Innovation: Enquire Without – Eco Acupuncture: Urban Interventions

By Tullia Jack, University of Melbourne

Change is a deeply internal process, a process that takes root inside an institution long before any external signs manifest.   Florence is in this position, with a celebrated history as a hub of innovation, in recent time she has been thrilling to break with her traditional perceptions, and to be seen once again as the thought leader she is.

Yet how can she realise change, with her famously successful history?  Florence’s antagonists discount her future, criticising her as gazing into a narcissistic mirror of renaissance, so besotted she ignores newness, withering into nothing more than a fossilised museum.

Her inhabitants tacitly know that Florence’s strength lies in her ability to adapt and innovate.  They strive to breath newness into her stony lips, and resuscitate her vibrant and dynamic personality.

Sometimes for change to manifest, a fresh set of eyes can help to reveal the obvious taken-for-granted elements that inhibit a cities’ ability to move forward. That is a challenge that thirty Australian, Dutch and Italian emerging architects, designers and planners have been invited to address in the coming weeks, by the city of Florence.  The students converge here from The University of Melbourne, New York University and TU Delft University, to participate in the Eco Acupuncture studio.

Acting as ethnographers, the Eco Acupuncture students have immersed themselves into a three-day intensive program, exploring Florence through expert locals across geography, art, politics, history, sociology and architecture to find a deep appreciation for the essence of Florence.  They have walked, ridden, trammed and biked inside, outside, around, under, over and through Florence. And they have witnessed that Florence has never ceased changing, and is now gathering momentum.  The challenge is tapping into existing change and steering that change towards a future that embraces environmental, social and financial sustainability.

To accomplish this these provocateur students balance a fine line between blind-insider and insensitive-outsider.  They seek the truth of Florence to construct locally relevant solutions that embraces diversity, and resonates with the historical trajectory of Florence. Resisting the temptation to parachute in and apply a testosterone driven solution, these students are first seeking an empathetic appreciation for the existent local rhythm. Instead of dictation answers, these students aim to change the thinking of the city.

Fresh eyes, the curious and sympathetic contrast between cultures, can make apparent otherwise invisible blocking aspects of institutions that no-longer make sense. Moments of contrast reveal surprising and relevant insights. The smallest interventions affect deeply resonant and profound change. The Eco Acupuncture students offer these qualities: it will be exciting to see their ideas unfurl over the coming weeks in Florence.

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