comes to recite poems. Later Mayor Ma Ying-Jeou comes jogging by with TV crews and gives us his blessings. The City Government officially agrees that this is exactly why they had invited me from Finland to work with the issue of Treasure Hill. The same government had been bulldozing the settlement away 3 weeks earlier. One can design whole cities simply with rumors.  

Reconstructed steps in Treasure Hill
Working in Treasure Hill had pressed an acupuncture point of the industrial Taipei City. Our humble construction work was the needle which had penetrated through the thin layer of official control and touched the original ground of Taipei – collective topsoil where Local Knowledge is rooting. Treasure Hill is an urban compost, which was considered a smelly corner of the city, but after some turning is now providing the most fertile topsoil for future development.  The Taiwanese would refer to this organic energy as “Chi”.


After the initial discovery in Treasure Hill, the research of Urban Acupuncture continued at the Tamkang University Department of Architecture, where Chairman Chen Cheng-Chen under my professorship added it into the curriculum in the autumn of 2004. In 2009 the Finnish Aalto University’s Sustainable Global Technologies research center with Professor Olli Varis joined in to further develop the multi-disciplinary working methods of Urban Acupuncture in Taipei, with focus on urban ecological restoration through punctual interventions. In 2010, the Ruin Academy was launched in Taipei with the help of the JUT Foundation.  The Academy operated as an independent multidisciplinary research center moving freely in-between the different disciplines of art and science within the general framework of built human environment. The focus was on Urban Acupuncture and the theory of the Third Generation City. Ruin Academy collaborated with the Tamkang University Department of Architecture, the National Taiwan University Department of Sociology, Aalto University SGT, the Taipei City Government Department of Urban development and the International Society of Biourbanism. 

Un-official community gardens and urban farms of Taipei Basin, the real map of Urban Acupuncture.
Urban Acupuncture is a biourban theory, which combines sociology and urban design with the traditional Chinese medical theory of acupuncture. As a design methodology, it is focused on tactical, small scale interventions on the urban fabric, aiming in ripple effects and transformation on the larger urban organism. Through the acupuncture points, Urban Acupuncture seeks to be in contact with the site-specific Local Knowledge. By its nature, Urban Acupuncture is pliant, organic and relieves stress and industrial tension in the urban environment - thus directing the city towards the organic: urban nature as part of nature.  Urban Acupuncture produces small-scale, but ecologically and socially catalytic development on the built human environment.

Urban Acupuncture is not an academic innovation. It refers to common collective Local Knowledge practices that already exist in Taipei and other cities. Self-organized practices which are tuning the industrial city towards the organic machine, the Third Generation City.

In Taipei, the citizens ruin the centrally governed, official mechanical city with unofficial networks of urban farms and community gardens. They occupy streets for night markets and second hand markets, and activate idle urban spaces for karaoke, gambling and collective exercises (dancing, Tai-Chi, Chi-Gong etc.). They build illegal extensions to apartment buildings, and dominate the urban no man’s land by self-organized, unofficial settlements such as Treasure Hill. The official city is the source of pollution, while the self-organized activities are more humble in terms of material energy-flows and more tied with nature through the traditions of Local Knowledge. There is a natural resistance towards the official city. It is viewed as an abstract entity that seems to threaten the community sense of people and separates them from the biological circulations. Urban Acupuncture is Local Knowledge in Taipei, which in larger scale is keeping the official city alive.  The un-official is the biological tissue of the mechanic city. Urban Acupuncture is a biourban healing and development process connecting the modern man with nature.


The First generation city were the human settlements in straight connection with nature and dependent on nature. The fertile and rich Taipei Basin provided a fruitful environment for such a settlement. The rivers were full of fish and good for transportation, with the mountains protecting the farmed plains from the straightest hits of the frequent typhoons.

The second generation city is the industrial city. Industrialism granted the citizens independence from nature - a mechanical environment could provide everything humans needed. Nature was seen as something unnecessary or as something hostile - it was walled away from the mechanical reality.

The Third Generation City is the organic ruin of the industrial city, an open form, organic machine tied with Local Knowledge and self-organized community actions. The community gardens of Taipei are fragments of third generation urbanism when they exist together with the industrial surroundings. Local Knowledge is present in the city, and this is where Urban Acupuncture is rooting. Among the anarchist gardeners are the local knowledge professors of Taipei.

The Third Generation City is a city of cracks. The thin mechanical surface of the industrial city is shattered, and from these cracks emerge the new biourban growth which will ruin the second generation city. Human-industrial control is opened up in order for nature to step in. A ruin is when manmade has become part of nature. In the Third Generation City we aim in designing ruins. Third Generation City is true when the city recognizes its local knowledge and allows itself to be part of nature.

