Urban Acupuncture Case Study

I’m writing this post is  because of a recent auguration event of ‘Taman Jomblo’ or ‘Taman Pasopati’ that located under the Pasopati Flyover, Bandung. I remember that (in one of my paper about urban acupuncture) I pointed some places that would be a good place to do an urban acupuncture project, and one of them is under The Pasopati Flyover. And just a few days ago, we have witnessed an urban acupuncture project had been done in that place. Hooray Mr. Mayor!!

Originally this writing was taken from my pubication in Artepolis Intrnational Conference in 2012 (8 pages ), but I will only cut some of the introduction though. 

Urban acupuncture basically is a philosophy that is used to solve social problems in urban areas. In urban acupuncture, a city regarded as the human body. The physical structures that exist in a city such as buildings, public spaces and streets regarded as Zang-Fu (organs) in Chinese Traditional Medicine system, while the pattern of activity and movement of people in the city regarded as Qi, energy that flow in the body. The main purpose of urban acupuncture is to maintain energy flows in the body (city) so it can work properly.

The term ‘Urban Acupuncture’ was first stated by Manuel de Sola-Morales. (Shieh, 2006). Through the concept of urban acupuncture, Manuel de Sola-Morales tried to solve urban problems through projects of strategic architecture. The concept of urban acupuncture refers to urban interventions that are healing, can be built in a short time and spontaneously  able to improve the surrounding environment.

Jaime Lerner presents his analogies; that cars in the city streets as an ‘urban cholesterol’. If the roads are the arteries and veins of the body, the car depicted as cholesterol that clogs. With this analogy, Lerner encouraged more people to use public transport. (Lerner, 2003). The main objective of urban acupuncture is ‘Cities for People’. The cities of today are not designed for human comfort, but for the circulation of cars, and lots of private spaces are provided over the public space. Many cities have lost the element of its humanity, when they began to modify the three public spaces, the rivers, streets and town square. (Lerner, 2003).

Acupuncturist should be able to determine the exact point to be able to heal the body of the patient. Similarly, in urban design, an urban designer should be able to determine the right location that will provide benefits to all parts of the city. To determine the location, the acupuncturist should know the symptoms, causes, and determine the patient’s illness.

Little things that grow in the city environment could become a new energy to the vitality of the city, although people don’t realize it. For  example,  the energy that is generated by the 24-hour grocery store. The corners of the city at night is a crime-prone area. Therefore, shops and street lights can generate economic activity while enhancing the quality of the surrounding environment safety.

In 1981, Oriol Bohigas as city planner did an urban Acupuncture projects in Barcelona.  Most of the projects are public open spaces that  acting as a catalyst for the overall development of the city of Barcelona.

Jaime Lerner (mayor of Curitiba in 1971-1992) proposed a system of waste separation and recycling programs in Curitiba. Lerner realized that this program would not work if people do not consistently do that, while realizing that citizen’s culture and lifestyle are difficult to change. Therefore, Lerner applied the program to children, which are still easy to be asked to learn new things. For six months, children are taught how to separate garbage, and are encouraged to teach it back to their parents. The program was able to last for a long time, and as we know Curitiba has the highest waste separation indicator for the past twenty years.  Curitiba also had a problems child beggars and homeless  who lack proper nutrition and education. To solve these problems, Lerner created a free feeding program for children in school, so that the child beggars could get a decent meal if they go to school (the school is free of course).

Another example is the improvement the Treasure Hill area in Taiwan by Marco Casagrande , an architect and urban planner from Finland . Treasure Hill dwellers are mostly elderly.  Condition of the area was considered very disturbing as a part of the city and was planned to be evicted. Casagrande considered the region still had a lot of potential. While doing a research for a clear potential of the region , Casagrande came and work every day to clean up the garbage that pollutes the Treasure Hill area. After a few days , residents and students helped Casagrande to clean up the garbage in the area and provided the trash bin in every corner of the region. Next thing they did was cultivated abandoned lands to be used as gardens, so the elderly people can work there. Casagrande also assisted the community to rebuild roads to connect the Treasure Hill with areas outside the region. Within three weeks , they had successfully repaired a wide range of facilities , so that the government finally began to appreciate the small area and cancel the eviction plan .

