Taking a Look at Urban Acupunture

Taking a Look at Urban Acupunture

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Urban Acupuncture
There is an interesting theory nowadays called urban acupuncture, which refers to the idea that carefully considered as small-scale architectural interventions have the potential to bring about positive change to a larger urban field. (Deyond, 2012) “Acupuncture” is a Chinese medical treatment procedures involving penetration of the skin with needles to stimulate certain points on the body. In Chinese medicine, doctors proposal that our bodies are able to heal by ourselves, and use some method such like acupuncture and cupping to simulate points to treat patients. Similarly, many modern cities are sick, facing the problem of excess urbanization: cities are full of buildings and become concrete jungles, and large numbers of transportations cause pollutions in the cities. If we take a city as an organism with different kinds of energy inside its “body”, which is similar to human being, urban acupuncture cure the city through changing small parts of the city.
In the first article Urban Acupuncture and the paradoxical logic of systems, Deyond points a concept “leverage points” provided by Donella Meadows. Leverage point is the place in the system where a small change could lead to a large shift in behavior. The idea of leverage point can be used not only in management, but also can be used in urban design. The author points out two leverage points: material stocks and flow, that is, a urban infrastructure built by stocks and flows will have big effect on system operation; and self-organization, that is organism and social system can change themselves by creating new structure and behavior. Deyond gives the example of Urban-think tank (U-TT), an architecture firm, using their projects vertical Gymnasiums (VGs) and Metro Cable to illustrate those two leverage points.
The second article From Product to Process: Building on Urban Think Tank’s Approach to the Informal City introduce a firm named Urban- think tank (U-TT) that focuses on the city problem and tries to start proposal for the city in building projects in conflict zones. They have designed many projects in different parts of the world. Similar to this urban acupuncture is the way that “cures” the city and social problems by making changes of certain part in the city. Although there are cultural and social specificities, cities are facing problems in common. Connecting the formal and informal city is their main aim of activities. They attempt to put together communities, design ideas and urban actors on the ground that are the stakeholders in order to produce high-quality architecture.

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A famous example of U-TT is a multiple function building in a residential area. This project takes advantage of site; create spaces for athletic facilities, musical institutions, studio, performance theater and workshop. This public functions combine with transportations are located in the bottom area of building. While the function of upper structures are apartments for homeless people.
This two article both discuss the topic of urban acupuncture, and give the same example of U-TT firm. The first one organizes the essay through “leverage point”. Deyond relates U-TT’s projects to the system theory. Although U-TT has not reference the system theory directly, the rhizomatic approach is related to system theory. At the same time, the concept of urban acupuncture can be comprehended connecting to the systems theory of leverage points. Deyond import another idea to illustrate the topic.
The second essay is written from the point view of designers. Navarro – Sertich points the objective of designers is to give residents better accessibility and services. It is successful because it “acknowledge and legitimize the potentials of urban informality ” (Navarro-Sertich, 2011). Also, Navarro – Sertich metions the biggest obstacles for practices and projects is policies. And culture difference make projects unique and the work style can be “working globally and acting locally” (Navarro-Sertich, 2011). Both of these two articles are clear to me, they discuss the topic in different aspects. Combing two articles helps me to understand this topic deeply.

Navarro-Sertich, Adriana. "From Product to Process: Building on Urban Think Tank’s Approach to the Informal City." Architectural Design 81.3 (2011): 104-09.
Deyond, Sarah. “Urban Acupuncture and the paradoxical logic of system.” Praxis: Journal of writing and Building 13 (2012): 98 – 99

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