Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference - Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design 1

Urban Acupuncture: Application Prospects in Indonesia
Case Study : Barrio Caracas

Khaerani ADENAN
Magister Student of Architecture
Institut Teknologi Bandung

Ratih Ayuningtyas HARIYANTO


This paper intends to study the concept of urban acupuncture and its application to
deal with urban problems. Urban acupuncture basically is a philosophy that is used
to solve social problems in urban areas. In urban acupuncture, a city regarded as
the human body. The physical structures that exist in a city such as buildings,
public spaces and streets regarded as Zang-Fu in Chinese Traditional Medicine
system, while the pattern of activity and movement of people in the city regarded as
Qi, energy that flow in the body. The main purpose of urban acupuncture is to
maintain energy flows in the body (city) so it can work properly.

At the beginning of the paper will described the origin of urban acupuncture
concept and it application in urban design. Some examples of urban acupuncture
project will be studied so we can see the basic requirements to conduct some urban
acupuncture projects. At the end of the paper we can concluded whether it is
possible to conduct urban acupuncture project in Indonesia as an alternative
strategy for city improvement.

From some examples of urban acupuncture projects that has been studied, it can be
concluded that there are no physical prerequisites that must be met to be able to
implement an urban acupuncture project, both in terms of scale, location,
population, and cultural values or social community. Urban acupuncture basically
can be applied in accordance with the conditions of any physical, political,
economic, social and cultural society.

Keywords: Urban Acupuncture, Indonesia, Urban Design, Planning Policies


The word acupuncture comes from the Latin acus, "needle", and pungere, "to
prick". Acupuncture has been known as one of the traditional medicinethat
originated from East Asia, although in Europe also found Otzi the Iceman, a
Urban Acupuncture : Application in Indonesia. Case Study : Caracas Barrio, ADENAN, HARIYANTO
Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference - Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design 2
mummified 5000-year-old with tattoos on his body which lay in places where the
point of acupuncture treatment in the present. Written evidence of acupuncture is
found in China, in the form of a hieroglyphic which comes from the Shang Dynasty
(1600-1100BCE). After that also found the literature on the theory of the use of
acupuncture in China, J apan and Korea . In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory,
the human body is considered as a whole system consisting of multiple-function
systemknown as Zang-Fu. Zang represent solid body systems, for example, organs
such as liver and heart, while Fu system related to the hollow organs such as colon.

Zang-Fu system in the body covering 12 main channels, namely: lung, colon,
stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, pericardium, bladder, liver
and intangibles organ , San J iao. There is an energy that flow called Qi in the
system of Zang-Fu the. Qi is the energy or life force that governs a person's
spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. Qi flows in a fixed path or channel
called Meridian. When the Qi is not flowing smoothly, there will be interference
with the human condition. Healing someone with acupuncture at a point in clogged
meridian with a tool, so the flow of Qi will return normally and the condition of the
body also restored.

In order to reach a point in Meridian takes appropriate action of acupuncture.
Pressure exerted on the surface should be small, resembling a point. Certain point in
the flow of Qi in Meridian has a different effect on the body; therefore it is used in
the treatment of acupuncture needles that have hit the surface resembling a point.

In addition to the concept of Qi and Meridian, the theory of traditional Chinese
medicine also uses Yin-Yang principle, the concept of two opposing forces but
complementary. Yin represents the cold nature, slow, or passive, while Yang
represents hot, excited, or active. Yin represents the energy flow of Qi and blood,
while Yang is the cavity or where the flow path. In principle, a person's health is
achieved when there is a balance between Yin and Yang. When there is an
imbalance, then the condition of the body will decrease. Therefore acupuncture
means to smooth the flow of energy.

There are standard rules regarding the way the energy flows in the Zang-Fu system.
Qi energy always flow orderly moving from place to place. If in a function-body
systems Qi energy flow does not run properly, it will affect the function, and the
system will affected. Interruption in the flow of Qi cannot be seen directly by the
acupuncturist. An acupuncturist can only see the physical symptoms of disease
appear. With the guidance of physical symptoms, the acupuncturist will look for the
disturbed flow, to determine the main cause of the disease. When the cause is
known, the acupuncturist will find which of the point that must be punctured and
how these puncture deliver maximum results for their patients.

