Tuesday, November 20, 2018

終極廢墟


文/艾帢米克 Edzard Mik
譯/吳介禎  Wu, Anderson C. J.

英文版原刊於 荷蘭archidea magazine #56
 
Photos: AdDa Zei
很難想像〈終極廢墟〉的木構造屋頂、樓梯、牆、板凳、通道可以在一個建築師事務所的辦公室裡構思出來。然而細緻的外觀與細節,顯然還是經過深思熟慮規劃出來的結果。因為它們太奧秘、帶著太多暗示、具有太多主動性,設計無法在繪圖桌上或在電腦裡執行。它們有機地生長,就像〈終極廢墟〉周圍樹林裡的植物與藤蔓,進而包覆原來就在那裡的農舍殘跡。

事實上它們不是被設計出來,而是由芬蘭建築師馬可.卡薩格蘭與事務所同事們,對基地與廢墟即刻反應,進而而創造完成。從各面向來說,〈終極廢墟〉是馬可.卡薩格蘭工作方針的體現:放棄人為控制以開啟或創造可直覺接近、可聯繫建築與自然親密感的空間,以及實際在場作為感受基地動能的方法。更該強調,基地上所有棲居者的生活,都不能也不該與大自然的戲劇表演分隔,包括它的生命力、腐朽與死去。


〈終極廢墟〉是一家人的會所,偶爾外借舉辦會議。地點在台灣台北,位處一片梯田與樹林的交會處。馬可.卡薩格蘭稱這件作品為「弱建築」,空間規劃遵循他的開放形態原則。根據對於周遭樹林、廢棄的紅磚農舍與在地知識的直覺反應,在基地現場即興設計。

複合式的建築物有各種空間與平台,提供從起居到冥想等不同功能。介於室內外之間的空間連續性富有變動彈性、相互交織。房子深入樹林,樹林也伸入房子。這個把室內帶到室外,把室外帶入室內的方法,使〈終極廢墟〉成為調節自然與人最極致的建築工具。房子不需要封閉,不需要與自然隔絕。住在裡面的人必須與自然相處,珍惜自然的戲劇性與自然之美。
超越人為控制,〈終極廢墟〉是個有機的意外。馬可.卡薩格蘭放手建築設計的操作,迎接自然,容許人的錯誤發生。在他眼裡,建築不是獨立的語言,也不是大多數建築師所相信的自言自語。他認為建築需要自然,以成為自然的一部分,所以稱〈終極廢墟〉是一種後廢墟狀態:人們回到廢棄的房子裡,並與叢林與大自然共享空間。

〈終極廢墟〉根基於自 2009 年起,持續不斷地與業主對話。最早的建築介入,是一張可以讓建築師與業主坐下來談的桌子。接下來是提供桌子遮蔽的結構。其餘的部份都從這裡開始一點一滴地成長,對話也一直持續,〈終極廢墟〉也一直有機地發展。建築是開放的,永遠不會停工,也永遠未完成。




"IF YOU ARE NOT CONNECTED WITH NATURE, YOU PRODUCE POLLUTION"


INTERVIEW WITH MARCO CASAGRANDE OF CASAGRANDE LABORATORY
Edzard Mik, ARCHIDEA #57 / 2018


Marco Casagrande considers himself an animist architect. Architecture shouldn’t impose itself on nature. Physical presence is the key. “I like to build a fire before I start constructing. Sleeping at the site also helps me to get connected with it.”

Photo: Ville Malja

The sensual entanglement of ruins and wooden structures, refurbishing an abandoned building with provisions for trees and plants, an organic structure of willow branches in between depressing residential towers: what stands out in the provocative architecture of the Finish architect Marco Casagrande is an ambivalent attitude towards design. His designs have a sophisticated quality, yet he also seems to criticize design in his work.
“I am not comfortable with architecture that has become design,” he explained. “To me that kind of architecture feels like pollution. Architecture should be connected with reality. Design stands on its own. It tries to replace reality and to be independent of it, solely expressing the designer’s point of view. I cannot put my thumb on the precise reason, but I feel that design is my enemy.”


How can you possibly escape “design” while making architecture?