Urban acupuncture, operating in urban environments which scale is relatively small. Therefore we need a deep and close understanding of the object. There is no standard theory in urban acupuncture, since all the urban problems of the system depend on shared values of its citizens. If the design is based on local cultural and social values, then there will be an opportunity to see the problem in a more inclusive, pluralistic and democratic.  Without an understanding of the social values of local culture, policy making will not reach the level of detail required by the urban acupuncture. Any decision must also consider the value systems, in order to set the proper acupuncture points. (Landry, 2005)

Bandung is rapidly  changing right now, and hopefully towards a good direction, with a mayor who is an expert urban designer. Many policies are being made, and not everybody understand the objectives of these policies. Some policies are being laughed at and being mocked. Some people regard some of these policies only as ‘beautification’, but not resolve the fundamental problem. They want a big improvement like solving a traffic jam, but they don’t realize that he is trying to gain people’s attention to their own city.  Citizens must learn to understand the city, so they can appreciate the city. If citizens can appreciate their own city, then they will be able to start understanding the neighborhood. There is no one understand the potential of an environment, but those who live in it. Sustainability of a city is determined by its people, which Lerner calls the ‘urban generosity’. Physical improvement of a city would not last long if the population did not participate in it (Lerner, 2003).

Not that I can explain about these policies though, but hopefully with this introduction writing about urban acupuncture, you can feel the same excitement while watching carefully how our lovely city is developing.


(n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2009, from http://www.citiesforpeople.net

(n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2009, from http://sustainablecities.dk

(n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/

(n.d.). Retrieved December 26, 2009, from http://www.Yinyanghouse.com/

Adenan, K & Hariyanto,R.A (2012). Urban Acupuncture: Application Prospects in Indonesia. Case Study : Barrio Caracas. Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference – Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design Proceeding. Bandung : Department of Architecture, School of Architecture, Planning and Policy Development. Institut Teknologi Bandung

Alvarado, P. (2007, December 11). Jaime Lerner on Sustainability in Curitiba and ‘Urban Accupuncture’. Retrieved November 7, 2009, from http://www.treehugger.com

Hinchberger, B. (2005, December 19). Jaime Lerner : Architecture/Urban  Planning.         Retrieved  November 7, 2009, from metropolismag: http://www.metropolismag.com

Landry, C. (2005). Urban  Acupuncture. Planning, Theory and Practice , 117-18.

Lerner, J. (2003). Acupunctura Urbana. Rio de Janeiro.

Shieh, L. (2006). Urban  acupuncture as A Strategy for São Paulo. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Master of Science in Architecture . Massachusetts: Massachusetts   Institute of Technology.

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Tags: Paper, Publication, Urban Acupuncture

A vertical slum is defined as a socially vulnerable community in a building, with serious problems of functionality, safety and habitability. It is related to an important level of physical degradation, and a precarious socioeconomic situation of its occupants. Their inability to create a real community for proper and mandatory maintenance increases the physical deterioration of the building. The abandonment of the original owners of the houses can cause a system of illegal occupation and illegal activities, and vice versa. In many cases, the new occupants are primarily interested in maintaining the building in a state of precariousness in order to avoid any attempt of renovation by administrations. These security and habitability problems often extend outside the building and they affect a whole community of neighbours within the neighbourhood who feel threatened and insecure, causing their rejection and a strong social segregation in the area. This article wants to show some of the results from a research work developed on a case study of vertical slum in the city of Malaga, in Spain. In this context of marginality previously described, the research project explores different alternatives for the renovation of a building, its vulnerable community and the neighbourhood in which it is inserted. The project establishes four major objectives: (a) a physical renovation of the building, (b) social transformation in a disadvantaged environment, (c) functional evolution-from a residential model to a new hybrid model with a mixed supply of social services, and (d) the incorporation of new parameters of environmental sustainability that improve the energetic behaviour of the building (transforming it into a building of almost zero consumption).

The research closes with a series of strategies and results for the case study. However, the main contribution of the work is related to the research methodology that has been developed. This is structured according to the four principles of integrated urban renovation, based on a physical, social, economic and environmental perspective. This methodology and results have been explained so that they can be transferred to other areas and experience of urban recycling in vulnerable social environments.

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