The theory of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, is still regarded
as a pre-paradigm in contemporary medicine. Although many people who use
acupuncture as an alternative treatment, but the principles of traditional Chinese
medicine is still difficult to put into the understanding of contemporary medical
science. The main principle of acupuncture that is not yet understood by
contemporary medical science is the existence of Qi and Meridian. Meridian and Qi
energy flow is not tangible, and is regarded as something that is not visible and
therefore cannot be proven its existence.

Urban Acupuncture : Application in Indonesia. Case Study : Caracas Barrio, ADENAN, HARIYANTO
Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference - Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design 3


In urban acupuncture, the city considered as a human body. The body consists of
various energy systems that sustain life. Physical structures that exist in a city,
buildings, public spaces and streets are an analogy to Zang-Fu System, while the
activity patterns and population movements are an analogy to the flow of Qi, energy
flowing in the body. J ust as the principles of acupuncture, which became a major
interest in urban design is to keep the flow of Qi energy running smoothly. The
main purpose of acupuncture is that the urban area can run all it’s activities and
functions well.

J aime Lerner presents his analogies; he said that cars in the city streets as an 'urban
cholesterol'. If the roads are the arteries and veins of the body, the car depicted as
cholesterol that clogs. With this analogy, Lerner encouraged more people to use
public transport. (Lerner, 2003).

Many people choose acupuncture as a treatment method, because acupuncture can
make things better around the body with just a pin prick in one small spot on the
body, no treatment is required, such as a large and risky surgery. The human body
is just like a city that has been built in hundreds of years old, very difficult to do
large-scale improvements. Therefore, one alternative strategy to improve the city is
to use urban acupuncture. With urban acupuncture, improvements at some point of
the city are expected to give effect to all parts of the city.

To be able to take small actions that have a positive effect to all parts of the city,
one need to understand the analogy and principles of acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncturist should be able to determine the exact point to be able to heal the
body of the patient. Similarly, in urban design, an urban designer should be able to
determine the right location to improve that will provide benefits to all parts of the
city. To determine the location, the acupuncturist should know the symptoms,
causes, and determine the patient's illness.

Symptoms of the disease in the city can be diagnosed by observing the daily
activities of residents. A common problem in a city is congestion, air pollution,
waste, slums, and the problems of lack of public space for residents. Problems faced
by every city might be the same, but the cause of the problem is not necessarily the
same. Two different cities that have public transportation problems could have a
different approach to problem solving. The first city problem could possibly solved
by building a subway, while the second city problem may not necessarily solve the
problem the same way, in different reasons of financial, geographical, or social
behaviors, the same solution will become useless. Urban designer as an
acupuncturist should be able to read the symptoms and determine the cause of the
disease, so it can push the needle in the right place.


Urban acupuncture is basically a philosophy that is used to solve social problems
that exist in urban areas. The term 'Urban Acupuncture' was first stated by Manuel
de Sola-Morales. (Shieh, 2006). Through the concept of urban acupuncture, Manuel
Urban Acupuncture : Application in Indonesia. Case Study : Caracas Barrio, ADENAN, HARIYANTO
Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference - Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design 4
de Sola-Morales tried to solve urban problems through projects of strategic
architecture. The concept of urban acupuncture refers to urban interventions that are
healing, can be built in a short time and spontaneously able to improve the
surrounding environment.

In contrast to the view of Sola-Morales, urban acupuncture developed by a Finnish
architect, Professor Marco Casagrande, more inclined to the establishment of a
sustainable ecological environment. According to Casagrande, urban design is a
very complex process, so it takes a long time and cannot produce immediate
effects, while urban acupuncture offers an effective process and requires a relatively
short time for planning and application. In accordance with the principles of
acupuncture, urban acupuncture requires pressure on the right point to produce a
rapid effect to all parts of the city. With the concept of urban acupuncture,
Casagrande developed a technique to suppress the points where the of urban energy
flows to encourage the development of ecological and sustainable city.

Urban acupuncture is an important theory of urban development in science today,
especially for old cities that have old-structured as European cities, where there is
not possible to do large scale environmental changes. What can be done is a careful
act of small-scale planning, with major impact on improving environmental quality.
A small-scale urban planning acupuncture is called Point Operation.

The main objective to be achieved from urban acupuncture is 'Cities for People' .
According to J aime Lerner (2003), the cities of today are not designed for human
comfort, but for the circulation of cars, and lots of private spaces are provided over
the public space. Many cities have lost the element of its humanity, when they
began to modify the three public spaces, namely the rivers, streets and town square.
(Lerner, 2003).

