Taipei’s Urban Regeneration Organization (URO) launched an urban acupuncture programme in 2010 as a means of creating targeted actions that effect things catalytically, generate interest, surprise and establish energy in places.
Their aim is to create small interventions with big effects. In addition the URO hopes they will act as a model for what they call ‘soft urbanism’ – an approach that is less concerned with major urban development and focuses more on getting the fine grain of the city right and encourages people to interact and become active citizens.
They are more than a dozen spread around the city often in sites waiting to be re-used. One in an old bottle factory; another owned by a property developer who has let part of his factory site become a place for start-ups and an exhibition space, outside there is an urban garden where locals grow vegetables and flowers. Several are in Dihua Street one of Taipei’s historic areas.
Called Urban Regeneration Stations the URO has encouraged younger people to come up with ideas and the results vary enormously; in one they are selling their new designs, another celebrates Taipei’s history, there is a small incubator and in one people run classes on everything from city futures to cooking.
People increasingly are talking about urban acupuncture and the origin of this evocative and helpful concept is deemed to be either Jaime Lerner, the imaginative former mayor of Curitiba, who wrote a book called ‘Urban Acupuncture in 2005 or the Finnish architect and social theorist Marco Casagrande, who lectures part-time in Taipei. Look both of them up.
Either way it is increasingly becoming part of the regenerator’s armoury. In Taipei’s case the idea is to allow citizens the space to come up with their own solutions that give confidence and boost morale. It is certainly a challenge to those who believe that only wholesale development and knocking down its 1960’s fabric will create the kind of spaces and places in Taipei that exude distinctiveness and identity.
It is easy to erase history and memory, but difficult to re-create it.