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Symbolic moves

Symbolic moves can give energy to an area, and create a context for social innovation. Jaime Lerner, the former Mayor of Curitiba, coined the phrase ‘urban acupuncture’ to describe the effect some small scale symbolic projects can have in creating points of energy that make a city more open to innovation. An example that incorporates a number of these elements is the Cheonggyecheon project in Seoul. Mayor Lee Myung Bak removed a two-tier motorway to reclaim the old river, which meandered across the city centre. The project, which entailed an intensive process of planning, consultation and construction, eventually won the prize for architecture at the Venice Biennale of 2005. It symbolised a greener, more human phase of development for the city, as well as reinforcing Seoul’s role as a centre for creative industries, including software, gaming and music. Landmark projects such as the Angel of the North in Gateshead, the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, Tirana’s move to repaint houses in vivid colours, the Waterfire in Rhode Island, gave people a license to be creative in other fields.

(See Jaime Lerner, Acupuntura Urbana, Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 2003.)