“I always try to ruin my own design. Architecture, real architecture, is not about imposing an artificial order on reality. It is about digging it out like an archaeologist. Therefore I work on a project until it starts to become itself. Sometimes, while designing, a moment comes when I feel that it is 'there'. Often it has to do with the site. I work at different places. I am like a parachutist, I am dropped in somewhere and then I have to open myself up to the place, to break myself open, to exhaust myself, until I reach a state of feeling the site. It's essential to get that feeling and to keep it. What I should do or shouldn’t do then starts to reveal itself. This process is not at all easy. And it isn’t necessarily pleasant. It can even be painful, especially if I try to rush at it. But I know that my own project first has to die. Every good project has to die at least once, and then it gets the chance to become more than you ever could think of beforehand. Of course, it mustn't die completely. But it has to die in such a way that you lose control over it. Control is another enemy, besides design.”



Drawing: Marco Casagrande
Photo: Jussi Tiainen
Photo: Sami Rintala

Do you have particular strategies for giving up control?
“I like to build a fire before I start constructing anything. Besides, I need a fire because I have to eat, dry my clothes and repel mosquitoes. Building a fire is a powerful method for connecting with the site. It means that I have to find out where to gather wood and I have to check the direction of the wind, before I can decide on the right place to build a fire. It often turns out in a later phase of the project that this place is  a meaningful place in the building. Sleeping at the site also helps me to feel the connection. It teaches me where insects are coming from and how the wind changes during the night. It generates encounters, for instance with local people who sneak through the site, a grandmother who takes one brick because she needs it for something.”

                Can you apply that strategy equally well in the city?
“It definitely works in the city too. In the Ruin Academy in Taipei, in an abandoned building, I took away all the windows. But while sleeping there I found out that I had created an unpleasant acoustic situation. The rooms echoed with noise from the traffic. So I had to grow bamboo in the windows and make wooden structures to damp out the echoes. Physical presence is the key. You can be present mentally, but you have to be present physically as well. Site specific conditions materialize in your body; you can only understand them through your body. Being together with others physically, working and sweating together, is a significant tool for communication because we all share a similar body. We share the same physical sensations, independently of our culture.”

Treasure Hill, Taipei, Taiwan (2003). Photo: Stephen Wilde
Photo: Marco Casagrande

But in the end you are constructing something, which means that you create a projection for the future, beyond your presence in the here and now.
“I am not so sure any more what time means. I used to think of time as being born, growing up and dying. But now I am growing more aware of different time scales, unconnected to my own lifespan. The times of other people, of volcanic rocks and granite, of the ants that crawl through the site and the plants and trees that grow there, of the wind and the typhoons, the time of the Earth and the Moon. Each phenomenon has its own time, and I want to understand them all and let them meet for instance, to direct the wind so you are touched by it while sleeping. Or to raise the floor so snakes can crawl under it."
Chen House, Sanjhih, Taipei County, Taiwan (2008). Photos: AdDa Zei


Do you mean that you try to orchestrate different times?
“I know something about atmospheric circulation and the course of the sun. But essentially, I don’t know what I am going to do in advance. I trust in accidents. I try to make a platform for accidents. I dig myself in and something gets constructed out of the mess. Treasure Hill in Taipei was an illegal settlement in a complex of abandoned bunkers. The local government commissioned me to develop an ecological master plan for Taipei Basin, while the same government was destroying Treasure Hill. I found Treasure Hill more interesting. I started a farm where a previous farm was destroyed by government officials. But I did it in the wrong way because my model of farming was Finnish, which means you put seeds in the ground and plants will grow. An old lady who used to own the farm passed by and criticized my work. She told me that a typhoon would wipe away everything I had done. She instructed me on the right way to do it. I had to dig ditches and plant the seeds in specific places. Finally the farm began to look like a farm. At the same time the whole settlement was watching me. Together with the grandma instructing me, it became a piece of theatre for them. They realized that she had accepted what I was doing, rebuilding her farm. They lost their fear of the government, showed up with tools and began replanting their own farms. An accidental encounter set off the whole process of rebuilding farms and eventually Treasure Hill.”

