Friday, December 27, 2013


Mia Zhang interviewing Marco Casagrande

PRO.DESIGN 01/2014 

ISBN 978-988-12438-8-1

Cicada, Taipei
Marco enjoys insect architecture construction, where the building parts are human scale --- fits a hand and the structure can be woven up together by small scale repetitions, like insect architecture. 

Pro. Design: What inspired you to get into architecture? 
Marco Casagrande (Marco for short): I have always been drawing, playing in forest, building snow cave systems and imagining my own worlds, telling stories to myself. I didn't choose architecture, I just ended up there. 

Pro. Design: What would you prefer to be called, architect, environmental artist, or social theorist?
Marco: I would like to be called something that combines all of those three. Maybe Constructor or Insect. 

T-Factory, Sanjhih, Taiwan
Pro. Design: Insect Architect?
Marco: I enjoy this kind of construction, where the building parts are human scale - fits a hand and the structure can be woven up together by small scale repetitions, like insect architecture. I got very curious about insects when fixing up a Fujian style brick roof in T-Factory, Sanjhih, North-Taiwan and a bee came to steal my cement from my red bucket. This big bee kept coming back and I wondered what he did with the cement --- could he digest it? (I had mixed some lime and sea-weed into the cement for flexibility.) After a couple of months I found the cocoon of the bee in the downstairs of our living ruin. He had mixed the concrete with mud and pieces of straw and wood in order to create a fantastic dome structure with natural ventilation for his offspring, which had flown away. I documented this cocoon and started imagining humans in insect scale and building these kinds of  cocoons and other insect architecture strictly tied with nature for us modern men as industrial insects. 

Wasp cocoon made out of weak concrete.
Pro. Design: Insect Architect? Since 1999, you have created 65 cross-disciplinary, original and radical works within 14 years? It sounds quite a large number. How could you be inspired so much?
Marco: There is no limitation for inspiration. Limitation is a different thing. Life is unlimited inspiration. Inspiration is kind of a thought originating from nature, the life-providing system. This system is one big brain and if you connect with it, you are inspired. Nature thinks through you.

Pro. Design: I saw a picture of you carrying stones during the construction of Bug Dome project in Shenzhen City. Are you always engaged yourself in the whole construction process? 
Marco: Being present is the key of all art. It is a blessing, not a burden. Architecture is not a remote control art, but it requires humane presence. I must be there in order to understand, what the architecture is trying to transmit, what it needs to become. I am a simple architect, not a fortune-teller…I need to be there. 
Pro. Design: Your studio name is Casagrande lab. I mean, Casagrande is your name, of course, but why “lab”? Is experimentation your major focus? Then what do you experimenting on?
We are working more like a laboratory than an office. All our work is project based and cross-disciplinary. Sometimes, when we are really good, you could call us a circus. Art is a constant experiment by its nature. Also the deepest nature of architecture is the unknown. 
Pro. Design: You used a lot of willow. I have seen willow woven objects like basket. They are adorable, and because they are small they don’t seem to contrast drastically to the modern world. But a large project, like Cicada in Taipei, would contrast a lot to the surrounding, at least to me. So how do you see that contrast? 
Marco: Mixed feelings. It shows how brutal the surrounding city is, but same time offers an escape or retreat to the modern man. In some sense this kind of insect architecture is acting as a mediator between the modern man and nature. You can also see how totally the modern city is lacking local knowledge.

Cicada, Taipei
Pro. Design: How would you describe your style?
Marco: No trends, no style – just architecture. Later, when the transformation is almost complete, my way is insect architecture. 

Pro. Design: What do you enjoy most in your work?
Marco: Seeing the unknown, forgotten and neglected. I enjoy the feeling of freedom and clarity, when you are truly working, when architecture is near. 

Pro. Design: What do you think is the most important quality of an architect?
Marco: There are different ways, not only one. Some architects have the capacity of being a design shaman, interpreting what the bigger nature of collective mind or shared conscious if transmitting. This shamanism is close to nature.

Chen House, Sanjhih, Taiwan
Pro. Design: What are the aspects of architecture you consider most important? 
Marco: Constructing human environment as a mediator between man and nature. This can be both practical and spiritual. 

Pro. Design: What do you think of the current situation of architecture? 
Marco: Boring. Modern architecture is dominated by industrialism and tries to compensate this trauma by flashy images and computer generated mutations. Architecture has become pornography for architects and kinky architecture hangs around politicians and businessmen, who get pleasure in dominating an architect to make their twisted orders come true. In this situation architect is a prostitute, which becomes boring after a while. We really have to focus on local knowledge and the possibilities of bio-urbanism together with normal people and get rid of the power-architecture. 

Ruin Academy in Artena, Italy
Pro. Design: Could you share with us briefly about what you are working on currently?
Marco: I am setting up NOMAD - an environmental art and architecture school with architect Hans-Petter Bjørnådal in Hemnes, Norway and I am setting up Ruin Academy with architects Roan Ching-Yueh and Hsieh Ying-Chun in Taipei and with the International Society of Biourbanism in Artena, Italy. I am starting to design a new wooden house in Taidong, South-Taiwan. This house will be floating in jungle.

