Taipei Acupuncture, Taiwan Farming Building, Project, Design, Image

Taipei Organic Acupuncture, Taiwan

Community of urban farmers in Taipei City, Taiwan – design by Marco Casagrande

8 Nov 2010

Taipei Organic Acupuncture

Taipei City, Taiwan

Design: Marco Casagrande / Ruin Academy

Acupuncture is the procedure of inserting and manipulating needles into various points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes.

Urban planning integrates land use planning and transportation planning to improve the built, economic and social environments of communities.

Urban design concerns the arrangement, appearance and functionality of towns and cities, and in particular the shaping and uses of urban public space.

Environmental art is art dealing with ecological issues and possibly in political, historical or social context.

Sociology is a science of human social activity.

Anarchy is acting without waiting for instructions or official permission. The root of anarchism is the single impulse to do it yourself: everything else follows from this.

Taipei Organic Acupuncture - Taipei City Buildings

The community gardens and urban farms of Taipei are astonishing. They pop up like mushrooms on the degenerated, neglected or sleeping areas of the city, which could be referred to as urban composts.

These areas are operating outside the official urban control or the economic standard mechanisms. They are voids in the urban structure that suck in ad-hoc community actions and present a platform for anarchy through gardening.
Treasure Organic Acupuncture

The community gardens and urban farms of the Taipei Basin, 2010.

For the vitality of Taipei, the networks of the anarchist gardens seem to provide a positive social disorder; positive terrorism. They are tuning the industrial city towards the organic, towards accident and in this sense they are ruining the modern urbanism. They are punctual organic revolutions and the seeds of the Third Generation City, the organic ruin of the industrial city.

Corners are windy

Claude Lévi-Strauss believes in the beauty of the human nature as part of nature. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno lost all the hope for the industrial development and said it has failed the promise of the Enlightment – it had corrupted humanity. Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalke (Mosfilm, 1979) is taking sophisticated people into the Zone, where their deepest wishes may come true. The Zone which is the organic ruin mirroring the surrounding mechanical reality. For the Strugatsky brothers (Arkady & Boris) the Zone was a Roadside Picnic (1972, Moscow).

Treasure Organic Acupuncture

Missis Lee in the Gongguan community garden, an illegal garden farmed by National Taiwan University professors and staff.

The community gardens of Taipei are Roadside Picnic. Grandmothers can take us there, like Stalker. The honorable Lévi-Strauss could be happy to start new ethnographical research between the parallel realities of the cultures of the urban compost gardens and the surrounding city – the reversed modernization and focusing in Local Knowledge. Horkheimer’s & Adorno’s graves should be moved in one of these urban acupuncture spots of Taipei. Here even they would find hope, surrounded by the valueless modernity and hard industrialism. Prof. Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila has said: “The valueless void of the society of today will be filled with ethics: the corners are windy.” With the recognition of the urban farms and community gardens Taipei has found its corners.

What is the ethics then pushing through these corners into the city? It could be called Local Knowledge, site-specific reactions building a bridge between the modern man and nature. The gardens of Taipei, these acupuncture points, are penetrating through the industrial surface of the city and reaching the original ground. The self organized community gardens are the urban acupuncture needles of Taipei. Local Knowledge is in connection with the first generation city, when the built human environment was dependent on nature and regulated by nature. Now the anarchist gardeners are regulating the industrial city.

Dominate the no-man’s land

The community gardens are taking over abandoned construction sites and ruined housing areas, empty city-blocks waiting for development, flood banks of the rivers and even grave-yards out of fashion. In many cases the gardens are flourishing on spots of land where the land-owner issues are unsettle or complicated. Sometimes the garden will stay in the spot for only a couple of years, as in the cases of soon to be developed areas and sometimes the urban farming has decades long traditions as with the river flood plains or on the island in-between Zhongxiao and Zhongshing bridges. The smaller urban farms are flexible and eager to overtake the empty spots of the city, eager to dominate the no-man’s land.