Architecture is usually concerned with solving problems. Modernity can be seen in this light too. Do you consider your work as a criticism of modernity?
“Modernity is the aesthetic representation of industrialism. But I try to think positively about industrialism, which is of very recent origin. Maybe it will learn to become part of nature some day. Maybe it will become an organic machine. To achieve that we must open ourselves up to site specific knowledge. I would not call it old knowledge, because knowledge is changing all the time. However, industrialism still assumes that it is independent of nature. Nature is often seen as something hostile, with its floods and typhoons. Through industrialism we create a machine that is completely functional and not related to nature, although it uses its resources. To me, nature is a specific mentality, a mind that thinks of just one thing: to maximize life in the given conditions. If you are not connected to nature, you produce pollution.”
 
Bug Dome, Shenzhen, China (2009). Photos: Nikita Wu

How do you see your work in relation to modernity? Is it a proposal to build differently, or is it a kind of meditation on our attitude towards nature? In other words, is it more like a work of art?
“I consider myself an animist architect. First of all I attempt to connect myself to the mind of a city. Because I can usually communicate only with a limited number of people, I spread rumours through the city. You cannot control rumours. They change all the time. They are like creatures. You can only send them but not control them. Rumours are powerful. I think you could design cities just by rumours. Often my work functions as the source of rumours. People react to them easily. Sometimes I talk about urban acupuncture. That is basically the same. I asked students of the Tamkang University in Taipei to build Trojan horses in order to 'attack' the city. The hidden content was of course not soldiers, but letters from citizens to the mayor expressing their wishes, thoughts and complaints about the city. The rumours spread and we collected thousands of letters. The media became interested. Finally the mayor had no choice but to receive us and to read some of the letters aloud.”

You did some projects with ruins. What do you find attractive about ruins?
“I find them hope-inspiring. There is a lot of hope in ruins. A ruin is architecture that has become part of nature again. Nature reads architecture easily. Mosses start to grow, then plants and trees. To me that that is very beautiful. People usually try to seal their home against the intrusion of nature. To keep nature out of the house, you have to clean it and maintain it all the time. It's a form of control. But if you abandon the house, nature will break in and the house will become part of a life-providing system. I call this second generation architecture. What I am interested in is third generation architecture, when you return and find that the house has become part of nature. How can you live there?  There is plenty of space left over, but perhaps you have to accept that the interior has been penetrated by a tree and plants are creeping out of the cracks. The house is no longer shielding you from nature. It has become an intermediary between you and nature.”

You went to live in a ruin. Can you explain how that worked out practically?
“When I was working at Tamkang University, I told the Dean of the architectural department, professor Chen, that I didn’t want to live in a house any more. I asked for a ruin instead. He found a derelict rice packing factory for me next to a rice paddy. My wife Nikita protested that we could not live there because rain came in through the roof. So my first step was to build a roof above the bed, and the next was to provide facilities for keeping ourselves clean. We could get water in buckets from the nearby river. I fixed up a heater with a gas tank for hot water and cooking. We went from one step to the next until finally we could move in.”

You didn’t design anything?
“I don’t think you can really design architecture. Of course, you can reach a certain level by drawing and making models. But that does not get to the essence of architecture. I only understand what needs to be done once I am occupied with building on the site and experiencing the space growing around me. This teaches me, for example, to make a small adjustment so that I can see the moon at night. If you base the construction of a building only on drawings, you force it to comply with preconceptions. Then the architecture becomes strangely crippled, growing out of nothing. Architecture shouldn’t impose itself on nature. Architecture should be pliant, an undecided form.”


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Helsinki Architecture Firm Launches Prefab, Solar-Powered Homes That Fit in a Parking Spot

Tikku takes modern minimalism to its logical conclusion, and could provide modular homes for many in the process