Pro. Design: I saw you quoted Bertolt Brecht “In a dream last night, I saw a great storm. It seized the scaffolding….” So you read a lot of Bertolt Brecht? Which of his book is your favourite? What other writers do you like?
Marco: I like Brecht poems. They are good for hang-over. 
    Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness 
    Arkady and Boris Strugatsky: Roadside Picnic 
    Adorno & Horkheimer: Dialectics of Enlightment 
    Burgess: A Clockwork Organge 
    Claude Levi-Straus: The Savage Mind 
    Beckett: Waiting for Godot 
    Lao Tzu: Dao Te Qing 
    Kropotkin: The Spirit of Revolt 
    Tolstoy: War and Peace 

But movies are equally important:
    Tarkovsky: Stalker
    Francis Ford Coppola: Apocalypse NOW!
    Fritz Lang: Metropolis
    Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
    Eisenstein: Ivan the Terrible
    Bergman: 7th Seal
    Kurozawa: Dersu Uzala
    Herzog: Fata Morgana
    Kaurismäki: Man Withouth Past
    Schlöndorff: The Tin Drum

Pro. Design: What do you believe in?
Marco: Life / Nature, Accident

Pro. Design: Is there any difference between the working you and the not working you?
Marco: I am in the ruins, in the cross-roads, on river banks and garbage dumps. The office-me is nothing of this, but I am constantly aware of it and constantly escape to the jungle. 

Pro. Design: What kind of lifestyle do you prefer? 
Marco: Real Reality. 

Madam Chen at Chen House
Pro. Design: What do you love to do when you are not designing? 
Marco: Fishing. Boxing. Drinking. Sauna. Play with kids. Enduro. Watch movies. Pick mushrooms.

Pro. Design: Do you like music? What is your favorite musician? 
Marco: Right now I enjoy to dance Greek Zorbas with my 9 months old son. 

Pro. Design: You have to expose yourself in nature so as to get inspired. But getting close to nature always reminds me of being wild and adventurous. Would the birth of your son change your way of approaching nature? Would you take a more reserved way?
Marco: Nature is about energy exchange. you have to input some of your own energy in order to receive reality. Other than that is just viewing of nature, which is kind of a fiction. Real nature demands your energy. Flesh is more. My son will not be "protected" from nature; on the contrary, the whole family will be fully sacrificed to nature. One has to die a bit to be re-born. 

Monday, December 16, 2013


Architecture gives the commands and architects listen. Actually nature gives the commands and architecture takes form. Architect is a design shaman that communicates with this reality. Design cannot replace reality, nature. Human control must be opened up in order to let nature step in. Architecture must be ruined. Ruin is when man-made has become part of nature.

To be present is the key of all art. Architect is a site-specific instrument through whom the great voice of architecture starts to resonate and find form. This great voice is weak and needs great presence, sacrifice and sensitivity to be heard. Architect is one of the sensitive beings to hear this voice and protect the sound. Architecture either is or it isn’t. It cannot be speculated. Architecture is a real reality. 

“What really happened to Porcupine?” 

“One day he came back from the Zone and became amazingly rich, amazingly rich. The next week he hanged himself.” Stalker, Tarkovsky

People live in space and this connection can be art, a higher thing than what could be designed. Architecture is an accident, which is a higher thing than human control. In order to understand the accident and to let life run through it one must be present. To be present is the key of all art. This crack in human control is the acupuncture point through which the organism of architecture can grow. Biourbanism is the city of cracks. Architecture is a mediator between man and nature, connecting human nature with the rest of nature, reality. Architecture is the art of reality.

Agopuntura Biourbana

Stefano Serafini. International Society of Biourbanism. 


