Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Katie Donaghy 

A paracity is an organic structure which can encompass a large number of human individuals. It has some things in common with our current urbanised areas however a paracity is not bound to space. It can live off a currently existing city and inhabit the same space. It can be seen as a second layer on top of a society. A paracity lives off another city like a parasite off its host. 

CLT-structure of the Paracity in Taipei.

How will a paracity affect the city it is leaching from? If you imagine an actual leech and how it sticks onto your leg and sucks from your body. Not only does it take away a resource from your body it can also pump actual parasites back into it which will harm your body. However, if you imagine it as a structure leeching onto the main city it will pull resources from the city but also provide to the city and will grow through these actions. Local knowledge can spread through the fabric and infiltrates the city. The resources it takes from the city will however depend more on what the city is able to provide rather than what the paracity wishes to take from it. This will then develop into an organic relationship providing a physical structure where a community may begin to form. The paracity would ideally be where old is combined perfectly with the new without having to be old but simply by acknowledging the old. The paracity can do this as it attaches onto it and takes from the city what is no longer desired. 

The structure of a paracity is unique in its construction method but also in the way that it chooses to move away from conventional traditional planning and architecture. It offers a personalized architectural identity in which individuals may develop their own space and transform a structure into a place. The paracity as a space is interesting similar to nature which grows around what is built a paracity will grow according to what is already present and what can be found to add onto that. Where nature may struggle a paracity will find innovative solutions to incorporate something into the structure or simply build around or on top of it. It is this biourban approach to design which allows for the development of a unique structure in which individuals will form a community. These individuals will naturally come together as they have the will to create something which is their own, which they can appropriate and share with others. In a growing society one must also consider access, provision and capacity. How will the design of a space cope with something which is completely unpredictable. The answer is found in how nature copes with growth and change in provision. The paracity has no limits which are not defined by nature itself. The paracity offers a place with new aims and thoughts. With a new system of thought we can forge a new place which creates the space for a new society to combine with what already exists and the organic growth of nature. 

Organic Paracity spreading into the surrounding industrial Taipei like a positive cancer.

The structure must offer organic growth and thereby give access to as much as it can. The structure may fold itself around what is currently present and thereby incorporate it in its design. How will individuals travel through this structure once it has become more than just a structure? The paracity seeks to be a point of play between the individual and the structure. As Foucault has said as humans we need this play to help us enhance who we are and what we deliver. This play will feed the structure as well as relationships between the individual and the structure and others living in the city. This play will form at the moment where the individual becomes a part of a greater picture, when an individual has invested in the city is the point where they will form a relationship which is constantly changing in order to accommodate others as well as the change in nature. 

Third Generation City is the organic ruin of the industrial city, an organic machine. Ruin is when man-made has become part of nature. 

A crucial aspect for the success of a paracitic society in my view depends on how quickly a society will form and the pace at which it will grow. Societies and relationships form organically over time and are dependent on the detailed design of the structure. If one would put a very large number of strangers together the chance of success at forming a society will be lower than when a group naturally forms to subsequently slowly expands. This will be dependent on the initial structure present but also on what comes readily available from the city. If there is too much available for the paracity to leech on then there will be more chance for a fast growing structure which will not accommodate the natural growth we are seeking.

Paracity primary structure at the Dashui River island in Taipei. 

A place will also depend on growing organically in order to function as a society. Places have rules and community engagement. Elders often play an important role in being in charge and enabling a community to grow around them according to unwritten rules like in Treasure hill. In a paracity it is necessary for this hierarchy to form itself in order for the rest of the society to treacle down from this in such a way that there is no room for altruism and only co-dependencies. This allows a society to grow organically mimicking natural growth. Where in nature a tree will not grow under another tree or too near another tree because they would be fighting for each others light, ground and water in society we must live according to similar innate rules whereby we prove selfless and show an interest in the well-being of others. A paracity must therefore grow according to need rather than desire. When the city needs new labour or when relationships become complicated we must envisage that new people will come and help to form a greater community. 

Farming the Paracity.

A community network often refers to an online form of community whereby individuals become linked through interest and other personality traits rather than according to location. This changes the way our day to day society works. If you think of a city no matter the scale we often do not interact with those in our close proximity. If we are lucky enough to live in an area where people spend a lot of time we may get to know some familiar faces however we still won't often reach out for help or offer help as easily as we would if we were a part of a defined community network or living in a small village where everyone knows each other. As individuals we have the innate trait to want to help others whether it be because we care or simply because it makes us feel good. This gets lost in an individualistic city where we find it more difficult to extend help to a stranger but also where there is often no one to recognise and praise your efforts. The paracity offers a solution for this which is rooted in its design. The paracity offers a communication which lies beyond the current systems whereby the city itself becomes a form of communication. Those living in the paracity will communicate through the design and what they can offer to it.

Basic 6m CLT-structural unit.
The paracity defines itself in its origin as reliant on another living structure in order to forge its existence. Without another living structure it is unable to survive. It leaches off society in order to make its own. Through this act of leeching off another society it becomes to a certain extent dependent on it. This dependency is what creates a community network in the paractiy as individuals become reliant on one another to develop this complex structure. The structure of this paracity will depend on what is readily available and how different users come together and assemble these unique pieces. It is this act of coming together which will help different users to become more assimilated with one another and begin to develop a network. This network will then create a community with co-dependencies. In such a society where we are dependent on others it is more natural for individuals to form a society where they come in aid to one another. The society will then evolve naturally according to this pattern and what nature makes available to them. It is expected that the actual structure of the paracity will play a significant role in how the community interacts and creates links between one another. Dependent on the structure and how easy it is to create links between different sections will depend on how easy it becomes to forge relationships across different sections of the design.

Formally illegal biourban settlement Treasure Hill in Taipei, Taiwan. 

Living in a close environment it becomes necessary to hold contact with one another as we are so dependent on what another individual chooses to do. How someone else chooses to expand or build their structure will directly affect those surrounding that structure. Whether it be through sound, changing of available daylight or access. All these things will come into play with the changing structure of the paracity. A strong community network will help individuals to form a social structure in which they aid one another to create a friendly more organic place to live. It is this friendly more organic structure which will then allows the community to continue to live according to paracitic rules and not to revert to the destructive ways of a traditional society.

Cover of the Paracity publication for the China Central Academy of Fine Arts CAFAM Biennale 2014.

Katie Donaghy is a biourban sociologist for Paracity / Casagrande Laboratory Center for Urban Research CURE and Programme Officer of Urban Design London.

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