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Marco Casagrande

Casagrande Laboratory (C-LAB) is a Finland based multidisciplinary research



"To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now."

- Samuel Beckett

Paracity is a biourban organism that is growing on the principles of Open Form: individual design-build actions generating spontaneous communicative reactions on the surrounding built human environment and this organic constructivist dialog leading into self-organized community structures, development and knowledge building.

The growing organism the Paracity is based on a three dimensional wooden primary structure, organic grid with spatial modules of 6 x 6 x 6 metres constructed out of CLT cross-laminated timber sticks. This simple structure can be modified and grown by the community members working as teams or by an assigned Paracity constructor.

The primary structure can grow even on neglected urban areas, such as river flood plains, hillsides, abandoned industrial areas, storm water channels or slums. Paracity suites perfectly to flooding and tsunami risk areas and the CLT primary structure has a high standard of earthquake performance.

People will attach their individual self-made architectural solutions, gardens and farms on the primary structure, which offers a three dimensional building grid for the DIY architecture. Primary structure offers the main arteries of water and human circulation, but the finer local knowledge nervous networks are grown by the inhabitants. Large parts of the Paracity is occupied by wild and cultivated nature.

Paracity growing on the Danshui River island in Taipei.

Paracity’s self-sustainable biourban growth is backed up by off-the-grid environmental technology solutions providing methods for water purification, energy production, organic waste treatment, waste water purification and sludge recycling. These modular plug-in components can be adjusted according to the growth of the Paracity and moreover, the whole Paracity is designed not only to treat and circulate its own material streams, but to start leaching waste from its host city becoming a positive urban parasite following the similar kind of symbiosis as in-between slums and the surrounding city. In a sense Paracity is a high-tech slum, which can start tuning the industrial city towards an ecologically more sustainable direction.

Paracity is a third generation city, an organic machine, urban compost, which is helping the industrial city to transform into being part of nature.

Scale model 1:50 of a fragment of the Paracity exhibited in the China Central Academy of Fine Art CAFAM Biennale 2014 in Beijing.


The pilot project of the Paracity is growing on an urban farming island of Danshui River, Taipei City. The island is located between the Zhongxing and Zhonxiao bridges and is around 1000 meters long and 300 meters wide. Paracity Taipei is celebrating the original first generation Taipei urbanism with high level of illegal architecture, self-organized communities, urban farms, community gardens, urban nomads and constructive anarchy.

Paracity Taipei will be powered mostly by bioenergy that is using the organic waste, including sludge, taken from the surrounding industrial city and by farming fast growing biomass on the flood banks of the Taipei river system.

Environmental technology components are mounted on barges that are plugged into the Paracity maintenance docks. Barges can be modified according to the needs of the growing biourbanism.

Paracity Island with the primary structure grid in-between the Zhongxing and Zhonxiao bridges

Paracity is based on free flooding. There are no flood walls. The first 6 m level above the ground is not built, but the whole city is standing on stilts and thus providing the whole ground floor for community actions, nature and space requiring recycling yards.

Paracity Taipei will construct itself through impacts of a collective conscious as a nest of post-industrial insects. Paracity is estimated to have 15.000 – 25.000 inhabitants.


Open form

In its growth Paracity is following the organic design methodology of Open Form (Oscar Hansen, Svein Hatloy), in which community level design is viewed as an open dialog with design actions generating spontaneous design reactions within the surroundings. Open Form is close to the original Taiwanese ways of developing the self organized and often “illegal” communities. These microurban settlements are containing a high volume of Local Knowledge, which we also believe will start composting in Paracity, when opening up the community development to the citizens. Centralized architectural control is opened up in order to let nature including human nature to step in. The life providing volume of Paracity is 11, existence maximum, highest possible life in the given conditions, and more.

CLT Skeleton

Paracity provides the skeleton, but citizens bring in the flesh. Design should not replace reality, Flesh is

More. The skeleton, the primary structure of Paracity is constructed out of 6 meters long (50x50 cm profile) cross laminated timber CLT sticks which are used to form 6x6x6 m cubes, that are piled up to 16 stories high (8 cubes). The CLT primary structure has a fine earthquake performance and it is fire resistant. The structural elements / sticks with wood joints are prefabricated and transported to the Paracity Island

on barges. The construction work – the growing of the Paracity primary organism can be manually done by residents in teams of by professional parasite constructors. The CLT structure is just a landscape on which citizens will attach their own houses and gardens.