Chi è Marco Casagrande, l’architetto, artista e pensatore finlandese (di origini genovesi) che ha sorpreso il mondo delle archistar vincendo il prestigioso European Prize for Architecture 2013. Con l’amore per la vitalità delle rovine, il richiamo della natura, e l’agopuntura per le città.
«Gli architetti non contano nulla, sono corrotti. L’architettura, semmai, conta. Gli architetti dovrebbero limitarsi a servire la vita. Imparare ad ascoltare la creatività che scorre attorno a loro». Siamo nel borgo storico di Artena, in provincia di Roma, nel corso della Summer School in Neuroergonomics and Urban Placemaking organizzata dalla Società di Biourbanistica lo scorso luglio. 40 partecipanti – giovani designer, architetti, urbanisti, giunti da 16 Paesi – ascoltano affascinati l’inglese sibilante di Marco Casagrande che li istruisce sulla “guerriglia biourbana”. Indica tre bambini di 7 o 8 anni che giocano indisturbati accanto al gruppo. Corrono su e giù tra una piazzola di cemento e un vicolo in pietra, arrampicandosi oltre un parapetto di ferro. È effettivamente chiaro che essi abitano un luogo, sul quale la progettazione urbanistica è calata come una griglia esterna, e che giocando lo rivelano, riportandolo in vita. «È questa la conoscenza locale che dovete imparare a recuperare, non quella delle riviste o dell’accademia».
Finlandese con radici italiane (il bisnonno ligure costruiva giocattoli per un circo ebreo che oscillava fra il Baltico e Odessa), 42 anni, Casagrande è un filosofo dell’urbanistica, oltre che artista e architetto. Ha pubblicato fra l’altro su Domus e Architectural Review, e ha insegnato all’Università di Helsinki. Ma la sua visione lo oppone alla stragrande maggioranza dei suoi colleghi e allo spirito dell’arte contemporanea, che considera troppo fine a se stessa. Le realizzazioni di Casagrande sono pozzi che cercano di attingere alla realtà per irrigarvi di nuovo la nostra esperienza, inaridita dall’ego moderno. Dimenticando il proprio io ci si svincola dal dominio della società dello spettacolo che trasforma ogni espressione in velo, anziché in disvelamento. I lavori di Casagrande come Land(e)scape (1999), Sandworm (2012) o il recentissimo Oystermen (2013), strumentalizzano la lezione surrealista, la lezione di Tarkovskij, ma non si perdono nell’inconscio e nel caos. Nel mare dei segni, una bussola biologica orienta l’artista verso il porto della natura, della contemplazione, del piacere, della socialità, condivisa con chi osserva e vive le sue opere.
Anche l’architettura e l’urbanistica, perdendosi nell’immagine e nella funzione economica, hanno finito per sostituire la realtà, costringendo la vita di miliardi di esseri umani in termitai industriali prima, e ipertecnologici dopo. Da lì il viaggio di ricerca di Casagrande che lo porta per i villaggi dell’Eurasia, negli slum di Taiwan, nell’Oriente ipercapitalista dove alle mostruose megalopoli pianificate, i poveri si adattano come l’erba nelle crepe dell’asfalto, occupando e trasformando edifici abbandonati secondo una logica di sopravvivenza che riporta la natura laddove era stata scacciata. Le rovine, che s’insinuano inarrestabili nella civiltà urbana ispirata alla macchina, mostrano come le forze stesse della fisica collaborino a riportare l’architettura a dimensioni consone alla natura umana.
Il volume di Casagrande appena pubblicato Biourban Acupuncture. Treasure Hill of Taipei to Artena (Roma, International Society of Biourbanism), è dedicato al caso esemplare di un piccolo insediamento illegale nell’isola di Taiwan, Treasure Hill. La popolazione locale ha ingegnosamente eretto spazi liquidi, organici, intrinsecamente refrattari al controllo, che permettono loro di vivere ai confini della civiltà, in equilibrio col fiume che fornisce acqua e cibo. Osteggiata dal governo, che la assedia prima con la polizia, poi chiudendo gli argini, e inquinando il fiume, la città cederà infine agli hipster che ne ammirano l’estetica, e la trasformano in un luogo di discoteche e design. Il popolo di Treasure Hill si sposta altrove, lascia soltanto un guscio vuoto, ma la lezione è appresa. La sapienza organica è ovunque, risorge continuamente. Il libro confronta Treasure Hill ad Artena, l’antico borgo laziale simbolo del movimento internazionale della biourbanistica. Casagrande vede in tali insediamenti il nostro arcaico futuro, non nel senso di una ripetizione del passato, ma di quella costante tensione dinamica verso il principio stesso del fare spazio socio-naturale, nel corso dei cicli fallimentari della tecnica. La Città di Terza Generazione non si realizza attraversi grandi interventi, ma dal basso, attraverso manipolazioni puntuali (agopuntura biourbana), progettazioni libere e condivise da cittadini, nomadi, e la natura stessa.
Le città di seconda generazione nelle quali viviamo, sono estranee a chi le vive, e inadeguate al dispiegamento della creatività e della libertà umana, perché improntate al modello della macchina. Non sono adatte ai bambini, né agli anziani; sono ostili ai nomadi e agli indigeni. La loro inevitabile decadenza non avviene per rivoluzione ideologica, ma secondo natura. La rovina industriale, la corrosione del ferro e del cemento, l’implosione e l’ingovernabilità di complessità gerarchiche rigide, sono i processi organici attraverso i quali la città attuale si avvia alla generazione nuova, all’interazione equilibrata fra la natura e gli esseri umani, fra la realtà e la progettazione.
Lo scorso settembre, durante la 14ma Biennale Internazionale di Architettura di Buenos Aires Casagrande è stato insignito dello European Prize for Architecture, il massimo riconoscimento che il vecchio mondo tributa ogni anno a un architetto. Una mostra speciale dei suoi lavori muoverà poi dall’Argentina per un tour paneuropeo, che avrà inizio dal cuore oppresso del nostro continente, la Grecia. Cultura viva vuol dire speranza.

Pubblicato dalla Rivista Area, Ottobre 2013, pp. 50-51 con il titolo editoriale "L'architettura salverà il mondo".