"To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now."
- Samuel Beckett

Paracity, model
 Paracity is a biourban organism that is growing on the principles of Open Form: individual design-built actions generating spontaneous communicative reactions on the surrounding built human environment. This organic constructivist dialog leads to self-organized community structures, sustainable development and knowledge building.  Open Form is close to the original Taiwanese ways of developing the self-organized and often “illegal” communities. These micro-urban settlements containe a high volume of Local Knowledge, which we believe will start composting in Paracity, once the development of the community is in the hands of the citizens.

The architectural organism of the Paracity is based on a three-dimensional, wooden primary structure, an organic grid with spatial modules of 6 x 6 x 6 meters, constructed out of CLT (cross-laminated timber) beams & columns. This simple structure can be modified and developed by the community members. The primary structure can grow even in neglected urban areas such as flood plains, hillsides, abandoned industrial areas, storm water channels and slums. Paracity is perfectly suited for flooding and tsunami risk areas and the CLT primary structure is highly fire-resistant and capable of withstanding earthquakes.

Paracity provides the skeleton, but the citizens create the flesh. Design should not replace reality, Flesh is More. Paracitizens will attach their individual, self-made architectural solutions, gardens and farms on the primary structure, which will offer a three dimensional building grid for DIY architecture. The primary structure also provides the main arteries of water and human circulation, but the finer Local Knowledge nervous networks are weaved in by the inhabitants. Large parts of Paracity is occupied by wild and cultivated nature following the example of Treasure Hill and other un-official communities in Taipei.  
Paracity CLT-module, 6x6x6 m
Paracity’s self-sustainable biourban growth is backed up by off-the-grid modular environmental technology solutions, providing methods for water purification, energy production, organic waste treatment, waste water purification and sludge recycling. These modular plug-in components can be adjusted according to the growth of the Paracity and moreover, the whole Paracity is designed not only to treat and circulate its own material streams, but to start leeching waste from its host city and thus becoming a positive urban parasite following the similar kinds of symbiosis as in-between slums and the surrounding city. In a sense Paracity is a high-tech slum, which can start tuning the industrial city towards an ecologically more sustainable direction. Paracity is a Third Generation City, an organic machine, urban compost, which assists the industrial city to transform into being part of nature.

The pilot project of the Paracity grows on an urban farming island of Danshui River, Taipei City. The island is located between the Zhongxing and Zhonxiao bridges and is around 1000 meters long and 300 meters wide. Paracity Taipei celebrates the original first generation Taipei urbanism with a high level of “illegal” architecture, self-organized communities, urban farms, community gardens, urban nomads and constructive anarchy.

After the Paracity has reached critical mass, the life providing system of the CLT structure will start escalating. It will cross the river and start taking root on the flood plains. It will then cross the 12 meter high Taipei flood wall and gradually grow into the city. The flood wall will remain in the guts of the Paracity, but the new structure enables Taipei citizens to fluently reach the river. Paracity will reunite the river reality and the industrial urban fiction. Paracity is a mediator between the modern city and nature.  Seeds of the Paracity will start taking root within the urban acupuncture points of Taipei: illegal community gardens, urban farms, abandoned cemeteries and wastelands. From these acupuncture points, Paracity will start growing by following the covered irrigation systems such as the Liukong Channel, and eventually the biourban organism and the static city will find a balance, the Third Generation Taipei.

Paracity has a lot of holes, gaps and nature in between houses. The system ventilates itself like a large scale beehive of post-industrial insects. The different temperatures of the roofs, gardens, bodies of water and shaded platforms will generate small winds between them, and the hot roofs will start sucking in breeze from the cooler river. The individual houses should also follow the traditional principles of bioclimatic architecture and not rely on mechanical air-conditioning.

The biourbanism of the Paracity is as much landscape as it is architecture. The totalitarian landscape-architecture of Paracity includes organic layers for natural water purification and treatment, community gardening, farming and biomass production as an energy source. Infrastructure and irrigation water originates from the polluted Danshui River and will be both chemically (bacteria based) and biologically purified before being used in the farms, gardens and the houses of the community. The bacteria/chemically purified water gets pumped up to the roof parks on the top level of the Paracity, from where it will by gravity start circulating into the three dimensional irrigation systems.
Paracity, flood-water scenario
Paracity is based on free flooding. The whole city stands on stilts, allowing the river to pulsate freely with the frequent typhoons and storm waters. The Paracity is actually an organic architectural flood itself, ready to cross the flood wall of Taipei and spread into the mechanical city.