Tim Nelson / Architectural Digest
October 12, 2017

The Tikku on display in Helsinki.
Tikku on display in Helsinki. Photo: Nikita Wu
There’s been a lot of focus recently on affordable and sustainable housing concepts in Europe. Some private companies propose spaces-within-spaces, while others believe massive government investment is required. Finnish architect Marco Casagrande of Casagrande Laboratory, on the other hand, chose to simply plop down his "safe-house for neo-archaic biourbanism" in a Helsinki square and let his ingenious design do the talking.
With a footprint measuring just 2.5 x 5 meters, "Tikku" (Finnish for "stick") is built to fit within a single parking space. But its stacked three-story structure creates enough square footage for three distinct rooms, each of which can be modified to suit the desires of its occupant(s). The model that sprang up in a matter of hours outside of the Ateneum art museum during Helsinki design week features a floor for sleeping, a workspace, and a "greenhouse" for relaxing and soaking up natural light.
Marco Casagrande with his building.
Marco Casagrande with his building. Photo: Jenni Gästgivar / Iltalehti
Beyond the neat compartmentalization of its three floors, Tikku’s structural attributes are also impressive. Casagrande’s plan to have it sit in a parking space is no accident: built using cross-laminated timber, five times lighter than concrete. That allows each Tikku to exist as an almost foundationless structure, utilizing nothing more than a sand-box bottom and existing concrete in parking lots and other public spaces to stay upright. The cross-laminated timber is 20 centimeters thick, which means no extra insulation is required for occupants to comfortably withstand even harsh Scandinavian winters.

A view inside the structure's "greenhouse"
A view inside the structure's "greenhouse". Photo: Jenni Gästgivar / Iltalehti
Given that Casagrande describes Tikku as "a needle of urban acupuncture, conquering the no-man’s land from the cars and tuning the city towards the organic," it’s unsurprising that he had sustainability in mind. Each unit will be equipped with solar panels, but amenities like running water will be absent, a necessary concession that will force occupants to rely on 'functions [that[ can be found in the surrounding city."
Tikku has the look of a viable, minimalist, and fast-fab housing concept. In Casagrande’s eyes, the fact that it will force us to reevaluate the relationship the conveniences of our contemporary urban lives and our planet’s resources is an added bonus. As he himself puts it, "Modern man has to die a bit in order to be reborn."
Kuvahaun tulos haulle architectural digest logo
https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/helsinki-tikku-prefab-solar-powered-homes-that-fit-in-a-parking-spot

Marco Casagrande - Oriana Persico on Urban Acupuncture

Dialog with Oriana Persico, published in the book "DIGITAL URBAN ACUPUNCTURE" by O.Persico & S.Iaconesi, Springer International Publishing 2016, ISBN 978-3-319-43403-2




1. Ruins constitute syncretic maps of urban environments, as they show the citizens’ usage patterns, imagination of lack of it, traversals, and behaviors. In short, they constitute the map of the city as seen from the composition of the myriads of micro-histories of its dwellers, and in its perpetual evolution and transformation.

How important are these maps?

What is their meaning and how can they be used.



MC
These ruin maps are a pattern of urban acupuncture. They are small composts where the city is slowly fermenting. The surrounding city, at least the official city, may consider these composts as the smelly parts of the city and cannot really cope with them. The only solution which the official city seems to have is to erase them, turn the ruins into lawn or park, which was supposed to happen to Treasure Hill for example. The official city is in-sensitive for the energy and potential which these areas are suggesting. Normal people though are highly sensitive for urban energies and would be fully capable to operate the map of ruins. The ruins are insulting the official control, but on the other hand they have the capacity of offering the most fertile top-soil for organic urban development, which of course seeks to get rid of the centralized power structure. 

These ruins are voids in the mechanical tissue of the centrally governed city. They are openings to different times, values, dreams and possibilities – like the attic of a house. It is very likely that the essence of the surrounding city would intensify within these voids and get mixed or at least in connection with other organic layers of the city, like in a black hole. Layers which are invisible for the official control. Ruins have the possibility of partly tuning the city towards the organic, towards the third generation city. 

These ruins can be used in interpreting what the collective mind is transmitting. They can be sensitive platforms for local knowledge to emerge and evolve; as receivers. They can be hot-spots for new biourban knowledge building. One must be very careful with the relationship with the official city though. Once the political elements of the city will realize that something constructive, collectively touching and possibly media-sexy is cooking up in the formally smelly ruins, they will try to squeeze in and buy off the energy. In case the constructive energy of the ruins is sold, the construction will turn into destruction. The official city can only banalize the local knowledge. 

2. What you say that the Third Generation City is the ruin of the industrial city, you point into a really interesting direction, indicating how the emergent, spontaneous, energetic dynamics of the city and of its inhabitants are useful in gaining better understandings about the city, and about the ways in which it is interesting to create interventions in its fabric. Maybe even more useful than the information which is obtained through administrative, bureaucratic and commercial processes.