Monday, December 2, 2013


Turkulaisessa arkkitehtitoimistossa työskentelevät Marco Casagrande ja Raul Kallio piirtelivät aikansa servettien reunoihin ideoita paremmasta Kauppatorista. Syntyi ehtodus nimeltä Huntu. Kantavana ajatuksena on toria kiertävä katosrakenne. Sen alapuoli on lasia, ja katoksen päällä on luonnonniitty. 

Marco Casagrande ja Raul Kallio ovat työstäneet pitkään ajatusta uudenlaisesta Turun kauppatorista. He ovat pitkäaikaisia työtovereita turkulaisessa arkkitehtitoimistossa ja molemmilla on palava kiinnostus Turun kaupunkiympäristöön ja sen toiminnallisuuteen. Yhteistyön tulos on nähtävissä näissä kuvissa.

Ehdotuksensa he ovat ristineet Hunnuksi, joka heidän mielestään kuvaa suunnitelman tavoitetta: saada torista valoisa ja suojainen tila, jolla tori saadaan paremmin kansalaisten käyttöön. Casagrande ja Kallio huomauttavat olevansa liikkeellä yksityishenkilöinä. He eivät halua ottaa suunnitelmallaan kantaa kiisteltyyn toriparkkiin. Torin nykytilaa kuvatessaan, he eivät sen sijaan säästele sanojaan.

Portaat ortodoksisen kirkon edessä toimisivat myös katsomona ja levähdyspaikkana. 
 – Se on ankea, suojaton ja kulttuurikaupunkina itseään pitävälle kaupungille täysin sopimaton, kuuluu tuomio. Suunnitelman tarkoituksena on toimia puskurina toria ympäröivien massiivisten rakennusten suuntaan ja rauhoittaa kaupunkitilan mittakaava inhimillisemmäksi ja intiimimmäksi.  Katos toimii eräänlaisena torielämää suojaavana huntuna, joka siivilöi taustalla olevat kolkot rakennukset dominoimasta ihmisen mittakaavaa.  

Pinta vaakatasoon

Torin ortodoksikirkon puoleinen pää Yliopistonkadulla on nyt kaksi metriä korkeammalla kuin Börsin puoleinen pää Eerikinkadulla. Suunnitelmassa nykyinen torikansi lasketaan vaakatasoon. Kirkon eteen Yliopistonkadulle rakennetaan leveät, etelään aukeavat portaat. Ne toimivat myös kansalaisten ”katsomona” torin tapahtumiin. 

Katosta kiertää puinen laituri suoja-aitoineen ja vieressä viheriöi luonnonniitty. 

 Katosrakenne kantava ajatus

Tori ympyröidään U:n muotoisella katosrakenteella, joka aukeaa ortodoksikirkon suuntaan. Katosrakenteen alle tuleviin tiloihin voidaan sijoittaa kaikki toria tukevat toiminnot: jätehuolto, vessat, bussien ja mahdollisesti tulevan raitiotien pysäkit, aikataulut ja odotustilat, kioskit, torimyyjien huolto ja mahdollisen toriparkin hissit, portaat ja tekniikka.

Torin reunojen vanhat rakennukset puretaan. Katoksen alle mahtuu myös kahviloita, pieniä ravintoloita esimerkiksi sushibaari tai joulun aikaan kuumaviinibaari. Suurimpien kulkuaukkojen korkeus Kop-kolmion ja Wiklundin kulmissa on 4,6 metriä. Niiden kautta hoituisi torin huoltoliikenne.

  Katos tekisi tilasta suojaisamman kuin nyt. Rajatumpi toritila sopii hyvin erilaisille tapahtumille konserteille ja TPS:n seuraaville mitalijuhlille, maalailevat Casagrande ja Kallio. 

Katoksen päällä voi tarkkailla torin elämää.
Katolla niitty ja puinen laituri

Katoksen päällä, noin 4-5 metrin korkeudessa, voi kävellä puista laituria torin ympäri. Sieltä voi seurata torin elämää ja torilla järjestettäviä tapahtumia. Katolla on myös suojaava 1,2 metrin korkuinen lasikaide.

Katosta kiertää hoitoa vaatimaton luonnonniitty, joka on kukka- ja heinälajeiltaan mahdollisimman kirjava. Tämä houkuttelee hyönteisiä ja lintuja keskustaan. Katolle kulku on Yliopistonkadun puolelta portaita pitkin.

Lasia ja valoa

Katos ja lasirakenteet tarjoavat sateen- ja tuulensuojan kulkijoille. Valaistus on suunniteltu tulemaan katon alapinnasta niin, että lasiosien keveys korostuu myös kauempaa katsottuna. Kuten viereinen Yliopistokadun kävelykadun pätkä, torin pinta on tässäkin suunnitelmassa talvella lämmitetty.


Katosrakennelman (noin 4 000 m²) hinnaksi suunnittelijat arvioivat noin 10 miljoonaa euroa.
Sen alle kaavaillut lasitilat maksaisivat 2 – 2,5 miljoonaa euroa. Mikäli toriparkki toteutuu, saadaan katoksen perustukset ”ilmaiseksi”. 