Paracity Taipei will be powered mostly by bioenergy that uses the organic waste, including sludge, taken from the surrounding industrial city and by farming fast growing biomass on the flood banks of the Taipei river system.  Paracity Taipei will construct itself through impacts of collective consciousness, and it is estimated to have 15.000 – 25.000 inhabitants.

The wooden primary structure and the environmental technology solutions will remain pretty much the same no matter in which culture the Paracity starts to grow, but the real human layer of self-made architecture and farming will follow the Local Knowledge of the respective culture and site. Paracity is always site-specific and it is always local. Other Paracities are emerging in North Fukushima in Japan and the Baluchistan Coast in Pakistan.


The way towards the Third Generation City is a process of becoming a collective learning and healing organism and to reconnect the urbanized collective consciousness with nature. In Taipei, the wall between the city and the river must go. This requires a total transformation from the city infrastructure and from the centralized power control. Otherwise, the real development will be unofficial. Citizens on their behalf are ready and are already breaking the industrial city apart by themselves. Local knowledge is operating independently from the official city and is providing punctual third generation surroundings within the industrial city: Urban Acupuncture for the stiff official mechanism.

The weak signals of the unofficial collective consciousness should be recognized as the futures’ emerging issues; futures that are already present in Taipei. The official city should learn how to enjoy acupuncture, how to give up industrial control in order to let nature step in.

The local knowledge based transformation layer of Taipei is happening from inside the city, and it is happening through self-organized punctual interventions. These interventions are driven by small scale businesses and alternative economies benefiting from the fertile land of the Taipei Basin and of leeching the material and energy streams of the official city. This acupuncture makes the city weaker, softer and readier for a larger change.

The city is a manifest of human-centered systems – economical, industrial, philosophical, political and religious power structures. Biourbanism is an animist system regulated by nature. Human nature as part of nature, also in the urban conditions. The era of pollution is the era of industrial urbanism. The next era has always been within the industrial city. The first generation city never died. The seeds of the Third Generation City are present. Architecture is not an art of human control, it is an art of reality. There is no other reality than nature.

Marco Casagrande

La ville rebelle
Ouvrage collectif de Christopher Alexander, Al Borde, Marco Casagrande, Santiago Cirugeda, Marie-Hélène Contal, Salma Samar Damluji, Yona Friedman, Lu Wenyu,Philippe Madec, Juan Román, Rotor et de Wang Shu. Édition publiée sous la direction de Jana Revedin

Textes traduits de l'anglais par Édith Ochs et de l'espagnol par Varinia Taboada et Francisca Burgos

Collection Manifestô - Alternatives, Gallimard


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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Marco Casagrande: Architecture must be pliant and weak like a willow

Published in the MAJA Estonian architectural review 3-2015

Finnish architect and environmental artist Marco Casagrande participated in Tallinn Architecture Biennale with his experimental project "Paracity". A few months before the biennale he had a conversation with the chairman of Estonian Centre of Architecture Raul Järg.

At first I would like to ask you about the beginning of your career. You said that the architect inside you committed hara-kiri. How did you become an environmental artist?

During my studies I had built so much belief in architecture that I somehow could not separate the idea of architecture and the architect. I saw them as one thing. When we set up the office and started working with clients, I thought that everybody would have the same idea about architecture – how great architecture is and how much it has to offer. I thought that the client would be totally aware of this and that they would come to have an architect help them with the processes so that these ideas could become true. But it was not like that at all. The clients were used to thinking that the architect is a tool, the guy who gets the permission, who makes the city allow them to do what they want to do. But that has nothing to do with architecture. They call it development, but usually it’s a kind of building pollution. Architects work together with money and so this bad development happens. And we were part of that. I started feeling sick of betraying my own dreams and beliefs so fast that in half a year I had become everything I always hated and then I wanted to kill this person.

How did you do it?

Now looking back it seems that I never lost my belief in architecture but only in the architect. Together with my friend Sami Rintala, with whom I was working at that time, we decided that we will do it in a very graceful way, honoring the big idea of architecture. In Japan this kind of suicide is called hara-kiri. So we tried to commit architectural hara-kiri. We put the little money that we owned into one project and decided that in this case there will be nobody else telling us what to do. We had to be the client to ourselves, make the design, get the permission and build it. Step by step we completed our first big architectural scale landscape installation in Savonlinna. It is amazing how much people believed in us. The construction workers were our friends; they volunteered to come in for weeks. The city gave permission immediately. There was no business, no speculations – people just helped us. It touched them and that was a big surprise for us. Then we did this big work and actually burnt it at the end – which was the hara-kiri. I guess some sort of honesty was so much around that this started our career.

