A term used by modernists and landscape urbanists, "urban acupuncture" bears some similaries to the new urbanist concept of Tactical Urbanism.
Inspired by theories of avant garde artist and architect Marco Casagrande, the micro-scale interventions targeted by "urban acupuncture" appeal to both citizen-activists and cash-straped communities.
Former three-term mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, Jaime Lerner highly recomends urban acupuncture and has traveled the world as a consultant, starting in 2007, selling the approach. Small installations, such as planters, pop-up cafes, and micro-plazas, are inexpensive and also easier to reverse, compared to conventional mega projects. When planners and designers make small mistakes, they don't risk leaving urban renewal scale scars on communities.
The idea focuses on local resources rather than capital-intensive municipal programs and promotes the idea of citizens installing and caring for interventions. These small changes, proponents claim, will boost community morale and catalyze revitalization.
The weakness of both urban acupuncture and Tactical Urbanism is that they requires good urban bones — a walkable block and a street network, buildings, and a degree of civic infrastructure — to be already in place to make a difference. They look like effective tools for down-at-the-heels cities or walkable neighborhoods in need of a boost, but they won't help sprawling suburban areas, brownfield sites, automobile-oriented roads, and other places in need of major surgury rather than acupuncture.