Toriehdotuksen tutkimustyössä ja kuvituksessa Casagranden ja Kallion apuna olivat myös ulkomaiset nuoret arkkitehdit AdDa Zei, Jingwen Lin, Neville De Sa ja  Ondra Pchálek.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Third Infoscape: Michel De Certeau, Gilles Clément, Marco Casagrande and the re-creation of our cities

What do Michel De CerteauGilles Clément and Marco Casagrande have to do with the idea of Smart Cities?
What is the Third Infoscape?
How can we grasp the potential revolutionary character of our daily liveseducate our gaze to capture unforeseen opportunities and experience our cities as living beings, to which we all participate and onto which we can all contribute to transformation and change?
The ideas of Microhistory, of Third Space, of Third Landscape, of Third Generation City and of Urban Acupuncture will help us to try to give answers to these questions.
Let’s start from History.


When we study History, we tend to imagine studying “large history”. The history of the great people and great events/trends which transformed the course of time, wars, societal transformations. Changes which happened on a large scale, treaties, alliances and agreements which shaped the lives of entire populations.
This is, of course, not the only way in which we can research and study history. The term “History” itself is an umbrella term enclosing a rich variety of different approaches.
Among them is the really interesting possibility to study Microhistory,
“the intensive historical investigation of a well defined smaller unit of research (most often a single event, the community of a village, a family or a person)”
This might seem somewhat less relevant than history, as it could resemble an effort to focus on things which are of smaller importance, almost case studies that would, then, need to be framed into a wider context to be significant.
But if we think about it, this might well not be the case.
History is, of course, the result of the progression of large-scale transformations to the structures of human societies, their relationships, their disputes and agreements.
But these large changes do not happen in a vacuum. They happen within human societies, which are made of human beings, and by their relationships, cultures, imaginations, desires and expectations.
So it is possible and valuable to view the study of History also as the possibility to “ask large questions in small places or contexts”, as hypothesised by Charles Joyner [1].
To try to explore the conditions in which these large scale events and transformations actually took place, through people and the mutation of their daily lives, of their cultures and desires.
And that’s precisely what happened when historians started to understand that certain “political events and social realities” could not be explained adequately by existing macro-historical models, as highlighted, for example, by Giovanni Levi [2].
In essence, historical histories did not account for the experiences of all members of the event, society, or culture being studied.  As a result, microhistorians have made a point of viewing people not as a group, but rather as “individuals who must not be lost either within the historical processes or in anonymous crowds”. [3]
Microhistorians have attempted to formulate a history of everyday life. [4]

Everyday Life

In his “The Practice of Everyday Life” [5] Michel De Certeau transformed the study of “everyday life”, shifting it away from the study of popular cultures and from the research about the social and political struggles which happen with the daily forms of resistance to the regimes of power, in an attempt to outline the way individuals unconsciously navigate everything, from city streets to literary texts.
This approach leads to an interesting distinction among the strategies and the tactics.
The idea of strategies is linked to the one of institutions and to the structures of power, describing and producing the prescriptions (the codesaccording to which the elements of reality should be interpreted. They are the official rules of society: the laws and regulations, the official usages of objects and spaces of the city. They are enacted by encoding, by putting objects and places on maps with precise legends (or codes), or by establishing boundaries and borders.
On the other side are the tactics, referring to people and the ways in which theycontinuously surf the strategies in unexpected ways, they navigate them according to their cultures, desires, urgencies and imaginations. People constantly perform the environment producing their own interpretations of reality, using objects and moving through cities in ways that are tactical and never fully determined by the plans of organizing bodies.
People fundamentally and continuously break the codes established by the strategies, enacting their tactics and, thus, re-programming the environment, and adding new codes onto it, established by acts of “making” and of “performing”, by unpredictably changing their trajectories while moving through urban space, by changing the way in which they use a certain object, and by mutating the way in which a certain space is used.
In the chapter “Walking in the City” De Certeau writes:
The ordinary practitioners of the city live “down below”, below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk – an elementary form of this experience of the city; They are walkers, Wandersmänner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban “text” they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other’s arms. The paths that correspond in this interweaving, unrecognized poems in which each body is an element signed by many others, elude legibility. It is as though the practices organizing a bustling city were characterized by their blindness. The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other.
And, later:
Their story begins on ground level, with footsteps. They are myriad, but do not compose a series. They cannot be counted because each unit has a qualitative character: a style of tactile apprehension and kinesthetic appropriation. Their swarming mass is an innumerable collection of singularities. Their interwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together. In that respect, pedestrian movements form one of those “real systems whose existence in fact makes up the city”. They are not localized; it is rather that they spatialize. They are no more inserted whithin a container than those Chinese characters speakers sketch out on their hands with their fingertips.
According to these idea, strategies and tactics each produce distinguishable parts of the city. The first is top-down and is relatively static, relating to the institutionalised, bureaucratic, legal and administrative codes which describe the spaces of the city. The second is bottom-up, emergent, dissonant, in real-time, describing the desire and visions of the city-practitioners (the performers), written on the cities through their bodies and their actions within the city.
The first represents a top-down form of information and knowledge. The second is bottom up.
The first is mainly static, and highly readable through the apparatus of signage, visual encoding and images produced by administrations.
The second one is dynamic, everchanging, multiple, polyphonic, and is below the threshold of readability as it is drawn through the bodies of city-dwellers, and is ephemeral, lasting only a few instants.
According to De Certeau, this form unpredictable creativity describes a space, in which revolutionary potentials exist, in which individuals individualize culture, and turn elements of the popular in their own, reappropriating them.
This new space can be materialized, under the form of what geographer and urban planner Edward Soja calls the Third Space.[6]
According to Soja in the Third Space:
everything comes together… subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete, the real and the imagined, the knowable and the unimaginable, the repetitive and the differential, structure and agency, mind and body, consciousness and the unconscious, the disciplined and the transdisciplinary, everyday life and unending history.
Third Space is a radically inclusive concept, in which the strategies exist together with the tactics which, thus, gain visibility and perceivability, enabling the contestation and re-negotiation of boundaries and cultural identities.
This is a process which is very similar to Homi K. Bhabha‘s theory of cultural hybridization, in which “all forms of culture are continually in a process of hybridity,” that“displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives… The process of cultural hybridity gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognizable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation.”
Thus, it is a space for open opportunity, in which possibility exists according to, in turn,the possibility to recognize (to see) it in the “other”, in the tactics that are expressed in space. Opportunity exists if our gaze can become educated to see the tactics and to learn to negotiate their meaning.