Land(e)scape by Casagrande & Rintala, Savonlinna, Finland 1999

You started to get invitations from different places.

Yes, and from places we were not even aware of. And that there were other layers in the architectural world, like biennales, magazines, some organizations that were actually working with the core of architecture. And it is pretty much the same idea we had in university.

You have done very different kinds of projects and art projects. What would you like to bring out yourself?

I have done maybe about 70 projects since 1999. Many of them are just opportunities that arose somewhere. Most of the cases are not financed. Those aren’t commissions in a sense that you are invited, how many square meters are needed, what is the budget and time-frame. They are more like opportunities where something good can be done. Sometimes I see an opportunity and have to find a client for myself – make someone else see this opportunity. Sometimes it’s like a Trojan horse – I’m doing something for the client, who is maybe even paying for it and getting what he wants, but besides that I’m doing something else too and that’s the real work. Sometimes the strategy works two ways. If the city doesn’t want to risk too much and commission me to do the real work, they ask me to do something else. And they know that I’m doing the "real" work too. If it becomes politically too risky for them, they will talk about only the work that they commissioned. But when the "real" work becomes good, they focus on it. Like in Treasure Hill.

Can you tell me some more about this project?

With Treasure Hill, I realized how windy the power structures are. Reality is total and it cannot be speculated. But when you deal with fictional power, it is always based on speculations. The city government had started destroying Treasure Hill, but when we started the counteraction and gained so much publicity that it started to gain political momentum, the same politicians changed completely. They saw that they can use it for their own good. If at the beginning they were 100% against Treasure Hill and wanted to destroy it, then after 3 weeks they forgot this completely. Before I used to think that destruction and construction are on opposite sides of an axis, but it’s more like a circle that is made up of both destruction and construction.

Treasure Hill in Taipei

Was the name of the place also Treasure Hill before?

Yes, it was Treasure Hill. It used to be an anti-aircraft position for the Japanese army. After WW II, when Kuomintang was retreating from mainland China to Taiwan, they took over the Japanese army positions and Treasure Hill was one of those. When Kuomintang’s soldiers came to Treasure Hill there had already been civil war in China for 25 years. It’s a very long time. Then they came there, put up their anti-aircraft guns and were waiting for the Maoist planes from mainland China that never came. So it was boring. Then they started to find wives in Taiwan, got married and had children. The wives started complaining that living in the bunkers was ridiculous. So they started to decorate the bunkers and build houses on top of the bunkers. They became homes and when at some point Kuomintang said that Treasure Hill had lost its strategic value and they must move somewhere else, the soldiers refused. Treasure Hill became a slum, an unofficial settlement of soldiers and their families.
Fast constructed steps in Treasure Hill, Marco Casagrande - Hsieh Ying-Chun, 2003.
At one point the officials wanted to demolish the site.

Yes, in 2002 they started the demolition and in 2003 I was in Taiwan and started to stop it.

At the end of the day it became like a tourist attraction.

Yes, that’s a shame. I had a very idealistic view of it. The Treasure Hill community was old – 80 year-old war veterans. On one hand, it was a wonderful 3-dimensional settlement without any cars. But actually it needed quite a lot of physical effort to use it – carrying the water to the hill and the garbage down. There were many empty houses because people moved away or died. So I thought that for the continuity of Treasure Hill and this very nice community way of living they need a new plan. The empty houses can be used by students or artists and they don’t have to pay rent but instead serve the old people. That was the idea. When they started moving in, it turned out different. They got so much attention, because great artists were there. The focus shifted from Treasure Hill’s original community to the new community. It gave a totally new vibe to the place and in the eyes of the official city it was so sexy so they changed step-by-step the whole of Treasure Hill into a place for artists. And then the original community died.

But maybe it gave new life to it anyway?

Yeah, the officials probably think of it that way. And it is true that the old community was so old that they died naturally. But the continuity became something different, now it’s fully artistic.

It’s not only this place where artists have taken over.

Yeah, it’s kind of a normal thing to happen, I guess.

Community garden in Treasure Hill.
Let’s talk about your recent idea – Paracity. Tell me the story behind it.