Enviromental technology

The biourban growth of the Paracity is supported by high environmental technology which is mounted on barges. These modular bio-vessels are attached to the Paracity service harbor and can be adjusted according to the needs of the evolving urban organism. The post-industrial fleet of bio-vessels can travel along the Taipei river system and is ready to start the biourban restoration process also from other hot-spots of the river city. The environmental technology barges provide solutions for:

• Waste water treatment of Paracity and of the surrounding Taipei

• Water purification. The infrastructural water circulation is originated from the polluted Danshui River.

• Sludge treatment for fertilizer and bio-energy.

• Closed circuit aquaculture.

• Recycling of construction waste.

• Recycling of organic waste for fertilizer and bio-energy.

The barges have no problem with the flooding river.

Paracity maintenance harbor. Environmental technology will be mounted on barges.


The main energy source for the Paracity is bio-energy, which is using both treated organic waste and sludge from Paracity and surrounding Taipei and especially biomass that is harvested around Paracity and on the flood banks of the Taipei rivers. The fertile flood banks, flood plains and storm water channels provide ideal cultivation areas for fast growing biomass plantations. The vegetation will be harvested by boats and then shipped to Paracity Bio-Energy Facility. The growing of the biomass on the river banks will also benefit on the natural river restoration through root cleansing of sediment pollution and the biomass will have a positive impact on the Taipei micro climate and urban ecology.

Paracity crossing the 12 m high flood wall into the city.

Parasite Urbanism

Paracity is living off the material streams from the surrounding Taipei. Even the polluted river is a resource for this biourban intestine. Paracity is Medieval medicine: using leaches to cure the circulation. Paracity is letting off the bad blood of Taipei and it uses it a resource. In fact it makes money out of the process. Officially 37% of the Taipei City waste water goes untreated to the river. Paracity wants it all. And it wants all the other materials which the industrial city is regarding as “waste”. Paracity and modern Taipei live in a similar kind of a symbiosis as a slum and the city: the urban nomads will clean the static city from its “waste”; only in Paracity the cleaning and recycling process is boosted up by high environmental technology. In a sense the Paracity is a high-tech slum.

Existence Maximum

Paracity is a seed of the Third Generation City, the organic ruin of the industrial city (2G). The modular biourban organism is designed to grow following the rule of nature: existence maximum. The primary structure can be grown by people and after Paracity has reached the critical mass, the life providing system of the CLT structure will start escalating. It will cross the river and start rooting on the flood plains. Then it will cross the 12 meters high Taipei flood wall and grow gradually into the city. Seeds of the Paracity will start rooting in the urban acupuncture points of Taipei: illegal community gardens, urban farms, abandoned cemeteries and waste-lands. From these acupuncture points the Paracity will start growing following the covered irrigation systems, such as the Liukong Channel and eventually the biourban organism and the static city will find a balance, the Third Generation Taipei.

Paracity @ CAFAM Biennale in Beijing.


After rooting on the riverside and gaining a critical mass the Paracity will climb over the 12 meters high reinforced concrete flood wall which is separating modern Taipei from the rivers and nature. The flood wall will remain in the guts of the Paracity, but the new structure enables Taipei citizens to fluently reach the river. Paracity will reunite the river reality and the urban fiction. Paracity is a mediator between the modern city and nature.

Bioclimatic Architecture

Paracity has a lot of holes, gaps and nature in-between houses. The system is ventilating itself like a large scale beehive of post-industrial insects. The different temperatures of the roofs, gardens, water bodies and shaded platforms will generate small winds between them and the hot roofs will start sucking in breeze from the cooler river. Also the individual houses should follow the traditional principles of bioclimatic architecture and not rely on mechanical air-conditioning.

Paracity during high water.

Free Flooding

Paracity is based on free flooding. The whole city is standing on stilts allowing the river to pulsate freely with the frequent typhoons and storm waters. The environmental technology of the Paracity is mounted on barges, which have no problem with the flooding either. Actually the Paracity is an organic architectural flood itself, ready to cross the flood wall of Taipei and spread into the mechanical city.

