Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Book Review: Urban Acupuncture

Read more articles by

Author: Jaime Lerner (Island Press, 2014)

Jaime Lerner is a living legend among urbanists. Often mentioned in the same breath is Jane Jacobs and William Whyte, Lerner is an architect, urban planner, and politician who has been at the forefront of urbanism for a half a century. As mayor in the 1970s and 80s, he transformed Curitiba, Brazil into a sustainable and livable city well before these terms were the catchphrases they are today.

In Urban Acupuncture, his first book to be translated into English, Lerner outlines a method for initiating urban change through small, innovative interventions that target a specific challenge.   While the formal planning processes of a city can take time and involve a multitude of actors, issues, and guideline, there are times that a simple focused intervention can have dramatic effects on our communities. Urban acupuncture is an approach to city planning to do just that; it is designed to make things happen.

The concept of urban acupuncture comes from Lerner’s belief that “some of the magic of medicine should be applied to cities.” Just like good medicine is about understanding the human body better, good urban acupuncture is about understanding our city better; and understanding that one city—or one neighbourhood— is not like any other.

In the Forward, another urban luminary, Jan Gehl, notes that there is plenty of good design is cities around the world, but “an exorbitant lack of good programming.”  Many Canadian urbanites would think that he was describing their city.  Indeed, this book will resonate with readers of this blog. From saving old movie theatres to rescuing rivers to urban kindness, the book touches on many themes that our cities are currently tackling.

This isn’t a technical or theoretical book. Rather Urban Acupuncture is a book that enlightens and inspires through eloquent prose explaining common sense solutions.  To this end, Lerner concludes the book with a guide to how each of us express our love for the city and some small steps or ‘pinpricks’ we can take to apply urban acupuncture ourselves.


For more information, visit the Island Press website.


Yuri Artibise is a public policy analyst and social media specialist. Through his Yurbanism brand, he explores the ‘Y’ of urbanism by sharing ways to make our cities more livable, community-oriented places one block at a time. He currently works with PlaceSpeak, an online location-based community consultation platform.


One comment