Paracity was born because of Treasure Hill. After Treasure Hill I got a professorship in Taiwan for 5 years, and then I was researching all kinds of settlements and local knowledge and getting deeper into that. The city government and the JUT developers at some point asked me to think about the potential for building floodplains on the Taipei river systems. When typhoons are coming the rivers rise a lot. There is a lot of land that is not developed. And on the other hand, the city is totally disconnected from the river environment. They wanted me to think about structures that could both develop these river bank areas and floodplains in an ecological way but also reconnect the city with the river. It was kind of no man’s land we were operating with: an island – 1 km long and 300 metres wide – that always disappears when the river is flooded so there are no houses. The city wanted us to make an urban structure there for 15,000 to 25,000 people. From the beginning I wanted to do a modular platform for people to actually build their own homes. In Taiwan there is a really high number of illegal buildings and illegal building extensions. People take it for granted that if they get an apartment house and it’s 5 floors, for sure they can build 2 floors more just by themselves. The facades become humorous. So it’s always been. It’s the same thing with the unofficial communities, they are fantastic – totally self-built and self-organized. So I thought that I wouldn’t even try to do a city that is ready or totally controlled. Like in Treasure Hill, people will come and start building their homes, and communities will start coming organically.

Paracity at the Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2015. 
The idea was very simple – we need to develop the primary structure of the city, kind of a scaffolding, where people can attach their communities. At the beginning I was thinking of steel because I admire the high-rise buildings in Taiwan when they are under construction: steel frames look really good and full of potential, but when the building is ready, it gets boring. Later I found out about this material CLT – cross laminated timber, and I got really interested in that because it would be ever more ecological if we could take this kind of wood from the Northern forest. In 2014 they opened the first CLT factory in Finland, so now we can get the material there. Now Paracity is a wooden structure. The dimensions of each module is 6x6x6 m and then put cubes on top of each other to make a village or a city. The wood element is 50 cm thick, which means it burns slowly. The charcoal surfaces take such a long time for the wood to burn so that it’s more or less fireproof and it has also excellent earthquake performance.

Ruin Academy in Taipei
In what phase are you with this project?

I hope it’s going to be built. Taipei is the first case study and we start building earliest in 2016. Another interesting pile of projects has come from North Fukushima in Japan. I’m going there to see three different sites they are considering a Paracity to be built in the tsunami area. Then there are other calls from Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro and interestingly from Pakistan. But nothing is built yet. One to one scale we have already built one module in Finland to test how fast it is going to come together and that the wooden joints are working and so on. In Tallinn we are doing 15 modules. It will be the first in the biennale to serve the Paracity idea, but it will certainly have an afterlife, become a permanent structure for something.

So it’s a kind of platform for people to construct their own houses on.

My ideal is for it to become a slum but in a way that it’s both ecologically okay and healthy. To make that happen we have to put some environmental technology inside. Paracity becomes "positive cancer" in the city – receives the leftovers from the city, treat them and turn them into resources. Just what slums are actually doing right now. But we make it more efficient and for that the environmental technology is needed. We are just copying how the unofficial settlements are already living or how slums live in symbiosis with the city.

I studied for quite a long time a chain of slums with 700,000 people in Mumbai, settled along the river. There the waste that can be treated, turned into resources, but all the rest gets dumped into the river. Then they wait for the monsoon and it becomes like flushing the toilet of the city. But in Paracity we don’t have to flush the toilet.

Nikita sleeping at Ruin Academy. 
Those concepts are more for cities in the East, or can they also be used for Northern or Western cities?

These concepts can also apply to Western cities. When you think of the method of Paracity, it is like urban acupuncture. Even in the West cities are a source of pollution. Small-scale interventions could also start affecting the cumulative development in Western cities. The biggest environmental questions are still in regard to emerging cities. In the West, the urbanization has already happened, but if you look at other places this is on a scale that it has never existed before. So Paracity could live together with the emerging city and act as the buffer zone.

Vegetable garden, Ruin Academy
This concept is connected with your idea of third generation cities.

I have made it very simple in my thinking. A first generation city is totally based on nature. A second generation city is an industrial city. A third generation city would be kind of a ruin of the industrial city. Identifying how an industrial city can become an organic machine. Ruin for me is when something manmade has become part of nature. In architecture it happens actually quite easily if you lose enough human control. On an urban scale the question is even more interesting. Paracity is kind of a method for ruining the industrial city. I would like it to grow into an industrial city from these acupuncture points and then start ruining the industrial city. And when this nowadays industrial core and these new organic layers find a certain balance, that is the third generation city.

Is that why you named one of your projects Ruin academy?

In Tamkang University I was studying the phenomenon of ruins and doing research on how nature is reading architecture. Then it just opened up more and more. Taiwan is easy because nature is so fast. There are trees that are growing on steps. Nature uses the man-made structures. I felt that I would like to move into a ruin and live there for a longer time, in order to have time to adjust my needs. So I informed the Tamkang University professor Chen who is the dean of the architectural department. We went to meet Mister Lee, who owns a small place half an hour from the university. There’s a river valley and rice farming. They had clean water coming from the mountains so they could make tea, a tea factory. But at one point it had burned so there was no roof, just the ruins. Also the rice factory was ruined.