Biourban Restoration

Paracity is a positive organic tumour in the mechanical tissue of Taipei. While it is leaching and processing the industrial and organic waste of the city, it is gaining momentum in its growth and becomes more and more important to the static industrial urbanism. Paracity is an alternative reality within the industrial development and will start treating the city the same ways as the urban acupuncture points of illegal community gardens and urban farms of Taipei do today. Paracity has the ability to become a network of biourban acupuncture tuning the whole industrial city towards the organic, ruining the industrialism on its way to become part of nature, the Third Generation City.

Organic Layers

The biourbanism of the Paracity is as much landscape as it is architecture. The totalitarian landscape-architecture of Paracity includes organic layers for natural water purification and treatment, community gardening, farming and biomass production as an energy source. Infrastructure and irrigation water originates from the polluted Danshui river and will be both chemically and biologically purified before being used in the farms, gardens and houses of the community. The chemically purified water gets pumped to the roof parks on the top level of the Paracity, from where the gravity will circulate the water into the three dimensional irrigation systems.


The pilot-project of the Paracity is designed in Taipei, but the solution is developed to work in different locations around the world. Paracity offers an alternative for the Chinese strategic urban planning to start ecologically harmonizing the growing river cities of China. And Paracity can be used as urban acupuncture for the emerging cities of China and elsewhere. Paracity can grow along the Oshiwara chain of slums in Mumbai providing better living conditions, cleaning up the Oshiwara River and more effectively treating the urban waste that is flooding in from the surrounding city. Paracity can parachute into Nairobi and start growing from the fertile top-soil of the slums. Paracity should grow into the favelas of Brazil and start celebrating the local knowledge of these organic communities. Paracity is organic, adaptable and welcomes local knowledge. The city is built by hands of a high diversity of different people.

Treasure Hill in Taipei, the original local knowledge inspiration for the Paracity biourbanism.

Local Knowledge

Paracity is inspired by the Local Knowledge of Taipei, the original Taiwanese urban elements that include a high level of self-made “illegal” architecture, self-organized communities, extensive networks of self-organized community gardens and urban farms, fluid nomadic ways of using the city, communicative collective subconscious in community and urban scale, feeling of dominating the no-man’s land by human nature and other forms of constructive anarchy. The Paracity basically only provides the primary structure, the three dimensional landscape for the Local Knowledge to be attached and grow. The primary structure and the environmental technology solutions will remain pretty much the same no matter in which culture the Paracity starts to grow, but the real human layer of DIY architecture and gardens will follow the Local Knowledge of the respective culture and site. Paracity is always site-specific and it is always local.

Casagrande Laboratory Centre of Urban Research / PARACITY:

Marco Casagrande, Menno Cramer, Katie Donaghy, Niilo Tenkanen, Nikita Wu, Joni Virkki, Ycy Charlie, Sauli Ylinen, Dave Kan-ju Chen


CLICK: PARACITY the newspaper

Professor Marco Casagrande (Finland) appointed Vice-President of the International Society of Biourb

[PRESS RELEASE] European Prize for Architecture 2013, founder of the Ruin Academy and of the C-LAB, Marco Casagrande is an innovative architect and social thinker who aims at bringing human authenticity back to urbanism, architecture, and art. His biourban acupuncture has become a revolutionary bo ...



Cicada, Taipei

Marco enjoys insect architecture construction, where the building parts are human scale -- fits a hand and the structure can be woven up together by small scale repetitions, like insect architecture.

Pro. Design: What inspired you to get into architecture?

Marco Casagrande (Marco for short): I have always been drawing, playing in forest, building snow cave systems and imagining my own worlds, telling stories to myself. I didn't choose architecture, I just ended up there.

Pro. Design: What would you prefer to be called, architect, environmental artist, or social theorist?

Marco: I would like to be called something that combines all of those three. Maybe Constructor or Insect.


it’s anarchical it’s acupunctural, well it’s both / marco casagrande



Pictured on this spread: the construction of the RUIN ACADEMY in Taipei (Taiwan, 2010) and the SANDWORM in Wenduine (Belgium, 2012)_PHOTO: NIKITA WU


It’s almost three o’clock at night. 18 years old Marco Casagrande is woken up by his father in a house at the edge of a forest in Karjaa.

