Most modern cities nowadays don't rank very high on the livability scale; nor are they designed to be resilient. We need more walkable cities and parks -- not parking lots. Finnish architect Marco Casagrande seems to think so too, and his latest public installation, a undulating bamboo form located in one of Taipei's most industrialized areas, attempts to create a more livable and communal space through a process he calls "urban acupuncture."
It's an interesting theoretical view into another dimension of our cities -- how they are not merely conglomerations of buildings, spaces, streets and people, but "complex energy organisms" with overlapping flows of energy and "urban chi" that can be tapped or manipulated. Casagrande explains:
Cicada is urban acupuncture for Taipei city penetrating the hard surfaces of industrial laziness in order to reach the original ground and get in touch with the collective Chi, the local knowledge that binds the people of Taipei basin with nature. The cocoon of Cicada is an accidental mediator between the modern man and reality. There is no other reality than nature.
Casagrande's 34 meter-long woven bamboo structure, named "Cicada," sits in a open green field, hemmed in by roads and an elevated train track. Yet, it's able to create its own ground by the delineation of crushed stone and concrete carefully placed all around the organically-shaped form. Over time, the structure is designed to be covered with green creeping plants.
Crossing the threshold, it's almost like entering the mouth of a large animal and into another world, where it's softly lit and the bamboo weave filters out the sight of cars and concrete.
In the belly of this bamboo whale is a fire pit, surrounded by stools and bordered on one side with stacked wood to burn. Above, there's a ventilation hole that provides a rounded view of the sky.
By bringing to bear local building traditions, spaces are given an identity that is locally relevant. Says Casagrande:
As one enters the Cicada, the surrounding city disappears. The cocoon is an interior space but totally outside – it is breathing, vibrating, soft and safe. The space will swallow the modern man and will offer him a possibility to travel a thousand years back in order to realize, that the things are the same.
Maybe it's not as exciting as bigger urban renewal projects, but "Cicada" nevertheless presents something beautiful, successful and unexpected in a gritty context, without the cost, huff and fuss of larger proposals. Rather than the one mega-project, perhaps scores of small-scale, less costly and localized projects of "urban acupuncture" such as this is what our cities need in order to recover and renew themselves.
More information on the Casagrande Laboratory website.