Ground floor, Ruin Academy
I chose the rice factory, the tea factory I left for the students. So I didn’t go to the school any more but the students came there. First I had to decide where I can put my bed, but since there was no roof, I had to make it. And when I was building the roof I saw that below me there was a plant and it was growing there because there was no roof. So I fixed not all the roof, but kept a hole for the plant. Soon I took my wife Nikita there and then we stayed there for a couple of nights and finally she moved in too. Then I had to make ways to clean ourselves – there is a small river, so I can have cold water, but how to make hot water? How to make food? Like a civilization. It was of course very primitive but we stayed there. It was functional. I made the students live in the tea factory, not always, but they had to make shelters for themselves.

Penetrations, Ruin Academy
How long did you stay in the ruins?

One year, maybe a bit more.
In many cases rumors are powerful. The whole valley knew what I was doing. The rumors spread along the river so that one farmer from upstream came to me and said that we know why you are here and what you’re doing, so can you design us the house – we want to live in the ruin too. And I designed them the Chen house. It’s a designed ruin. After the Chen house one developer asked if I know some ruins in Taipei city and step by step it became a Ruin Academy.

I remember you once described the house as a boat.

Yes, the Chen House was also like that. It is like you have a site and it’s not just putting the building there but you somehow have to sail the building. You have to know where the big winds are coming from and how it’s changing. Also you find some natural shelters. So you consider these natural conditions and you sail this ship to the harbor.

Chen House at the Datun Mountains of Taiwan
In the beginning you talked about how you wanted to kill the architect, but the architect inside you is now reborn, you are getting commissions and real projects. So did you make the space around you, so the issues that bothered you before, are actual now?

No, they are not addressed so much any more. I’m getting a little bit freer. More and more people are starting to make apartment buildings out of wood. If I were making them out of concrete it would be a different story. Now everything out of the forest comes into the city.

You are working on "real" projects again.

Yes, we are doing quite large-scale CLT wooden apartment buildings in Finland.

Bathroom, Chen House
There are not many environmental artists in Finland.

No, but I think that architecture is an environmental art.

Let's finish the talk with another project. Did the Sandworm work come after the Ruin Academy? How did this idea come to your mind?

In 2009 I was working in Shenzhen with a project called Bug Dome. There I built a similar kind of structure out of bamboo. The migrating workers came from Guanxi province and I was asking them about their local knowledge. They said that they can do anything out of bamboo. You need just bamboo, water and fire. Then I improvised this building called Bug Dome. It’s very similar to the later one. Then I got an invitation from Belgium and I went to the site and I found that they are using willow a lot. Willow structures for canals are their local knowledge. Then I turned it upside down – used it above the ground.

It was a nice story, how people started to use it in different ways.

Yes, that is also something that quite often happens. You say form follows function. But I didn’t want to follow any function. The dunes are always the same shape because of the wind, so there already existed an architecture. This was actually just copying one dune.

But people afterwards find the function.

Yes, they called it the 'willow cathedral'. Some people got married there, kids were playing, there were a lot of picnics – like they would use the beach anyhow. It was not an interior or exterior space, but just a space. It was still a beach.

Sandworm at the Wenduine dunes, Belgium.
It was there only for one summer. Are most of your artistic projects temporary?

Quite often yes. Some stay, but many of them are not even meant to stay.

Temporary is an interesting quality. It seems to allow architecture much more freedom and psyche than a totally controlled, a totally fixed building. Tarkovsky’s Stalker says that strength is death’s companion – whatever comes stiff and strong will die. In this sense architecture must be pliant and weak, like a willow. It doesn’t help much if you are meant to “last forever”, but you are dead from the beginning.

For example cities are alive, they are collective human organism and also expressions of collective mind. But we treat them as something designed, regulated and controlled – expressions of mechanical human control, industrial laziness. This is a fundamental mistake and the source of stress and pollution.  As architects, we don´t know how to negotiate with the collective mind, and we definitely don’t try – we are cheap. We have shifted away from nature, including human nature. We have become pollution, death’s companions…

