Urban Acupuncture Greensburg_kansas_tornado
In May 2007, a tornado two miles wide traveling 200 miles an hour destroyed nearly the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, killing 11 people.

After the tornado, the city council passed a resolution stating that all city buildings would be built to LEED – platinum standards, making it the first city in the nation to do so. Greensburg is rebuilding as a “green” town.The city’s power is now supplied by that which destroyed it: ten wind-turbines.

A prime mover in this project is Bob Berkebile, a Kansas City architect who sees Greensburg as part of an emerging practice of “urban acupuncture.”


About a year ago we started a development company that has been focused on this idea. Today’s definition is: it’s a strategic investment of leadership, design and capital, at an important place, at a critical time, to stimulate transformative, positive change.”


We have an urban acupuncture project under construction [in a Kansas City neighborhood] I refer to as the ‘green impact zone,’ and the Kansas City Star calls the ‘killing zip code,’” Berkebile says, because the neighborhood was so dangerous. Roughly half the houses in this slum neighborhood were lost to fire or demolition over the last few decades. The school in the middle of the neighborhood had been empty for fifteen years.

In working with the neighborhood, we concluded with them that the greatest opportunity would be to acquire and repurpose that school, because it had been the center of the community. We wanted to find a new use that would add human capacity to that neighborhood. What we’ve done … is convert that school to housing, a clinic, a computer lab, and a community center.


Working out of this formerly condemned complex, highly at-risk high school students turned a wrecked 1967 Volkswagen into an all-electric car that is powered by social media: tweets, shares, posts and likes. Check out the MindDrive project in the next post for more on that inspired project.

You can see the astute and inspiring Berkebile in action at this weekend’s Omega Institute conference “Where Do We Go From Here?” (choose Sunday a.m from the dropdown).  He illuminates what ‘green’ actually can mean in architecture, and concepts of living buildings, community treasures and community systems. Access to the video will be available until Tuesday, October 8th.

David Saltman

Related posts: House Tour: Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House
forest dwellings made of trees limbs, leaves, brush…whatever is there
many cool ideas from LifeEdited’s small space wonder
architecture of the poor

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *