Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Third Generation City



First generation city was the human settlement 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 and the mountains protected 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 needed for humans. Nature was seen as something unnecessary or as something hostile–it was walled away from the mechanical reality.


Third Generation City is the organic ruin of the industrial city. The community gardens of Taipei are fragments of the third generation urbanism when they exist together with the industrial surroundings. Local Knowledge is present in the city and this is where Ruin Academy focuses its research. Among the urban gardeners are the local knowledge professors of Taipei. Third Generation City is true when the city recognizes its local knowledge and allows itself to be part of nature.

Bug Dome by the WEAK! in Shenzhen built together with migrating workers from rural Guanxi following their Local Knowledge of bamboo structures with nature as co-architect. Bug Dome is an un-official social club for a camp of migrating workers and a lounge for the SZHK Biennial. 
The way towards the Third Generation City is a process of becoming a learning and healing organization and to reconnect the urbanized collective conscious with nature. In Taipei the wall between the city and the river must be gone. This requires a total transformation from the city infrastructure and the centralized power bureaucracy. Citizens on their behalf are ready and are breaking the industrial city by themselves already. Local knowledge is operating independently from the official city and is providing punctual third generation surroundings within the industrial city and by doing that providing self organized urban acupuncture for the stiff official mechanism.

The weak signals of the un-official collective conscious 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 to 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 leaching from the material and energy streams of the official city. This acupuncture is making the city weaker, softer and readier for a larger change.

RUIN ACADEMY

The Ruin Academy (Taipei 2010- ) is set to re-think the industrial city and the relationship between the modern man and nature in the urbanized Taipei Basin. It is looking from the local knowledge for the seeds of the Third Generation City.

Ruin is when man-made has become part of nature. This is the subconscious desire of the industrial city and the collective trauma of the modern man. Taipei is currently presenting the most advanced industrial co-existence of a modern city and uncontrollable organic anarchy; nature, including human nature, is pushing through the industrial surface and turning the city towards the organic according to a post-human design and ecological sensibility. To understand this force, the reinforced and divided academic disciplines are of no use.  Neither is centralized politics providing any tools. Communication needs to find another way.

Ruin Academy, section. 

Ruin Academy has focused its research on the unofficial life-providing systems within the official mechanical city. These spontaneous and citizen-generated systems are constantly ruining the official Taipei. These are systems that are, through punctual interventions, fermenting and composting the city. From the organic top-soil produced by these composts will emerge the Third Generation City, the organic ruin of the industrial city, an organic machine. In Erik Swyngedouw's terms: "Nature and society are in this way combined to form an urban political ecology, a hybrid, an urban cyborg that combines the powers of nature with those of class, gender, and ethnic relations.” The smelliest parts of  unofficial Taipei contain the highest level of energy and life still in connection with nature; at the same time, the official industrialism aims for a sterile and fully controlled condition. This brings to mind Andrei Tarkovsky’s maxim in Stalker: “When a tree is growing, it's tender and pliant. But when it's dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death's companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.” These urban composts are the corners that are maintaining the essence of the Local Knowledge, a constructive interaction of nature and human nature in the built human environment. This local knowledge is suggesting the ways of the ruining processes for Taipei towards the Third Generation City.

Different disciplines of art and science are meeting in the Ruin Academy following the multidisciplinary research + design methodology of the Aalto University’s SGT Sustainable Global Technologies centre. Cross-disciplinary knowledge building has proven vital on the research of the Third Generation City. Ruin Academy co-operates with the architecture department of the Tamkang University, sociology department of the National Taiwan University and with the SGT centre of the Aalto University. Besides these, teams and individuals have been joining the work from various different backgrounds.  Ruin Academy is unofficial, pliant, and weak, in contrast to academic strength and hardness. The Ruin Academy is a basic shelter for academic squatting, stripped down from disciplinary focusing and institutional strength. Most important is the connection to the Local Knowledge, the site-specific wisdom of sustainable human presence in the Taipei Basin. This knowledge seems to be in straight connection with the collective memory of the First Generation City, when the built human environment was dependent on nature and dominated by nature. The Local Knowledge is the driving force for the organic penetrations through the industrial layer of the Taipei Basin today. Local Knowledge is the force tuning the city towards the organic. Our communication center is the public sauna on the 5th floor of the Ruin Academy building.

We are looking for the seeds of the Third Generation City:


What are the processes that are ruining the industrial Taipei turning it towards the organic third generation city?

What are the systems that are bringing life into the modern machine? 

What is the life-force / Chi that keeps the city alive and how can this Chi be negotiated with by means of Urban Acupuncture?

THE ELEMENTS OF THE THIRD GENERATION TAIPEI


1. Urban Acupuncture

Urban acupuncture is characterized by punctual interventions through the official surface of the city which aim to establish contact between the urban collective conscious and the life-providing systems of nature, including human nature. The networks of illegal community gardens and urban farms of Taipei present a fine example of urban acupuncture. These gardens are the urban acupuncture needles that manipulate and manifest the collective underlying organic Chi of the industrial city and turn the mechanical city towards an organic machine. The spontaneous, unofficial and self-organized community gardens are strong representations of anarchy through gardening. The collective gardens are reflections of life world vs. the surrounding city as the system world.