Treasure Hill in 2003:
Treasure Hill Taiwan

One of the more famous urban farming communities of Taipei was the Treasure Hill settlement, originally an illegal community of KMT veterans. During its legitimating process Treasure Hill became so famous that eventually the original community was kicked away by the city government and the houses were taken over by artists and art related organizations. All the farms were destroyed on the process. Sounds like urban warfare against urban acupuncture. Treasure Hill was powerful and self-sustained when it was illegal. The community built its own houses and its own farms and it made its own rules. The official city wanted to eliminate this unofficial organic rival. NGOs found the issue sexy and stepped in to protect and legitimize the settlement. In the end the NGOs and artists took over the now-famous community and hooked up with the city government. The original urban farmers didn’t fit the picture anymore and had to leave. Now you can listen gansta-rap in a yellow plastic tent where the gardens used to be. Local knowledge died.

But Treasure Hill is not alone. Urban farming happens through different social classes and through out the city. The socially disordered citizens are ready to occupy land and start the community farms over and over again. Some acupuncture spots get hot and benefit the surrounding urban tissue while others fade away. The industrial surface of the city keeps constantly being broken up and herbs and vegetables are planted into the cracks. People are ruining the industrial city. Ruin is when man-made has become part of nature.

Urban Editors

Compared to Western cities Taipei plays in quite different rules. The aesthetics of the city is dominated by the functionality of a big collective machine and the urban mechanism is constantly being edited and rendered as with changing the micro-chips or other parts of a super-computer into more powerful ones. The urban data is people and this is what the machine needs to process. Mostly it goes smoothly, but also people get viruses – they get together to spontaneous demonstrations, they do tai-chi in improvised city-corners, they launch ad-hoc night markets or under-bridge sales on temporarily occupied streets or city corners. And they do farms – they are squeezing organic material into the machine like a creeper crawling into an air-conditioning box. Why they do this? Why does the nature want to break the machine?

Developers are the true urban editors. They are linked with the city authorities and necessary political powers and they make the urban editing. Architects are in a secondary role – something like the hyenas after the lions have made the kill. Money is a good consultant and the generating force of the developer run urban editing process. This is not urban acupuncture though; it is more like a western style medical practice – operations on the body removing, changing or maintaining parts – or even plastic surgery. (Oh, Shanghai has bigger tits than Taipei.) The body is not necessarily seen as one big organism.

In this rough editing process the anarchist gardeners seem to act as micro-editors, parasites benefiting of the slow circles of the big-scale development. They occupy the not so sexy areas of the city and they jump in the more sleepy parts of the development cycle. For example – the developer buys a whole city block with originally many land-owners. The process is slow because he has to negotiate with all of them. While the process is dragging behind the urban farmers step in and start farming the area. The developer doesn’t want to cause any more fuss and let it happen. It takes 3-5 years before the developer has got all the area to his possession and those same years the site acts as the community garden. When the actual construction starts the gardeners have already occupied a next vacant spot in the city.

Third Generation City

First generation city was the human settlement in straight connection with nature and dependent on nature. The fertile and rich Taipei basing provided a fruitful environment for such a settlement. The rivers were full of fish and good for transportation and the mountains protected the farmed plains from the straightest hits of the frequent typhoons.

The second generation city is the industrial city. Industrialism claimed the citizen’s independence from nature – a mechanical environment could provide human everything needed. Nature was seen as something un-necessary or as something hostile – it was walled away from the mechanical reality.

Third Generation City is the organic ruin of the industrial city. The community gardens of Taipei are fragments of the third generation urbanism when they exist together with the industrial surroundings. Local Knowledge is present in the city and this is where Ruin Academy focuses its research. Among the urban gardeners are the local knowledge professors of Taipei. Third Generation City is true when the city recognizes its local knowledge and allows itself to be part of nature.

Some Urban Acupuncture Needles

101 Garden

Type: Community Garden
Size: 6400 m2, 80 x 80 m
Farmed since: Beginning of 1990s
Land ownership: Uncertain. Developer / Bank owned land – not developed
Farming initiative: Self initiated community farm
Gardeners: Estimated 20 part-time gardeners
Products: Sweet potato leaves, sponge gourd, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, spinach, and onion and leek; tomatoes, peppers, papaya, sugar cane, basil

The 101 community garden locates next to the words tallest building 2004 – 2010 the
Taipei101 in the financial and governmental centre of Taipei City. The farm site is a non-developed building area and one of the most expensive land-areas of central Taipei.
“At first, I ask the grandmother what I should do. They taught me.”
“I come here almost every day. Love the vegetables I grow and the people here!”
“I didn’t know them at first, but now we are friends. We are like neighbors. We are the garden neighbors.”

