The 10 Most Inspirational TED Talks for Architects

Courtesy of Youtube – TEDtalksDirector

is a funny thing: when you need it is nowhere to be seen, and just when you’re not expecting it, it can blindside you in the least convenient of places. Here’s ten inspirational for architects (in no particular order) from people with broad and unique views on architecture. Some might enlighten, educate or even enrage you – at the very least they should get those creative juices flowing a little better.

Take-in these ten TED talks after the break…

1. Thomas Heatherwick: Building the Seed Cathedral

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There’s usually an obvious answer to most problems, and then there’s Thomas Heatherwick’s solution. Heatherwick is an architect who refuses to take the conventional path, instead dreaming up new ways to do things. Here he demonstrates his prowess: showing a folding bridge that curls up and ‘kisses itself’, taking seeds out of small paper packets and constructing a light-filled cathedral for them, or turning apartment buildings upside down and creating a rain-forest between them.

2. Bjarke Ingels: 3 Warp-Speed Architecture Tales

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With buildings, it is usually the finished product which grabs the most attention, however, for Bjarke Ingels the story behind the design is more interesting and useful than whatever the final product happens to be. In this vein, he races through his ’3 warp-speed architectural tales’ detailing how his design process mirrors Darwin’s theories, adapting and improvising, cross-breeding and creating mutant off-spring – like a ‘Cambodian-style ruin’ next to his apartment in Copenhagen. Ingels argues that instead of architects creating buildings that revolt against traditions, they can adapt and use their designs to embrace them.

3. Joshua Prince-Ramus: Seattle’s Library and Other Projects

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How does a graph become a building? Hyper-rationality, that’s how. In the eyes of REX and OMA New York founder Joshua Prince-Ramus, Hyper-rationality means taking cold, hard, rational thinking and taking it to extreme, almost absurd levels, a process which they used in Seattle’s Central LibraryMuseum Plaza in Louisville and the Charles Wyly Theater in Dallas. 

4. Cameron Sinclair: A Call For Open-Source Architecture

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Architecture can tend to be a hierarchy where lead designers develop ideas which gradually trickle down through the ranks. Cameron Sinclair has a different idea. Sinclair is co-founder and CEO (Chief Eternal Optimist) of Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization which wants to tap the world’s supply of socially responsible designers to aid in humanitarian situations. Starting with only a laptop and $700, Sinclair is now working towards creating a globally accessible network of collaborative, open-source design, where thousands of people from thousands of specialities can all contribute, creating fast and free innovation to help the lives of those who really need it.

5. Magnus Larsson: Turning Sand-Dunes Into Architecture

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Desertification is gobbling up agricultural land in Africa at a rate of 600m a year, and while it might not seem like the most sane or practical idea to build a 6,000 km long wall stretching across the continent, Larsson thinks he can do it with nothing more than bacteria and sand. His vision is to create a wall which would be supplied, designed and built mostly by nature itself, creating green spaces and providing a place for people to live.

6. Julian Treasure: Why Architects Need To Use Their Ears 

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Julian Treasure wants to know: ‘Do architects have ears?’ Most of us communicate primarily through sound, which is hugely dependent on our environment, yet architects tend to exclusively fetishize the visible, almost entirely neglecting the other senses. Treasure explains why architects need to find a pair of ears and use them – in some cases it could be a matter of life and death.

7. Liz Diller: A Giant Bubble For Debate 

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The National Mall is possibly the most significant public space in the U.S. The famous stretch has long played host to huge demonstrations of public discourse and dissent. Despite this, the space is hemmed in on either side by a string of stony cold buildings, none so hulking and introverted than the Hirshhorn.  A concrete doughnut,  it has been unflatteringly described as corporate, arrogant, and ‘neo-penitentiary modern’.  Diller Scofidio + Renfro plan on transforming this introverted hulk into a bright open public forum to reflect the spirit of the mall. How do they intend on doing this? An air-bubble. Liz Diller of DS+R explains…

8. Frank Gehry as a Young Rebel

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For many, when they think of Frank Gehry, they think of the typical Starchitect. When this talk was recorded back in 1990,  the Walt Disney Concert Hall was just a series of haphazard models and the Guggenheim Bilbao was just a twinkle in his eye. Modest, witty and surprisingly honest, Gehry wants to prove that he does straight-stuff, logical and relating to what’s going on. A man who views architecture as a pure form of sculpture, he tells surreal stories about smutty-comic books, accidentally winning a competition via a drunk napkin-sketch of a fish, and dressing up as a postmodernist skyscraper.

9. Daniel Libeskind: 17 Words of Architectural Inspiration

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It is fair to say that Daniel Libeskind is one of the most prolific and controversial architects currently practicing. His firm wins some of the globe’s biggest commissions; his style is loved by some and frequently lambasted by critics. Here Libeskind lets us into his unusual world, excitedly racing thorough seventeen words which form the basis of his mantra on architecture. He explains why he has shunned ‘the well mannered box’, instead playing fast and loose with the established rules of architecture, to create something which he sees as emotive, human and heartfelt.

10. David Byrne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve 

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And finally, for a bit of a reprieve from architects talking about architecture, we have a musician talking about architecture. If anyone was ever in doubt about the transformative power of architecture upon all things great and small, here is Talking Head’s front man, David Byrne describing the intermeshed history of architecture and music. 

He travels all the way from Gothic Cathedrals and Wagner-designed music theaters, to 20th century grunge clubs and discotheques, and finally the advent of gargantuan in-car speakers and the mighty mp3 player. Byrne describes how architecture has continually shaped and tweaked the evolution of music.

If there’s any fantastic talks for architects which you think this piece has missed, please share them in the comments below!

Cite: Rackard, Nicky. "The 10 Most Inspirational TED Talks for Architects" 26 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Aug 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=364725>

14 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    Hey you missed James Howard Kunstler’s talk…

    The Tragedy of Suburbia – TED Lecture

    Brilliant alternative viewpoint, but a bit uncomfortable for us architects

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +19

    Libeskind? – If you want to learn how to cut and paste one lousy graphic idea and apply it to any and every project, he’s your man. But if you want to learn about architecture, Libeskind is someone to avoid like the plague.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +7

      Dude, you sound like one of my teachers! Geez!

    • Thumb up Thumb down +5

      well the problem is someone like Bijarke Ingeles seems to be a better and more rational option than Libeskind, but then none one his process-based diagrams really works or even make sense when you really examine them, in that sense he is more dangerous than Libeskind because he is offering something that is not what it seems to be, while on the other hand you know what Libeskind do is what it says it is, whether you like it or not.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      the problem is someone like Bijarke Ingeles seems to be a better and more rational option than Libeskind, but then none one his process-based diagrams really works or even make sense when you really examine them, in that sense he is more dangerous than Libeskind because he is offering something that is not what it seems to be, while on the other hand you know what Libeskind do is what it says it is, whether you like it or not.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Agreed, some very exciting talks… BY architects, but FOR architects? Could afford some more like #10 and perhaps even less about “Architecture” than #10 and more about architecture.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      the one i am most interested in, byrne, is not technically an architect.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    I’d put Skylar Tibbts and his lecture “Can we make things that make themselves?” on the list.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Heatherwick is not an Architect. He hasn’t had the training and he is not registered so I would advise you remove this before ARB find out!!

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    What about Francis Kéré’s ‘How to build with clay… and community’?

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