2.Illegal Architecture
The Instant Taipei is self-made architecture using the official city as a growing platform and energy source,attaching itself like a parasite in order to leach electricity and water. The illegal architecture is so widespread and deep rooted as a culture in the Taiwanese cityscape that we could almost speak about another city on top of the “official” Taipei, a parallel city–or a Para-City. This DIY built human environment is tied directly to human nature and motivated by basic human instinct and mandated only by desire and availability. Paradoxically, the illegal settlements such as Treasure Hill are living in a more balanced relationship with the natural environment.
3. Urban Nomad

The urban nomad is the antithesis of Walter Benjamin’s flâneur, who is numb and absent in the capital-driven urban surroundings. The urban nomad is on the move, harvesting and trapping in a city that he views as a landscape wherein seasons and energy concentrations are constantly changing. The urban nomad can operate alone or in larger camp-like concentrations, such as the night markets. He is faster and lighter than the official control mechanism of the city, which tries to prevent him from operating. Besides trading, the urban nomads are also harvesting the city of its trash and left-over goods for recycling. This hit-and-run unofficial economy is leaching on the steady material streams of the structural city and is presenting a form of street-level anarchy through business exchange. A series of activities are on the move or popping up and disappearing in Taipei, these include the night markets, under-bridge activities, street vendors, spontaneous karaoke, gambling, puppet theatre, massage, barber, monks, beetle-nut booths, and even moving gods–all very sensitive to the urban energy flows and hot-spots of urban acupuncture.


4.      River Urbanism

Taipei (1G) exists because of the river and the fertile flood plains. The industrial city (2G) claimed independence from nature and turned the river into an industrial sewage site. A reinforced concrete wall 12 meters high was constructed in-between the built human environment and the river nature. Third Generation City aims to re-uninite the river and city through the natural restoration of the river environment. The river shall run as an ecological corridor through a city that is pulsating together with its hydraulics. The city will be re-developed from the view point of the river. Local knowledge still remembers the time when the water of the rivers was drinkable and people washed themselves in the rivers. Every family had a rowing boat and the river was full of harvest. This is still a living memory for some in Taipei, but for the industrial generations the river has become a fiction.


Taipei City with the dividing wall from river nature. 
The Phoenix bird has not yet come and the River has not yet revealed its divine nature: this is the end of me. - Confucius

5. Ultra-Ruin

Ruin is when man-made has become part of nature. The ruining processes of Taipei are keeping the city alive. A weed will root into a crack in the asphalt and eventually ruin the city. The crack is the acupuncture point and the weed is the needle. The mechanical surface of Taipei is dotted with ruins and holes reflecting a larger vision of an organic machine, the organic ruin of the industrial city. People are constantly ruining the totalitarian control architecture of the industrial mind, which they subconsciously feel as a threat to the human nature. To understand the dynamics of the ruining processes of a city is essential for the growing of the Third Generation built human environment.  Treasure Hill is a high-density ruin, a fragment of the Third Generation City. In the settlement, the same space is shared by people and jungle and the complex three-dimensional power balances between the different species, including humans, is delicately changing day by day. Treasure Hill also lives on a flood bank and does not view the river as a threat. It is inhabited by urban nomads who are harvesting the surrounding city. The whole settlement is an urban acupuncture needle for Taipei.

Treasure Hill in 2003
Local knowledge is an element that is pushing through all the layers of the 3G City, a connection between the modern man and nature. Following Fritz Lang in Metropolis: “The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart.” Local knowledge is the mediator that is tying the Third Generation citizen with nature and which operates as the subconscious natural agent on the collective conscious of the civilized man.

BIOURBAN ACUPUNCTURE

Urban acupuncture is an urban environmentalism theory which combines urban design with traditional Chinese medical theory of acupuncture. This process uses small-scale interventions to transform the larger urban context. Sites are selected through an aggregate analysis of social, economic, and ecological factors, and developed through a dialogue between designers and the community. Acupuncture relieves stress in the body, urban acupuncture relieves stress in the environment. Urban acupuncture produces small-scale but socially catalytic interventions into the urban fabric.

Illegal community gardens and urban farms performing biourban acupuncture on industrial Taipei. Image: Ruin Academy, 2010.
This strategy views cities as living, breathing organisms and pinpoints areas in need of repair. Sustainable projects, then, serve as needles that revitalize the whole by healing the parts. By perceiving the city as a living creature, thoroughly intertwined, “urban acupuncture” promotes communitarian machinery and sets localized nucleus ―similar to the human body’s meridians. Satellite technology, networks and collective intelligence theories, all used to surgically and selectively intervene on the nodes that have the biggest potential to regenerate.

