Review by Angelo Abbate
Science fiction has always confronted artificial and natural reality. Most of it has envisioned a future that is going to corner and minimize nature, echoing social and philosophical treatises, art, and a diffuse anxiety about mature capitalism, with visions of inhuman cities, robots-like men, and life downgraded to slavery by an impersonal power system.
Perhaps that is not just fiction anymore, the leap into a paradoxical parallel-world having happened already, and we unknowingly living in it – living into the “second generation cities”, as Marco Casagrande says. These cities are ruled by intangible, unreal, and not-human purposes, and grow by systematically destroying those natural geometric patterns and sub-codes that scholars like Christopher Alexander, Nikos Salingaros, Stephen Kellert, and others working in the fields of Evidence Based Design and Biourbanism, are pointing out.
As human beings seem to be educated to feed destruction, exploitation, pollution, and waste of their own habitat, they are dehumanizing themselves.
The metropolis of Taipei, as many Italian dull suburbs, is no exception to this trend. The ones who live and work in accordance with life, such as urban nomads or indigenous communities, are a threat to the system. It wants to “save them from themselves”, checking and adjusting their activities.
Marco Casagrande offers a way out, a therapy for the sickness of our cities, a path to achieve what he calls the Third Generation City.
Cities, to be the fall of the machine, where “the ruin” is the reality produced by nature, that reclaims the artefact. Cities where the nature force takes the initiative, affects the design of industrial society, and becomes co- architect.
The treatment is described by Casagrande as “biourban acupuncture”, reviving the traditional Chinese medicine practice on city scale, in order to trigger purifying and healing processes in the urban organism
Marco mentions several “needles” of Biourbanism. All of them aim at establishing a contact between the urban collective consciousness and the vital systems of nature. Illegal community gardens in Taipei, and weed growing from cracks in the concrete, are examples of similar needles. Nature can restore wholeness from a single point or node – even the wholeness of our human condition.