I recently read a short and punchy little book with the great title of Urban Acupuncture: Celebrating Pinpricks of Change that Enrich City Life. Author Jaime Lerner is well-known in urban planning circles from his stints as governor of Brazil’s Parana province and mayor of the city of Curitiba, where he introduced a host of innovations such as the city’s world-renowned bus rapid transit systems.
This is fun and easy read, and Lerner is a very likable character chock full of ideas. He would be a pleasant companion over dinner, drinks or coffee. The book is a series of short vignettes on various types of “urban acupuncture,” which Lerner refers to as “pinpricks” of action—projects, people, and initiatives—that ripple out and have outsized impacts on city life. His message is very hopeful and inspiring. When done right, small actions can change the trajectory of a city. Much like acupuncture!
Urban acupuncture can take many forms. Chapters include dissections of how 24-hour shops enliven street life, how waterways and river access improve city life, why buildings with dignity matter, and how cities can benefit from spaces that embrace, among other things, music, silence, light, and memory. To his credit, Lerner doesn’t try to give a template or guide to urban acupuncture; he simply tells stories of how it works. If you wanted to briefly summarize his perspective, I’d suggest this passage: “The city is an integrated structure of life and work. The city is a melting pot of human activities. The more you blend incomes, ages, and activities, the more human the city becomes.”
Kudos to Island Press and the Knight Foundation for supporting publication of this book. You can learn more about the book and Lerner’s speaking tour here.