Monday, November 23, 2015


Julkaistu ARKKITEHTI lehdessä, marraskuu 2015
Marco Casagrande

Paracity at Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2015

Paracity on modulaariseen laminoituun massiivipuurunkoon perustuva kaupunkirakennejärjestelmä, primääristruktuuri, johon kaupunkilaiset itse rakentavat omat kotinsa, yhteisönsä ja viljelyksensä. Orgaaninen Paracity kykenee kasvamaan itsenäisesti kaupunkien jättömaille, kuten tulvatasangoille tai slummeihin. Itsenäisen biourbaanin kasvun mahdollistaa modulaarinen ympäristöteknologia, joka tuottaa syntyville yhdyskunnille niiden tarvitsemat sisäelimet. Paracity vastaanottaa, käsittelee ja muuntaa resursseiksi ympäröivän kaupungin tuottaman jätteen. Se toimii positiivisena akupunktioneulana saastuttavalle kaupungille.
Avoin muoto
Paracity noudattaa orgaanisessa kasvussaan avoimen muodon (Open Form) metodologiaa, jonka Oskar Hansen nosti esiin CIAMissa vuonna 1959 ja jota Svein Hatløy on 2000-luvulle asti kehittänyt.  Siinä yhteisöt kasvavat spontaaneiden ja toinen toisiaan agitoivien suunnitteluratkaisujen kautta. Avoin muoto on käytännössä hyvin lähellä esimerkiksi taiwanilaista alku-urbaania tapaa rakentaa itseorganisoituvia ja usein epävirallisia yhdyskuntia. Nämä mikrourbaanit yhteisöt ovat paikallisen tiedon keskittymiä, mikä on myös Paracityn kasvuvoima. Paracity on paikallisen tiedon komposti, jonka energia ruokkii kaupunkiyhteisöjen syntymistä.
Paracity tarjoaa yhteisökehitykselle kasvualustan, johon kaupunkilaiset rakentavat itse omat inhimilliset tasonsa. Design ei pyri korvaamaan todellisuutta. Flesh is More. Primääristruktuuri koostuu joko 6 tai 3 metriä pitkistä liimapuupalkeista ja jäykistävistä CLT-levyistä. Palkit liittyvät toisiinsa puuliitoksin, ja kaupunkilaiset voivat halutessaan itse kasvattaa primäärirunkoa. CLT:llä on erinomaiset maanjäristyksen- ja palonkesto-ominaisuudet.
Paracity on alkujaan suunniteltu tulva- ja tsunamiriskialueille. Koko kaupunkirakenne seisoo CLT-tolppien päällä, ja vesi pääsee vapaasti nousemaan ensimmäiseen kerrokseen, joka on jätetty tyhjäksi. Kuivana aikana maantasokerros toimii asukkaiden yhteisenä olohuoneena ja tarjoaa puitteet taijille, meditoinnille, karaokelle, veneiden korjaukselle, yömarkkinoille ja muille spontaaneille kaupunkienergian ilmentymille.
Paracity model at the CAFAM Biennale, China 2014
Paracityn biourbanismi kasvaa osaksi luontoa – rakenne raunioittaa itse itsensä. Paracity on ihmisräme tai komposti, jossa eri orgaaniset tasot limittyvät ja sekoittuvat keskenään agritektuuriksi, jonka kehityksessä luonto toimii yhteistyöarkkitehtina.
Paracity elää ympäröivän kaupungin tuottamista materiaalivirroista. Jopa saastunut joki on voimanlähde tälle biourbaanille sisäelimelle. Paracity elää ympäröivän kaupungin kanssa samankaltaisessa symbioosissa kuin slummit: kaupunkinomadit puhdistavat staattista kaupunkia sen kuonasta. Paracityssä prosessia on ainoastaan tehostettu modulaarisella ympäristöteknologialla. Periaatteesa Paracity on high-tech-slummi.
Suunnitelmassamme Paracityn pilottikohteeksi Taipeissa käyttövesi ja viljelysten kasteluvesi puhdistetaan saastuneesta jokivedestä. Esipuhdistettu vesi pumpataan Paracityn kattotasanteille, missä se hapetetaan ja edelleen juurakkopuhdistetaan kasvukenttien läpi. Juurakkopuhdistus on jätevesien biologinen puhdistusmenetelmä, jossa käytetään hyväksi tarkoitukseen soveltuvien kasvien juurakkoja. Katoilta puhdas vesi valuu painovoimaisesti yhteisöpuutarhoille ja kaupunkiviljelyksille. Kaupungin pääenergianlähteenä toimii joen runsasravinteisilla tulvatasangoilla nopeasti kasvatettava biomassa.
