In laying the foundation of urban acupuncture, architect and social theorist Marco Casagrande described the city as “a multi-dimensional, energetic and sensory organism, a living ecosystem”, on which we can propose almost surgical operations that correspond to what we know as urban acupuncture interventions, which consist of correcting only the urban deficiencies detected in the territory through a minimal amount of selective but sufficient actions.
As Domenico di Siena says, “the smart city depends on the intelligent citizen” says. The involvement of citizens is needed to execute these acupuncture actions, but the city needs to be receptive to the feedback given by the neighbours.
Undoubtedly, urban acupuncture has emerged as an alternative, not only feasible but necessary in the economic context of recent years. Actually, Domenico di Siena speaks about “open source cities”, where citizens, who are the end users, have actual capacities to reprogram their environment. The crisis has made it imperative to use the creativity and inventiveness of citizens and architects to perform small quality interventions which would not interfere with the overall planning of the city, and which would provide certain services to the community in view of the inability of public institutions to create or organize new infrastructures.
“La Ascensión del Señor” church: creating a community space through urban acupuncture
A good example that can be understood as urban acupuncture in times of crisis in Spain, corresponds to our Sevillian project “La Ascensión del Señor” church, that has been awarded the First Prize at the World Architecture Festival in the Religious Built Buildings category and it also has been one of the 420 nominees for the prestigious Prize for Contemporary Architecture of the European Union – Mies van der Rohe Award 2015.
In this case, the Parish Center that already existed there was “intervened” with the construction of an annex temple. In addition to this, it was built taking into account the current situation and with the aim to attain the ideals of economy and sustainability with regards to the construction techniques and materials employed.
It was also conceived as a community space in an unprotected area that aims to overcome the lack of social gathering places in a context of economic crisis. “La Iglesia de la Ascensión” church provides solutions to the nearest community: the courtyard turns into an open meeting place where people interact without having to go to the worship spaces. This is an urban and volumetric solution ina private contexts, which helps the Parish Center to become the new focal point of activity in the neighborhood and it represents a practical application of what religious architecture means to society: a place of unity and respect that contributes to strengthening the sense of community.
These acupuncture actions may work outside the regulations and governmental plans, which are sometimes too rigid to be able to understand in real time the gaps within the program.
Another example of our architectural works that was proposed and built as an intervention of urban acupuncture is the residential project Love Shack, in which a small extension of the main house has changed the character of the whole building.