This also places citizens in a new light, suggesting ways in which their active participation becomes of fundamental importance to understand the city, and to act in it.

How do you imagine citizenship?

How do you imagine institutions?



MC
Every citizen is part of the big brain of the city. This collective conscious is complex, multi-layered and organic, but it is still a sensitive nervous system. The official city wants to flatten these layers into a simple two-dimensional map of the city, which is the official reality. Citizens however move much more flexibly, freely and multi-dimensionally in the city that what the official map would allow. The official city is just a background for the real citizen activities. Un-official information is powerful. Whole cities could be designed by rumors. Urban power structures want to flatten the multi-dimensional, resourceful and somehow mystical real citizen. He is too much in connection with nature, and the industrial city wants to claim independence from nature. Nature is seen as something hostile, something that wants to break the machine and the untamed natural citizen is an unpredictable agent of nature, an urban native that needs to get civilized, needs to be saved from himself. 

Institutions should be the inner organs of the city to keep life pumping through it. They could also be partly the nervous nods, which are dealing with the information and other energy flows of the city, thinking of the collective mind. City is one brain. Also nature is only one brain. City should be part of the natural one brain and the institutions should take care of that. Now the institutions are human-focused in a controlling sense and separating the city form nature. The solution which the developed institutional city is offering to the citizens is mechanical and standardized life. City should be a biological man-made organism and part of nature, otherwise it is against nature, a mental disorder – a human error as one might say. Institutions should be organic and most likely modular. They should treat the urban organism through punctual interventions, which would then be connected with the nervous network of the urban brain. This cannot be based on control and hardness – those are death’s companions. City is not an institution, it is a living organism. Accident is greater than human control. 


3. Relation, conversation and flows. Your vision of the city is very focused on these themes. Even in unexpected ways, for example using the term of “urban rumors”. This is very interesting, as it does not imply a concept of beauty and value which is not centered on form, but, rather, on the presence of energy, dynamics, fluidness and emergence, and also on the harmonies and dissonances, the conflicts and consensus which are typical of living ecosystems.

How can an urban planner, a public administrator, an architect, a designer or a citizen learn to recognize this new aesthetic and this value, and use them for collaboration, participation, action and performance in the city, with other people, institutions and organizations?

How does this fit in with your connection of Urban Acupuncture?



MC
A rather good example of this was the co-operation between the Ruin Academy, JUT Developers and the Taipei City Government. First of all the Ruin Academy was set up as an open platform for different universities, disciplines and professionals to participate in multi-disciplinary research & design workshops, courses and actions. The topics for these assignments would be developed together with the City Government and in the end we would also report to the City Government. Still again, this was all un-official. The City Government would not officially commission us and we would not be tied to any official nor academic bureaucracy. We would have access to the official data and intelligence, but we could operate much lighter and direct; more like the Special Forces. Our operations were financed and backed up by the JUT Developers and the participating universities, who would also benefit of our findings and developments. 

All the participating universities, the Tamkang University Department of Architecture, National Taiwan University departments of Sociology and Anthropology and Aalto University SGT Sustainable Global Technologies research center, found it very fruitful to have an open academic operational platform, which did not belong to any university, but was more based on academic squatting. Our interface to the surrounding city was also more real than with the locked academic disciplines and the interaction with local knowledge proved to be vital to the new knowledge building of the Third Generation City. 

City governments are full of departments and disciplines and every corner has a king. These kings don’t talk to each other, but still again they are the first ones to admit, that the highly regulated and protected administrative hierarchies are not optimal for mostly cross-disciplinary and multi-layered challenges and possibilities of the urban reality. They used the Ruin Academy to say things that they cannot say and to study things that they cannot study. We could have meetings in the evenings with the city officials, who could pass us the questions, interests or notions on which they wanted the Ruin Academy to react – almost as if they would be operating with a clandestine organization. We would be their interface to the un-official and to the underground, to the normal.

In some cases, like with Treasure Hill, the City Government was using me as kind of a joker, wild card. In Treasure Hill the Park Department of the City Government was already destroying the un-official settlement, when the Cultural Department of the same City Government was commissioning me to save Treasure Hill. In the end they were all evaluating, how did I succeed and decided to come smiling with the results. “This is exactly what we were commissioning you to do.” If I had failed, they would have just blamed the stupid foreigner and bulldozed down the place. 