Juurruttuaan tulvatasangoille ja saavutettuaan kasvussaan kriittisen massan Paracity ylittää Taipein 12-metrisen tulvamuurin, joka nykyisellään erottaa teollisesti rakennetun ihmisympäristön jokiluonnosta. Tulvamuuri jää teolliseksi reliktiksi Paracityn sisuksiin, mutta uusi orgaaninen kaupunkirakenne mahdollistaa teollisen kaupungin ja jokiluonnon kohtaamisen ja yhteiselon. Paracity toimii välittäjänä kaupungistuneen ihmisluonnon ja luonnon välissä.
Paracityn fragmentit ympäri Taipeita muodostavat kaupunkiakupunktuurin verkoston, joka säätää teollista kehitystä kohti orgaanista konetta. Se raunioittaa teollista kaupunkia ja pyrkii saattamaan sen osaksi luontoa, kohti ”kolmannen sukupolven kaupunkia”.
Kolmannen sukupolven kaupunki
Ensimmäisen sukupolven kaupunki on rakennettu ihmisyhteisö, joka elää välittömässä vuorovaikutuksessa luonnon kanssa ja on ympäröivästä luonnosta riippuvainen. Taipein hedelmällinen tulvatasanko on tarjonnut puitteet tiiviille asutukselle, joki on tuottanut ruokaa ja väylän liikkumiselle, ja tasankoa ympäröivät vuoret ovat suojanneet kaupunkia taifuunien suorilta iskuilta.
Toisen sukupolven kaupunki on teollinen kaupunki, joka elää näennäisen itsenäisenä, riippumattomana luonnosta. Itse asiassa luonto toimii haitallisesti mekaaniselle koneelle, esimerkiksi tulvat tuntuvat haluavan hajottaa koneen. Sen vuoksi Taipeihin on rakennettu tulvamuuri.
Kolmannen sukupolven kaupunki on teollisen kaupungin orgaaninen raunio. Symbioosi Taipein kollektiivipuutarhojen, kaupunkiviljelysten ja laittomien asuinalueiden sekä ympäröivän kaupungin välillä ovat kolmannen sukupolven kaupungin fragmentteja. Nämä alueet ovat kaupungin akupunktiopisteitä, jotka pureutuvat teollisen kuoren läpi kosketuksiin paikallisen tiedon kanssa. Kolmannen sukupolven kaupunki sitoutuu paikalliseen tietoon ja sitä kautta kasvaa osaksi luontoa.
Kaupunkiakupunktio on ekologisen kaupunkisuunnittelun teoria, joka yhdistää kaupunkisuunnittelua ja perinteistä kiinalaista akupunktiolääketieteen teoriaa. Lähtökohtaisesti se käsittelee kaupunkeja monitasoisina elävinä organismeina, joista se pyrkii määrittämään kuntoutusta vaativia alueita ja kokonaisuuksia. Paikalliseen traditioon sitoutuvat ja kestävän kehityksen mukaiset projektit toimivat akupunktioneuloina, jotka elvyttävät kokonaisuutta parantamalla sen osia.
Raunio on arkkitehtuurin katharsis, jossa ihmisen luomasta tulee osa luontoa. Raunio on teollisen kaupungin alitajuinen tavoite ja modernin ihmisen trauma. Taipei tarjoaa kehittyneen symbioosimallin, jossa mekaaninen kaupunki elää yhteiseloa epävirallisten asuinalueiden, kollektiivipuutarhojen, kaupunkiviljelysten ja kaupunkinomadien kanssa. Kaavoitus on jätetty puolitiehen, ja ihmiset ovat viimeistelleet kaupungin.
Paracity on kolmannen sukupolven kaupungin siemen. Modulaarinen biourbaani organismi kasvaa ihmisten tarpeiden mukaan ja raunioittaa ympäröivää teollista kaupunkia. Paracityn siemeniä alkaa itää Taipein sisällä nykyisissä kollektiivipuutarhoissa[MB5] , laittomilla asuinalueilla, hylätyillä hautausmailla ja muissa rakentamattomissa pisteissä. Siemenet alkavat vaikuttaa ympäröivän kaupungin biologiseen kuntouttamiseen kaupunkiakupunktion keinoin. Näistä pisteistä Paracity levittäytyy kaupunkiin seuraten katettuja joki- ja kastelujärjestelmäuomia. Lopulta biourbaani organismi ja staattinen kaupunki saavuttavat biologisesti kestävän tasapainon ja siitä muodostuu kolmannen sukupolven kaupunki. ark
Paracity, Casagrande Laboratory

Marco Casagrande (s. 1971), arkkitehti, kaupunkisuunnittelija, Suomi. Työskentelee Paracityn suunnittelusta vastaavassa Casagrande Laboratoryssä, sekä opettaa ja tutkii kolmannen sukupolven kaupungin ja kaupunkiakupunktion teoriaa.
Arkkitehti, Finnish Architectural Review 5/2015