Urban Acupuncture

Kelly Chan Kelly Chan

As the island of Taiwan passed through the hands of Chinese, Japanese and Western influences, its capital city Taipei evolved a distinct hybrid urbanism, marked by a square grid plan of vast uniform blocks containing a chaotic mixture of Eastern and Western architectures. Much of the city is dressed in concrete, and the tension of an organic city bursting out of its rigid plan is almost palpable.

Responding to this environment, Finnish architect Marco Casagrande has constructed a cocoon-like spatial intervention in the heart of industrial Taipei. ‘Cicada’ is a bamboo structure that subverts the concrete malaise of Taipei, functioning as “urban acupuncture” for the city by introducing a wholly organic form built on a decidedly human scale.

In an unusual green oasis amidst Taipei’s crisscrossing roads and elevated train tracks, the larval form of Casagrande’s shelter rests within an oval footprint of rocks and concrete. Approaching this skeleton of woven bamboo, visitors see a fantastic husk overgrown with clinging vines, appearing before them like a displaced organic ruin.

However, the surreal experience truly begins in the interior of the structure. Visitors enter through a circular threshold to find a cavernous shelter paved with broken rocks and bordered by stacks of chopped logs. Within this unusual forum is a fireplace surrounded by metal benches evoking the post-industrial landscape just beyond.

Casgrande’s permeable shell of bamboo filters sunlight to a remarkable effect, providing a protective shade while allowing strips of natural light to pierce through uninterrupted. An elliptical skylight reveals a cutout of the sky above, adding to an already strong sense of ancient ritual that pervades the enclosure. As seen in his drawings, the architect envisions smoke from the fireplace exiting through this central opening in the ceiling. Rising ceremoniously into the sky, the smoke is emitted like a signal, communicating to the city outside like a natural sign of life in a city programmed to subsume it.

[All images via Designboom]