Urban acupuncture in view of Lerner not only concerned with the formation of the
physical aspects of a city, but also the formation of human culture of its inhabitants.
Citizens must learn to understand the city, so they can appreciate the city. If citizens
can appreciate their own city, then they will be able to start understanding the
neighborhood. There is no one understood the potential of an environment, but
those who live in it.

Urban acupuncture, operating in urban environments which scale is relatively small.
Therefore we need a deep and close understanding of the object. There is no
standard theory in urban acupuncture, since all the urban problems of the system
depend on shared values of its citizens . If the design is based on local cultural and
social values, then there will be an opportunity to see the problem in a more
inclusive, pluralistic and democratic. Without an understanding of the social values
of local culture, policy making will not reach the level of detail required by the
urban acupuncture. Any decision must also consider the value systems, in order to
set the proper acupuncture points. (Landry, 2005)


Informal settlements are one characteristic of developing countries. This area is
arising as a result of poor control of the growth of society. Caracas barrio is one
example of the growing squatter settlements that happens because of social
Urban Acupuncture : Application in Indonesia. Case Study : Caracas Barrio, ADENAN, HARIYANTO
Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference - Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design 5
segregation and indifference to the city government. Poverty and poor
environmental quality leads to high rates of violence and crime in this
neighborhood. Physical conditions are very dense settlements, and limited
transportation routes also complicate the process of improving the environment,
because basically it is difficult to hold a major planning in informal settlement area
without displacing people's homes.

Caracas is the capital and largest city in Venezuela. The city is famous for its high
violence and crime. Almost every day wars between gangs happen in this city. In
the year 1950 - 1970, there was a modernization program in the city that attracted
many new entrants and increased the number of squatter around Caracas.
Uncontrolled numbers of settlers made the area increasingly crowded. Currently
area of Caracas Barrio reached 4x wide limits that had been set by the city of
Caracas in 1950. 60% of the Caracas city population lives in this dense area. No
infrastructure is prepared to build housing in this area. Barrio residents always have
difficulty to obtain clean water or electricity.

For nearly 40 years, Caracas Barrio area is considered as not part of the city. In
1989, the city government began to acknowledge the existence of Caracas Barrio.
With the physical state of a very dense settlement, basically it is difficult to hold a
major planning in this area without displacing people's homes. Therefore, the
government had only provided some social assistance. For example, lowering the
price of food, making some kitchen program, providing supply of electricity and
providing supply for building materials.

An NGO called Caracas Think Tank tries to provide the best solution for the Barrio
area. The NGO is driven by a firm of architects called the Urban Think Tank.
Urban Think Tank began this project by organizing discussion forums with the
local barrio community. Next they make research and propose design solutions. The
results were presented to the design of institutions and politicians that the parties
are able to fund and realize the project. Urban Think Tank also brought many issues
that raised in Caracas Barrio to many International seminars, and invite a lot of
researchers to provide solutions in the planning area of Barrio. Some project funds
are obtained from the National Foundation for Art and Culture of the Federal
Republic of Germany, and partly from the Caracas Government.

Vertical Gymnasium to Reduce Crime (2001-2004)

Crime is a major problem Caracas. To overcome the problem of crime is not
enough to rely on the police. Urban Think Tank made further observations to find
the cause. They concluded that the lack of community activities to do in the dense
area is one of the factors that cause high rates of violence. Poverty, the physical
state of the dense settlements, and the lack of public open land, make social
activities is limited, and limited social activities lead to criminal acts. Criminal acts
are threat to the comforts of life not only for barrio community but also for the city
of Caracas as a whole.

Urban Think Tank designed a Vertical Gymnasium in Barrio La Cruz area, an area
which has the highest rates of violence. Because of limited land, the Gymnasium is
made vertical. Building area is 2500m2 and consists of four floors. The Gymnasium
has some facilities such as; the basketball court, dance studio, jogging track, weight
lifting room, soccer field and swimming pool at the top of the building. This
Urban Acupuncture : Application in Indonesia. Case Study : Caracas Barrio, ADENAN, HARIYANTO
Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference - Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design 6
structure also allows the building to be used for music concerts or conference

The Vertical Gymnasium is open for free for seven days a week from morning until
late at night. According to city statistics, since this place opened, the rate of
robberies, murders and other crimes decreased by approximately 30%. Although no
hard data that says that the Vertical Gymnasium decline is a major cause of crime,
but the area of Barrio La Cruz barrio has become a relatively safe when compared
to the other barrio in Caracas.