What I am trying to say is that we need to develop more un-conventional ways to deal with the urban problematics. We already have the city governments, administrations, organization, NGOs and universities, which are taking care of the official routines, but we need more flexible, straight-forward and light operators to work avant-garde and behind the lines, also underground. Operators who can make hearts-and-minds connections with the local knowledge and mobilize people to develop their city. Operators who can communicate with the shared mind, the collective urban conscious.

Urban Acupuncture is both a strategy for urban development through punctual interventions and straight-forward tactics. There are many holes and cracks in a city and these cracks can be used for cooking up the operations. In the end, the city of cracks is much more interesting and humane than the two-dimensional, flat, industrial-modern city. Urban Acupuncture is breaking the industrial control, but it is for good – it is constructive anarchy. 


4. What transformation comes into this scenario when many people in cities have integrated digital means in expressing their micro histories, relations, emotions, behaviors, in conscious of unconscious ways?

MC

Commercial intelligence has been using the methodology of Urban Acupuncture for a long time. A good example is the network of 7-Eleven convenient stores in Taipei. They are located in carefully studied commercial acupuncture points around the city, building up the densest network of 7-Elevens anywhere in the world. Our actions, behaviors, wishes, desires and individual histories are constantly monitored, traced and processed based on our digital activities. Our digital networks have the power of launching rumors and revolutions, but they are also very easily manipulated. An interesting question is, what is the interface and dialog between this digital mind and nature? Can it support the organic knowledge as a portal for the collective mind to communicate? Are we now just looking at the simplified and flat prints of the digitally moving information the same way as the official city is flattening the informational space of the city into a two dimensional map? Would it be needed to penetrate through the thin layer of visual information surface to the actual digital space, where the countless informational layers are generating new streams of knowledge and how can we communicate with this digital subconscious? I think that this subconscious wants to surface on the city. It wants to take both form and be sensed through our physical presence and our natural mind. 


5. In your conception, the Third Generation City is itself a form of knowledge. This is yet another parallel with the concepts expressed in Digital Urban Acupuncture, where the Relational Ecosystem of the city, captured through data, information and knowledge exchanges, becomes a commons, available and accessible for everyone to use.

How, in your opinion, should this knowledge be accessible and usable?

And, on top of that: how is it possible to suggest and create the basis for the emergence of the imagination, sensibility and desire to use this knowledge?


MC
This knowledge is already now a source of intelligence for political and economic power speculations. It is also a form of new culture. Physically, millions of people are now migrating based on this data – migrants, refugees and people moving to cities. Big digitally formed and manipulated tribes and armies are in physical war and one of the main frontlines is digital. 

The digital realm is one surface of individual and mass communication, but is it yet a form of new knowledge? The digital underground movements and paths seem somewhat hopeful, but the big data is just entertainment and commercially controlled – not very different from the official city. One should not be blindfolded by the online access to information and entertainment. Flesh is More. 


6. How important (or not) is education in your vision of the city?


How can the literacy and sensibility which are needed to conceive the possibility of accessing the knowledge in the Third Generation City emerge in citizens?

Through a school? An educational process? Peer-to-peer processes?

The availability and accessibility of tools and methods?

How?


MC
The un-official community gardens and urban farms of Taipei are run by anarchist grandmothers. Also the urban farming communities are often matriarchal – like Treasure Hill. The ex-Soviet collective farms are by now run by babushkas. Modern city is a patriarchal structure as a form of industrialism. In Taipei the kids go to help on the collective farms – carry water, dig soil etc. Sometimes they come to the farms after school to do their home-work. They learn how to farm and the local knowledge becomes real for them. One step away is the official city. Modern man should take the liberty to travel a thousand years back in order to realize, that the things are the same. What is real cannot be speculated. What is real is valuable. There is no other reality than nature. 

Maybe the digital realm is also nature. Possibly it is like the resonating behind the singing of the birds. We can either listen to the birds’ singing or we can feel and contemplate with the resonating behind it. Maybe we are resonating with the digital flows as well. We can feel the mind, but cannot really interpret it. Nature is a life providing system. My friend is a digital monk and he is very much tuned with nature as well. 