The Third Landscape

When Gilles Clément described the Third Landscape he described it as [8]:
The Third Landscape – an undetermined fragment of the Plantary Garden -designates the sum of the space left over by man to landscape evolution – to nature alone. Included in this category are left behind (délaissé) urban or rural sites, transitional spaces, neglected land (friches), swamps, moors, peat bogs, but also roadsides, shores, railroad embankments, etc. To these unattended areas can be added space set aside , reserves in themselves: inaccessible places, mountain summits, non-cultivatable areas, deserts; institutional reserves: national parks, regional parks, nature reserves.
Compared to the territories submitted to the control and exploitation by man, the Third Landscape forms a privileged area of receptivity to biological diversity. Cities, farms and forestry holdings, sites devoted to industry, tourism, human activity, areas of control and decision permit diversity and, at times, totally exclude it. The variety of species in a field, cultivated land, or managed forest is low in comparison to that of a neighbouring « unattended » space..
The Third Landscape is the part of the natural environment that grows in-between bricks and stones, it is the grass that lives between train tracks, it is the natural space that finds its life in the cracks of the walls, or in the places of our cities to which we don’t pay muchattention.
It is the natural space of our cities which has not yet been encoded. It is not found in the flowerbeds and hedges which our city administrations define through borders and limits: please keep off the grass, this is a bureaucratically instituted flowerbed.
From an ecological point of view, the larger part of the biodiversity in our cities is found in the Third Landscape [9].
From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future…..
Gilles Clément’s “Planetary Garden” is one of the most suggestive answers to the mutation of the definition of urban space. Planetary Garden is to economic and urban globalization what urban gardens were to the cities of the 19th Century: the latter represented the closed or tightly schemed design of urban architecture and layout, while the former represents the connective, fluid, mutating texture of the globally interconnected city. The Planetary Garden is the garden of the global city.
The third landscape is a connective fabric composed of residual spaces that tend to take a liquid state, never preserving shape, resisting governance. Classical preservation or environmental conservation tools such as surveillance, protection and the creation of limits and borders cannot apply to the Third Landscape without destroying its characteristics, as Clément writes [10] “not property, but space for the future”. An idea of space that goes beyond the ideas of landscape as a place for identity, being used as an asset for local societies, and as a strategic tool for memory.
An idea of space that exemplifies the possibilities of the contemporary worlda multiplication of narratives; the holistic perception of ecosystems; the possibilities and richness offered by disseminated, interstitial, emergent, mutating, temporary, polyphonic environments; the end of dualistic approaches.
As John Barrell spoke about “the dark side of the landscape” [11] while pointing out the imposition of a point of view of a single social class, with Clément we could speak about a “light side”, for the Third Landscape is not an exclusive model but an inclusive one:
“a shared fragment of a collective consciousness”.
It is based on a planetary remix (brassage) which is at the origin of the current richness of ecosystems. [12] These dynamically mutating spaces embody the presence of multiple agencies forming the city from points of view that are architectural, political, economic, poetic, activist, industrial: new forms of nature that emerge by instantaneously creatinginterstitial ecosystems that flow with the story of the city, describing a realtime syncretic map that develops together with the creation of new areas for residences, industry, commerce, business, culture and entertainment, and with the death, abandonment and decay of the previous ones, as a geography of the mutation of the city. [13]
Clément talks about the necessity of training our gaze into recognizing and understanding the Third Landscape. This requires a new possibility for vision and knowledge dissemination in urban natural environments, a renewed sense of aesthetics, and a morphed sensibility for the possibilities for interaction and communication offered by our surroundings.
This is a potentially revolutionary point of view, as it alludes to the possibility to achieve the perception of these emergences, and the possibility to transform them into a form of shared knowledge.
A similar discourse could be imagined for the Third Spacewhat if the emergent history of tactics could become a source of shared knowledge? What if the progressivesedimentation of this knowledge, its continuous formation of everchanging and evolving ruinslayer after layer, could become accessible and readable, through sensibility andsenseability, and through a novel form of aesthetics to stimulate both perception (attention) and awareness, to describe the progressive history of daily life: a stratified, accessible, perceivable, usable, continuously evolving micro-history?