Island in-between Zhongxiao and Zhongshing bridges

Type: Community Garden
Size: 160.000 m2, 160 x 1,000 m
Farmed since: Unknown, traditional site
Land ownership: City government
Farming initiative: Illegal, self initiated community farm
Gardeners: 28 part-time gardeners, commercial and non-profit
Products: Herbs, Chinese medicine, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, mustard, taro, banana, papaya, passion fruit, pumpkin, peanut, black beans, rice, corn, bamboo, buffalo milk

The island is located in-between the Taipei city and Taipei County in the middle of the Danshui River. The whole island is farmed and there has also been water-buffaloes. The farmland is shared by part-time farmers, who have also built temporary shelters to their farms. The community farm  gets under water during the frequent floods in the Taipei basin. The farms have to be restored after each flood.

Xihai Cemetery Garden

Type: Community Garden
Size: 13.600 m2, 170 x 80 m
Farmed since: 1990s
Land ownership: Government land
Farming initiative: Self initiated, illegal
Gardeners: Community under the cemetery
Products: Herbs, vegetables, fruits, chicken

The Cemetery Garden occupies a half abandoned cemetery. Gardening takes place literally on top of tombs. The cemetery was active until the families were advised to move their tombs into a cemetery tower. After that the abandoned tombs were turned into farms. People don’t report any problems with ghosts and the tombs are good for farms due to feng-shui direction towards the South.

Jong-fu Bridge Community Garden

Type: Community Garden
Size: 3,900 m2
Farmed since: Unknown
Land ownership: Private “forefather’s land”, rented out for farmers
Farming initiative: Own initiative
Gardeners: Various professional and non-profit gardeners
Products: Various products for own use and for sale

The Jong-fu Bridge Community Garden is just one example of the extensive urban farming along the Taipei rivers flood banks. A bicycle road crosses the farm and there are talks about future high-way development. There are more farms on Taipei county riversides than on Taipei city.

Gongguan Professor’s Garden

Type: Community Garden
Size: 3.000 m2, 150 x 200 m
Farmed: X until 2008, developed after
Land ownership: Private, military area
Farming initiative: Self initiated, neighborhood garden
Gardeners: 21 part-time gardeners, non-profit
Products: Tomato, cucumber, parsley, asparagus, herbs, Chinese medicine, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, mustard, taro, banana, papaya, passion fruit, pumpkin, peanut, black beans, flowers, corn, bamboo, mango

The Gongguan community garden is a restricted neighborhood garden for Taiwan National University professors and other university staff. The garden acts also as an educational platform for children learning the basics of gardening. All farming is 100% organic. The farming water is collected from the near-by naturally restored small river.

Chung-Lun Community Garden

Type: Private garden
Size: 600 m2
Farmed since: Unknown, for generations
Land ownership: 13-14 private landowners
Farming initiative: Traditional
Gardeners: Landowner related or rented
Products: Sweet potato, pao melon in winter

The community garden is surrounded by expensive buildings. The land of the garden itself is an original farm of 6-7 farmers, which have been multiplied to 13-14 private landowners through generation changes. Now there is no consensus of the land use or development and it remains an urban farm. Most of the products are sold on a near-by market.

Next to Treasure Hill Garden

Type: Illegal garden
Size: 200 m2
Farmed since: at least 2003
Land ownership: Government owned
Farming initiative: Own initiative
Gardeners: 2 according to neighbors
Products: Sweet potato, banana, papaya, melon, taro, bamboo

This garden is hiding in the bushes besides the Xindian River. Some ladies from the near-by settlement go harvesting snails from the garden. Men and ducks eat the snails. There are 2 secret gardeners according to neighbors.
Treasure Hill Taiwan

Marco Casagrande

Treasure Hill Taipei

C-Laboratory is a Finland-based research – design & build co-operative of architects, artists and social scientists working freely in-between architecture and other disciplines of art and science within then general framework of built human environment. We realize ultra-ruins, cross-over architecture and finally the Third Generation City.


Location: Taipei, Taiwan

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