Third generation citizens don’t need to be educated. They already exist. They are the ones connected with local knowledge and sensitive enough to feel the different pulses and messages of the city. They are the connection between the city and nature. We all have that quality, but we are educated to forget it. The third generation condition requires us to forget the forgetting. 

Instead of education we need to learn, how to pay attention to the seeds of the Third Generation City. We need to document them, learn from them and let them grow. Most of all we have to stop ignoring them. These seeds are often cooking at the un-official layers of the city. City is a big compost, which needs to be turned around every now and then in order to keep it alive. The seeds of the 3G City are in connection with the local knowledge and they form a pattern of organic urban acupuncture to the static city trying to tune the urban development into biourbanism. The challenge is, that these seeds don’t necessarily support the economic speculations and can be quite contra dictionary to the established power hierarchies, which try to suffocate them. Hence the existence in underground. The digital realm may be a possibility for the local knowledge, for the seeds of the Third Generation City to communicate and connect with the larger mind of individual citizens. 

How? Forget the forgetting. Industrialism is young and simple. Let the organic growth make a new layer on top of the industrial city. This coexistence will develop into the next step of urban industrialism, the city can learn to become an organic machine. In a sense we must ruin the mechanical city and open up the industrial control, so that nature can step in. Nature including human nature. 





Wednesday, September 28, 2016

From Urban Acupuncture to the Third Generation City

Casagrande, M. (2016). From Urban Acupuncture to the Third Generation City. Journal of
Biourbanism, IV(1&2/2015), 29−42.



From Urban Acupuncture to
the Third Generation City

Marco Casagrande
Ruin Academy, C-Lab, and International Society of Biourbanism, Finland












ABSTRACT

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 biourban 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.




Keywords:     urban acupuncture, biourbanism, Third Generation City, ruins, parasite urbanism,
paracity, Local Knowledge

INTRODUCTION

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 on 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 was 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.

“One day, the flood came to Chiang 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 the 1960s don’t live in a river city. They live in an industrially-walled urban fiction separated from nature.



TREASURE HILL

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.

Roan Chin-Yueh of the WEAK! managed so that the City Government Department of Cultural Affairs invited me to Taipei. She introduced me to Treasure Hill’s impressive organic settlement with a self-made root-cleaning system of gray waters through patches of jungle on the hillside. Treasure Hill was composting organic waste into fertilizer for the farms and using minimum amounts of electricity, which was stolen 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 that 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 at some point the photos turned to color prints. The same guys were in Taiwan. Then there was a woman, and an elderly 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.


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 at 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 to us from the trucks passing us by. 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 workday 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.

Working in Treasure Hill had pressed an acupuncture point of the industrial Taipei City. Our humble construction work was the needle that 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.”


URBAN ACUPUNCTURE

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 to 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 multidisciplinary 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.

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 that 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, et cetera). 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 people’s sense of community, and separates them from the biological circulations.


Urban Acupuncture is Local Knowledge in Taipei, which on a larger scale, keeps the official city alive. The unofficial is the biological tissue of the mechanical city. Urban Acupuncture is a biourban healing and development process connecting modern man with nature.


THIRD GENERATION CITY

The first generation city is the one where the human settlements are 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 their 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 the manmade has become part of nature. In the Third Generation City, we aim at designing ruins. The 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).


PARASITE URBANISM

The emerging biourban cities are not homogeneous platforms for single cultures, races, economical doctrines, timelines, or other ways of life or being. They are urban composts where organic knowledge is floating into the cracks of the industrially developed surroundings. This organic knowledge has the ability to treat and heal the surrounding city as a positive parasite. It can suck in and treat urban and even industrial waste, and it is able to build bridges between the modern man and nature. It can grow to places where the industrial city cannot go and through punctual interventions, it can tune the whole urban development towards the organic; built human nature as part of nature.

This symbiotic coexistence between the “official” and “developed” city, and the unofficial, self-built and organic parasite biourbanism has been existing already for a long time with slums, favelas, camps of migrating workers, unofficial settlements, urban enclaves of resistance, community gardens and urban farms, and even refugee camps. These strongholds of urban nomads are harvesting the surrounding city from what it calls waste, surplus material streams of the industrial life. Without these urban nomads, these material streams will end up in nature as what we call pollution. The unofficial is the buffer zone between development and nature—trying to save the city from itself.