- Here’s your passport. It’s time to go.

Beside high school Marco works in the local newspaper Etelä-Uusimaa. The Iron Curtain is cracking and the newspaper wants to send the young reporter to war areas. However, it’s the spring of Marco’s matric exams and his mother had hidden his passport.

Twenty-four years later Marco is barbequing corn and sausages on a terrace. His mom is watching the scene through a glass door, smiling. The son returned and started to study architecture. But the mom’s part hasn’t been the lightest. After two years studies in architecture Marco wanted to have a break. He left to Bosnia as a mercenary. About his war experiences he wrote a novel, which led into a war crime investigation. A bit after graduation, in the year 2003, Marco drove through Russia by a Land Rover and blogged about the trip:

“After stopping the car at the station we saw glass-eyed young guys in their army clothes coming out from the containers and circling our car - we had mentioned we were heading to Khabarovsk, and were afraid of an ambush - - We left the street and drove along a caterpillar track into a forest - - At night we were awakened by roaring from the woods - - It was a bear.”

The projects of the architect Marco Casagrande haven’t been what the parents expected, not even in the finest stages. In 2000 Marco steered a wrecking ship packed with human shit to Venice Biennale. There was a little forest planted on the dirt. They loved it and invited him twice that after.

As a professor of architecture in Taipei Casagrande didn’t make it easy on himself. He moved into abandoned tea factory ruins, built a piece of roof and started teaching there. At night wandering ants made their way over the professor.

KNOWING THE BACKGROUND Marco’s life seems quite serene now.

- Is it soon ready, the daughter asks.

The grill hisses.

- Let’s check the other side. Isn’t it a HK’s sausage you want, the father says.

Marco and his Taiwanese wife have moved to Finland from Taipei. They have two children and the family is building a home next to Marco’s parents. Maybe the grandma is looking forward barbecuing together, adventuring the neighbouring woods and the nearby observatory.

Is it like this Marco?

I open you the door, says Casagrande pointing to the construction site. Have a look, I’ll be there in ten minutes.

That’s enough time to have a Saturday family lunch.

He arrives in time and talks like a war was still on. In this house nobody is listening behind a corner. There’s just one big space.

- I see myself as a Trojan horse in relation to the clients who are dazzled by the title architect. Inside the architectural horse I bring in the real work.

Though with a military posture.

- The mission is always holy. If the mission is to build a sandworm of 45 meters, so be it.

Casagrande on Urban Acupuncture


2: How do you use urban acupuncture to create architecture?

First you have to determine the sensitive flows of the built human environment. Based on those you have to determine the acupuncture points. The last is to determine what is the needle: architectural reaction. The key to understand this is to be present. To be truly present one has to give up, one has to be weak. To be present is the key of all art.


Urban Ecopuncture


Taipei exists because of the river. The first generation Taipei lived in straight connection with the river nature and it developed its local knowledge, how to harvest the rich resources of river systems, how to survive with the floods and even how to make artificial man-made floods as the basics of rice farming. The second generation Taipei is the industrial manifesto of a city as a machine and independent from the nature. In case of Taipei the river nature was shut off from the urban narrative more radically than perhaps anywhere else in the word: the industrial city built its own city wall, a 12 meters high reinforced concrete wall to block the river entirely from the city. This wall has proven to be very effective to cut nature out of urban life. Now the citizens are children of the machine, not nature.


Ultra-Ruin and the Third Generation City


When a man comes to the jungle he cleans up a spot and builds his house. The walls of the house and the hard surfaces are constructed to keep the nature out. When man moves away from his house the jungle will come in. Nature reads the house and step-by-step the architecture will become part of nature. But the nature does not want everything. Plenty of space is left for the man to come back.

Taipei Organic Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the procedure of inserting and manipulating needles into various points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes.

Urban planning integrates land use planning and transportation planning to improve the built, economic and social environments of communities.

Urban design concerns the arrangement, appearance and functionality of towns and cities, and in particular the shaping and uses of urban public space.

Environmental art is art dealing with ecological issues and possibly in political, historical or social context.

is a science of human social activity.

Anarchy is acting without waiting for instructions or official permission. The root of anarchism is the single impulse to do it yourself: everything else follows from this.


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