Originally coined by Barcelonan architect and urbanist, Manuel de Sola Morales the term has been recently championed and developed further by Finnish architect and social theorist Marco Casagrande, this school of thought eschews massive urban renewal projects in favour a of more localised and community approach that, in an era of constrained budgets and limited resources, could democratically and cheaply offer a respite to urban dwellers. Casagrande views cities as complex energy organisms in which different overlapping layers of energy flows are determining the actions of the citizens as well as the development of the city. By mixing environmentalism and urban design Casagrande is developing methods of punctual manipulation of the urban energy flows in order to create an ecologically sustainable urban development towards the so-called 3rd Generation City (postindustrial city). The theory is developed in the Tamkang University of Taiwan and at independent multidisciplinary research center Ruin Academy. With focus on environmentalism and urban design, Casagrande defines urban acupuncture as a design tool where punctual manipulations contribute to creating sustainable urban development, such as the community gardens and urban farms in Taipei.
Casagrande describes urban acupuncture as:
[a] cross-over architectural manipulation of the collective sensuous intellect of a city. City is viewed as multi-dimensional sensitive energy-organism, a living environment. Urban acupuncture aims into a touch with this nature.
And: Sensitivity to understand the energy flows of the collective chi beneath the visual city and reacting on the hot-spots of this chi. Architecture is in the position to produce the acupuncture needles for the urban chi.
And: A weed will root into the smallest crack in the asphalt and eventually break the city. Urban acupuncture is the weed and the acupuncture point is the crack. The possibility of the impact is total, connecting human nature as part of nature.

Casagrande utilized the tenets of acupuncture: treat the points of blockage and let relief ripple throughout the body. More immediate and sensitive to community needs than traditional institutional forms of large scale urban renewal interventions would not only respond to localized needs, but do so with a knowledge of how city-wide systems operated and converged at that single node. Release pressure at strategic points, release pressure for the whole city.
The theory of urban acupuncture opens the door for uncontrolled creativity and freedom. Each citizen is enabled to join the creative participatory planning process, feel free to use city space for any purpose and develop his environment according to his will. This “new” post-industrialized city Casagrande dubs the 3rd Generation City, characterized by its sensitive citizens who feel the calling of a sustainable co-operation with the rest of the nature, sensitive citizen who are aware of the destruction that the insensitive modem machine is causing to nature including human nature. In a larger context a site of urban acupuncture can be viewed as communicating to the city outside like a natural sign of life in a city programmed to subsume it.

The "101 Community Garden" in front of the Taipei World Trade Center (pink building). This is the most expensive land in Taipei City fought over by three banks for over decades, without any of the three getting to develop the land. Meanwhile: anarchist grannies are farming.
Urban acupuncture focuses on local resources rather than capital-intensive municipal programs and promotes the idea of citizens installing and caring for interventions. These small changes, proponents claim, will boost community morale and catalyze revitalization. Boiled down to a simple statement, “urban acupuncture” means focusing on small, subtle, bottom-up interventions that harness and direct community energy in positive ways to heal urban blight and improve the cityscape. It is meant as an alternative to large, top-down, mega-interventions that typically require heavy investments of municipal funds (which many cities at the moment simply don’t have) and the navigation of yards of bureaucratic red tape. The micro-scale interventions targeted by “urban acupuncture” appeal to both citizen-activists and cash-strapped communities.
Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, suggests urban acupuncture as the future solution for contemporary urban issues; by focusing on very narrow pressure points in cities, who can initiate positive ripple effects for the greater society. Urban acupuncture reclaims the ownership of land to the public and emphasizes the importance of community development through small interventions in design of cities. It involves pinpointed interventions that can be accomplished quickly to release energy and create a positive ripple effect.
He described in 2007: “I believe that some medicinal “magic” can and should be applied to cities, as many are sick and some nearly terminal. As with the medicine needed in the interaction between doctor and patient, in urban planning it is also necessary to make the city react; to poke an area in such a way that it is able to help heal, improve, and create positive chain reactions. It is indispensable in revitalizing interventions to make the organism work in a different way.”

Taiwanese architect and academic Ti-Nan Chi is looking with micro urbanism at the vulnerable and insignificant side of contemporary cities around the world identified as micro-zones, points for recovery in which micro-projects have been carefully proposed to involve the public on different levels, aiming to resolve conflicts among property owners, villagers, and the general public.

A loosely affiliated team of architects Marco Casagrande, Hsieh Ying-chun and Roan Ching-yueh (sometimes called WEAK! Architecture) are describing the unofficial Instant City, or Instant Taipei, as architecture that uses the Official City as a growing platform and energy source, where to attach itself like a parasite and from where to leach the electricity and water… [The Instant City's] illegal urban farms or night markets is so widespread and deep rooted in the Taiwanese culture and cityscape that we could almost speak of another city on top of the “official” Taipei, a parallel city – or a para-city. WEAK! is calling urban acupuncture depending on the context as Illegal Architecture, Orchid Architecture, the People’s Architecture, or Weak Architecture. The theory of urban acupuncture suggests that scores of small-scale, less costly and localized projects is what cities need in order to recover and renew themselves.

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