This parasite urbanism should be encouraged to grow on the expense of industrial efficiency. It should eat the urban industrialism away up until a point, where the city is in tune with the life-providing systems of nature. Within this new biourban human mangrove, the relicts of the industrial hardness will emerge as islands, ridges or hills, maybe volcanoes. This urban compost is the Third Generation City. It already exists in many places and on many scales, from Jakarta to Rio, and from the collective urban farms of Taipei to the buffalo sheds of Mumbai. It is not a utopia, but a way in which the different material cycles of cities have coexisted for much longer than industrialism.

For example, in Mumbai there have always been countless buffalo sheds along the monsoon floodwater streams. The respected animal gives fuel (dung-cakes) and milk to the surrounding city. Here, the river or stream is an essential part of this symbiosis. The buffalo dung is pushed to the low water stream, where women mix it by foot with straw before it gets transported back to the sheds for the making and drying of the dung-cakes. The buffaloes also need to get washed every day. The buffalo caretakers are living on decks above the animals.

People have always brought their household waste from the surrounding city to the buffalo sheds in exchange for the milk and energy. The first one to eat from this organic waste is the buffalo, which will pick up the best parts. Then comes the goat, which can even eat paper. After the goat comes the dog, who goes through the possible small remnants of bones, skins, and meat. The last one in the chain is the pig, who will eat even rotten meat and already digested material. The surrounding city cannot live without the buffalo sheds. This chain of animals worked perfectly before the age of industrial materials. Then, materials started to appear in the trash bags that even a pig could not consume—plastics, aluminum, et cetera. The city needed a new animal:  man.

The slums of Mumbai have grown around the buffalo sheds. Millions of people have been transported from the poorest areas of India to take care of the developed city. Only in the Owhiwara River chain of slums is there estimated to live some 700,000 inhabitants. The recycling stations and illegal factories are situated here, just next door to Bollywood. What cannot be recycled or treated ends up in the river, just like in Jakarta it ends up in the bay. Monsoon will flush the toilet.

The buffalo sheds are the original acupuncture needles of Mumbai. Now, together with slums, they present a strong culture of parasite urbanism. The harvesting, processing, and recycling of the urban waste is harmful for the people who do it and for nature. The Third Generation City is looking towards a situation where the parasite urbanism has reached another level presenting a biourban balance between the rivers, slums, and the surrounding city. 


PARACITY

Learning from the cases of Taipei and Mumbai, we have developed a conceptual model to further study the possibilities of parasite urbanism:  Paracity (2014).

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 dialogue 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 contain 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 agritectural organism of the Paracity is based on a primary wooden three-dimensional structure, an organic grid with spatial modules of 6 x 6 x 6 meters, constructed out of CLT (cross-laminated timber) beams, and 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 unofficial communities in Taipei. 

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 itself 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 1,000 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 meters 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 between houses. This is a city of cracks. 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 all-encompassing 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 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.


CONCLUSION

The way towards the Third Generation City is a process of becoming a collective learning and healing organism and of reconnecting 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 within 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.


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Figure 0. (Missis Chen Drawing) / No Caption
Figure 1. Taipei flood wall (Photograph by the Author).
Figure 2. Treasure Hill (Photograph by Stephen Wilde).
Figure 3. Collective farm in Treasure Hill (Photograph by Stephen Wilde).
Figure 4. Reconstructed steps in Treasure Hill (Photograph by Stephen Wilde).
Figure 5. Unofficial community gardens and urban farms of the Taipei Basin, the real map of Urban Acupuncture (Image sourced by the Author).
Figure 6. Paracity, model (Photograph by the Author).
Figure 7. Image sourced by the Author.
Figure 8. Drawing by Niilo Tenkanen / Casagrande Laboratory.
Figure 9. Paracity CLT-module, 6 x 6 x 6m (Photograph by Jan Feichtinger / Casagrande Laboratory).
Figure 10. Agritecture of the Paracity (Drawing by Niilo Tenkanen / Casagrande Laboratory).
Figure 11. Paracity, flood-water scenario (Image sourced by the Author).