Metro Cable Station

Caracas Barrio areas are located on hill slope. The houses stood leaning against the
hill, without a stable foundation, so a transportation is a major problem. Barrio
residents have to walk for 2.5 hours to reach the Caracas city center, because
vehicles cannot enter the barrio solid region. In 1993, the Caracas city government
planned to make roads by displacing 1/3 barrio area and create about 50,000
residents homeless. This plan raised the anger of the Barrio community. Urban
Think tank suggested to make the Metro Cable System which can link the five
barrios with the downtown area of Caracas.

After a thorough research and planning, this project began in April 2007. There
were 5 stations that planned to be built with for 2.1 km cable car route. The route
starts and stops relatively near to public transport in the formal City. With the cable
car, a trip that normally can be reached in 2.5 hours on foot can be reached in 20
minutes. The station buildings were lifted, so not many houses are demolished for
building the stations. Each station will have health care, day care, supermarkets,
recreation areas, open space and public space. Each station is designed to have a
public space and facilities in different activities. In addition, as a passenger transit,
the stations also serve as a community center for the barrio

In February 2010 one of the routes of the station has just opened, and still under
evaluation. The project is expected to eliminate the segregation of the population
between Barrio community and the community who live in the city center. With
this mode of transportation, Barrio residents can save a lot of time to travel, and
increase productive time to work and could eventually have an impact on improving
the economy for the barrio.


Area settlements and problems are part of the city. City governments in developing
countries often adopted a policy to displace the stretcher area as measures to
eliminate the problems of the city. But evictions without providing a new place will
not eliminate the social problems facing society. They will remain poor, stupid and
even worse they do not have a place to stay and will eventually lead to new

Any informal areas in the cities in developing countries have distinctive features
and problems of each. Because of this growing area informally, then there is no
fixed rule to handle it. From the two examples above projects can be concluded that
to address social problems in the slum area to do a more thorough examination of
Urban Acupuncture : Application in Indonesia. Case Study : Caracas Barrio, ADENAN, HARIYANTO
Arte-Polis 4 Intl Conference - Creative Connectivity and the Making of Place: Living Smart by Design 7
the social, economic and environmental areas. That way the disease can be known
or actual problems and appropriate action can be taken.

From the urban acupuncture examples that already exist, it can be concluded
that no physical prerequisites that must be met to be able to implement urban
acupuncture, both in terms of scale, location, population, and cultural or social
values. Urban acupuncture can be applied in accordance with the conditions of
any physical, political, economic, social and cultural societies.

The main thing that is required in the urban acupuncture is the same as the the
treatment of acupuncture, which is a thorough examination. In acupuncture
treatment, acupuncturist should be able to recognize the symptoms of the
disease. Acupuncturist, just as a doctor, must knowing the patient's medical
history,taking feedback from the patient, paying attention to physical
symptoms that occur, finding the main cause, trying to find a correlation
between aspects of one another, so it can be determined what steps to take for
a well functioning system.

People suffering from fever, the cause can vary. Fever is only the physical
appearance of symptoms of various diseases that become major problems.The
analogy of diseases physical symptom can be applied to problems of
transportation in the city. Various policies have been taken to tackle traffic
congestion in Jakarta, some of which are adopted from the successful policies
implemented in the cities of Curitiba and Bogota, such as car-free day, bus
rapid transit system, the system 3-in-1, construction of flyovers, as well as the
monorail system that is still uncertain. Congestion is a symptom of physical
appearance, the cause of this disease must be diagnosed with certainty
because the problems that appeared are not always the real problem.

In Indonesia, the government policies are quite less supportive to the
paradigm of "Cities for People '. Each part of the city is still not well connected.
The lack of public transport, pedestrian paths that are not well maintained and
unsafe bicycle lanes makes people prefer to use private vehicles. Too many
vehicles that are used make the streets became crowded and often cause

From the precedent of existing projects, it can be concluded that urban
acupuncture not always have to be done by policy makers, but can also be
initiated by the community. An example that can be done as urban
acupuncture in the city is the area under the Pasopati flyover, which at present
are use as homeless shelter, junk disposal, and illegal parking spot. The
situation makes the area is dark and dangerous at night. The provision of
lighting will encourage community activism in the area at night, so the benefits
and environmental quality under the bridge Pasopati can be improved.


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Urban Acupuncture : Application in Indonesia. Case Study : Caracas Barrio, ADENAN, HARIYANTO