The Third Generation City and Urban Acupuncture

What is a ruin?

A ruin is the progressive reunification of objects and architectures to nature. As buildings grow older, the action of natural agents, of human beings and of the Third Landscape mutate them, bringing them into a different form: more organic, and systematically integrated into the natural environment.

In a way, nature and human beings ruin buildings, transforming them into ruins.

From a different point of view, the actions of human beings and nature bring buildings into a different state, transforming them into ruins, providing evidence of the history of humans’ and nature’s interventions on architectures, of the patterns according to which they have been used daily. From this point of view, ruins expose the history of the natural (and human, as integrated in nature) environment and of its daily life.

Ruins are, to all effect, a history and a source of knowledge and of information, enacted through the layering processes of the results of the actions of human beings and of natural agents.

From Marco Casagrande‘s definition [14]:

Third Generation City is the organic ruin of the industrial city.

Third Generation City is true when the city recognizes its local knowledge and allows itself to be part of nature.

And [15]:

The Third Generation City is the industrial city ruined by the people – human nature as part of nature.

Like a weed creeping into an air-conditioning machine the industrial city will be ruined by rumors and by stories. The common subconscious will surface to the street level and architecture will start constructing for the stories – for the urban narrative. This will be soft, organic and as an open source based media, the copyrights will be violated. The author will no longer be an architect or an urban planner, but somehow a bigger mind of people. In this sense the architects will be like design shamans merely interpreting what the bigger nature of the shared mind is transmitting.

This last definition is specifically interesting for all our discussion: the image of the layering of the subconscious, of the stories and narratives produced by people emerges as a novel (un)building material which is capable of preserving history and knowledge, by transforming spaces, whose authors will no longer be architects or planners, but people themselves.

The third generation city is envisaged to be an organic layer that promotes alternative modes of living as well as narratives, or “urban rumors”

The Third Generation City as a form of knowledge.

And, as in the Third Landscape, the need to educate our gaze to recognize this kind of stratification as a new kind of aesthetics, as a new form of perception for possibility and opportunity: an open space for the future.

Thus it is imaginable to acknowledge this process and, thus, to imagine the city as a whole, as a body, which includes both architecures and their emergent layering with the history and knowledge of the daily lives of human beings and nature.

This body would not be static, with continuous, emergent flows of knowledge and information taking place throughout it.

Thus enabling the visions of architect Vilen Künnapu‘s theory of energy center architecture aiming in tuning the urban condition into a network of spiritual layers, and architect Marco Casagrande‘s theory or urban acupuncture in which the cities are treated punctually as energy organism towards an environmentally (and socially) sustainable development.

According to Urban Acupuncture, small scale interventions can be used to transform larger urban contexts. From this point of view, the sites of the interventions can be selected much in the same ways in which traditional Chinese Acupuncture selects the points in which to insert the needles: locations which are fundamental for the flows of information, communication and knowledge in the city.

City is viewed as multi-dimensional sensitive energy-organism, a living environment. Urban acupuncture aims into a touch with this nature and Sensitivity to understand the energy flows of the collective chi beneath the visual city and reacting on the hot-spots of this chi. [16]

Urban Acupuncture is connected with the perception of the city as a body, withnarratives, emotions, information and knowledge as its main meridians for energy flows.

Urban acupuncture bears some similarities to the new urbanist concept of Tactical Urbanism. The idea focuses on local resources rather than capital-intensive municipal programs and promotes the idea of citizens installing and caring for interventions. These small changes, proponents claim, will boost community morale and catalyze revitalization.[17]

The info-body of the City: the Third Infoscape

As we have seen so far, the idea of Microhistory allows us to focus onto the personal stories of people, describing territories not only in terms of the large-scale events and trends which happen in (or to) them, but allowing for a multitude of points of view emerge, the histories of the daily lives of people, which can be observed to make sense of the larger phenomena.

These stories form the Tactics, described by De Certeau, which, together with the strategies, encompass the dialectic confrontation between the top-down and bottom-up encodings of cities. The first ones are static and prescriptive, establishing strict codes and boundaries. The second ones are dynamic and emergent, and describe the performative practices of city dwellers, in their reinterpretation and reappropriation of the spaces of the city. This is the Third Space, as described by Soja.

