While urban renewal projects have the power to bring transformative change to neighbourhoods, small-scale interventions can have a similar impact on the socio-environmental fabric of a community. The concept of urban acupuncture, conceptualized by Barcelonan architect Manuel de Sola Morales and further popularized by Finnish architect Marco Casagrande, fuses urban design and traditional Chinese acupuncture with the goal of relieving stress in the built environment. 

'Little Free Library' movement is an example of urban acupuncture, image by Flickr user Matthew Matheson via Creative Commons

In an age of austerity and budgetary constraints, surgical and strategic manipulations of the cityscape are becoming more commonplace around the world. Rather than redeveloping entire blocks of property, ad hoc exercises can pump new life into vacant lots, unsightly street medians, and disused public spaces. Pinpointing specific areas of need allows for the tactical tailoring of revitalization programs. New pocket parks can be created relatively quickly and cheaply, benefiting the local architects and designers. 

A section of San Francisco is turned into a temporary community-run farm, image by Flickr user Inhabitat via Creative Commons

Urban acupuncture is rooted in the participatory planning process by letting urban dwellers utilize space freely and democratically. This bottom-up approach of eliminating urban blight is practiced globally, though the concept is applied differently depending on local conditions and community objectives. Temporary sheds within Mexican slums are often converted into simple houses with room for additional features in the future. South African applications tend to focus on the entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity of the individual, empowering communities that don't have the same infrastructure as large cities to improve their quality of life. Former mayor of Curitiba Jaime Lerner is a champion of urban acupuncture, describing its ability to cause positive ripple effects throughout neighbourhoods. 

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