In a parallel with Clément’s Third Landscape, we have seen the ways in which the Third Space can be used as the space for emergent opportunity in the city, an inclusive, possibilistic and accessible open space in which it is possible to define new, emergent codes, at multiple levels and according to different directions. To do this, new forms of aesthetics and perceptions must be achieved, to be able to perceive the Third Space/Third Landscape, to see and interpret it as the open space for opportunity and for a possibilistic description of the future.

With the Third Generation City, we have seen how to integrate all these levels using the idea of the ruins, in which Tactics stratify on top of Strategies, transforming them. This layering represents the effects of nature and of human daily lives on the spaces described by the strategies, their histories and narratives.

This, in turn, describes the city as a body, in perpetual dynamic evolution, in which this emergent process describes the flows of expression, emotions, information and knowledge: the energies of the city.

On these flows, in ways which are similar to the ones we find in acupuncture, we can imagine to apply Urban Acupuncture, acting on the nodes of the meridians of these flows to liberate and enhance them and, thus, producing larger effects through small interventions.

All of this process we have just described relies, as we said, on the energies of the city which are represented by expression, emotion, information and knowledge, and on their possibility to flow freely, and to leave evidence of their (micro)history to be transformed into accessible forms of awareness, wisdom, insights, enlightenment and performance.

In current times, much of these energies assume digital forms.

We have learned to use mobile devices, ubiquitous technologies, social networks and other ubiquitous forms of communication to work, collaborate, make decisions, express our feelings, learn, communicate, establish relationships, and consume. [18] [19] [20]

It is, thus, possible to define, along the lines of the previous definitions, a (First, Second and) Third Infoscape. Where the First Infoscape would refer to the information and knowledge generated within nature; the Second Infoscape would refer to the information and knowledge generated in the industrial city (the second generation city, the city of infrastructures, of transactions, of sensors…); and the Third Infoscape would refer to the information and knowledge generated through microhistory, through the progressive, emergent and polyphonic sedimentation onto the city of the expressions of the daily lives of city-practitioners.

By making a parallel with the previous theoretical approaches it would be, then, possible tofocus our attention onto the Third Infoscape, together with the First and the Second, to create a novel kind of sensibility, perception and awareness. And with this new form of sensibility it would be imaginable to form new modalities for observing and understanding our cities, and to perform new kinds of Urban Acupuncture interventions, based on the energy flows of the city, expressed through the digital domains which are now a fundamental part of our daily experience, inseparable from the physical one.

To achieve this, we would need to form a new aesthetic (referring to the concept of perception) sensibility, to see the Third Infoscape, and to recognize it as an inclusive space for opportunity, in the same sense pointed out by Clément when dealing with the Third Landscape.

These, among many others, are the topics which we are exploring with the Human Ecosystems project.
Human Ecosystems
Human Ecosystems
[1] Joyner, C. W. Shared Traditions: Southern History and Folk Culture, (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1999), p. 1
[2] Levi, Giovanni.  ”On Microhistory.”  In Peter Burke, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing.  University Park: Pennsylvania State Press, 1991.
[3] Iggers, George.  ”From Macro-to Microhistory: The History of Everyday Life.”  In Historiography of the 20th Century.  Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, published by University Press of New England, 1997.
[4] Brewer, John (2010). “Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life” in CAS e-SERIES, Number 5, 2010. Accessible at
[5] de Certeau, Michel. “The Practice of Everyday Life”, trans. Steven Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley 1984. Accessible at,%20the%20practice%20of%20everyday%20life.pdf
[6] Soja, Edward W. Thirdspace. Malden (Mass.): Blackwell, 1996. Print. p. 57.
[7] Rutherford, Jonathan. “The Third Space. Interview with Homi Bhabha.” Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1998. Print. P. 211
[8] Clément, Gilles. The Third Landscape.
[9] Clément, Gilles. Manifesto del terzo paesaggio. Macerata: Quodlibet, 2005.
[10] Gilles Clément. Le jardin planétaire. Reconcilier l’homme et la nature, Albin MIchel, Paris 1999.
[11] Barrell, John. The dark side of the landscape: the rural poor in English painting, 1730-1840, Cambridge University Press, New York 1980.
[12] di Campli, Antonio. Review of the “Manifesto del terzo paesaggio”,, 2005
[13] Iaconesi, Salvatore. Leaf++.
[15] Casagrande, Marco. Cross-over Architecture on Epifanio.
[16] ”Urban Acupuncture: Revivifying Our Cities Through Targeted Renewal,” – Kyle Miller, MSIS 9/2011
[17] Urban acupuncture’ touted for cash-strapped cities - David West, New Urban Network 7/2011
[18] Salvatore Iaconesi, Oriana Persico. The Co-Creation of the City in ECLAP 2012 Conference on Information Technologies for Performing Arts, Media Access and Entertainment, pp.62.
[20] Salvatore Iaconesi, Oriana Persico. 2012. ConnectiCity: Real-Time Observation and Interaction for Cities Using Information Harvested from Social Networks, in International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies (IJACDT), Vol.2, Issue 2, pp. 14–29.