What is a city? To technologist Dave Troy, a “city is the sum of the relationships of the people that live there.” By mapping the interests of dwellers in some of the world’s most populated cities by looking at what they share online, Troy has generated a new and incredibly detailed way to view a city’s diversity beyond race. This rich data, as Troy believes, provides a real opportunity to design cities that are truly desired.
In one of the eight talks that make up the TED Prize-winning City2.0, MASS Design Group Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Alan Ricks explains how MASS designed and built the Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, in 2008 when ”there wasn’t even a word for ‘architect’” in Kinyarwanda, the national language. Now thanks in part to their work, and the commitment of the many MASS Design Fellows in the area, Rwanda has a more formalized market for architectural services and even a new architecture program at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.
Through anecdotes and testimonials from others involved (including everyone from the hospital gardener to Rwanda’s Minister for Health), Ricks demonstrates that no matter what the context, architecture can and should find opportunities in the local environment that bring not only health benefits but also economic benefits, jobs and even dignity.
In 2012, the TED Prize was awarded to an idea: The City2.0, a place to celebrate actions taken by citizens around the world to make their cities more livable, beautiful and sustainable. Now, on the newly relaunched TED City2.org website, you can find inspiring and informative talks on topics like housing, education and food, and how they relate to city life. Preview a sampling of these city centric talks, featuring eight ideas for the future of cities, here.
Almost everything around us is made automatically: our shoes, our clothes, home appliances and cars – so why not buildings? Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, the Director of the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Southern California, has set out to change that through the development of an automated construction process known as Contour Crafting. “Contour-crafting is basically scaling-up 3D printing to the scale of buildings. What we are hoping to generate is entire neighborhoods that are dignified at a fraction of the cost, at a fraction of the time, built far more safely and with architectural flexibility that would be unprecedented,” Khoshnevis says in this TedxTalk in Ojai, California.
In this TEDxTalk, the follow up to his popular TED Talk, “The Walkable City,” urban planner Jeff Speck delves more deeply into his “General Theory of Walkability.” The theory maintains there are four ground rules for increasing pedestrian traffic in urban areas: walking must be safe, comfortable, interesting, and – most importantly – there must be a reason to walk in the first place. Counterpointing this with America’s fixation with accommodating the automobile, Speck shows us how beneficial a pedestrian city can be, both functionally and aesthetically.
In this TED Talk, Aga Khan Award-winning architect Diébédo Francis Kéré explains how to build a community with clay. With his firm Kéré Architecture, the Burkina Faso native has achieved international renown by using local building materials and techniques to engage and improve local expertise. Watch as explains how he applied his personal success to benefit the small African village he grew up in.
In this TED talk, architect and urbanist Teddy Cruz urges us to rethink urban growth. Sharing lessons from the slums of Tijuana, Cruz denounces the “stupid” and consumption-driven ways in which our cities have been expanding and declares that the future depends on the reorganization of social economic relations.
In his talk at TEDx Vilnius, Koen Olthuis compares the cities of today with those at the turn of the 20th century: ”cities are not full, we just have to search for new space… they made elevators and built a vertical city. We have to do exactly the same, but our generation has to look at water.” With that in mind he looks at the top 10 reasons that floating cities are becoming a more popular idea, including: they provide solutions for topical issues such as flooding and sustainability; they can be used as ‘plug in’ travelling global amenities, useful for things like Olympic Stadiums; or could even allow us to rearrange urban areas.
When it comes to global cities, New York City may be one of the most prominent – but it is also relatively young. Just 400 years ago, Manhattan island was mostly covered in forests and marshes. In his talk at TEDx Long Island City, Eric Sanderson discusses the city’s radical changes in land use over the past four centuries, and begins to contemplate what the next four might look like. How can we take a city like New York and make it as efficient as the forest it replaced? In a bid to uncover the ideas that might make this possible, he introduces Manhatta 2409 – an online tool which maps/compares the historic and current land use of Manhattan and allows users to propose new uses. Learn more in the video above.
Filmed at TEDxToronto in September 2013, this talk by architect, educator and theorist Rodolphe el‐Khoury is based on the inevitable “internet of things.” As TEDxToronto described, “More than ever before, the line between the digital and real worlds is increasingly blurred. Historically, computers and devices have functioned as a separate layer within our lives… In this world, our homes, workplaces, and the objects within them will all be digitally connected, intelligent, and responsive.” It is only a matter of time.
CyArk, a non-for-profit 3D laser scanning organization, is scanning the world’s greatest monuments, hoping to preserve over 500 cultural heritage sites around the globe, The Independent reports. The portable laser system creates such a detailed, digital blueprint of structures and ruins that each building can then be reproduced in 3D, with a margin of error of only two millimeters. So far, the statues of Easter Island, the Tower of London, Mount Rushmore, the Tower of Pisa have been preserved. Check out more about the technology in Ben Kacyra’s TED Talk.
Janette Sadik-Khan demonstrates how paint, lawn chairs and a bit of imagination can quickly transform city streets, creating immediate public and commercial vitality. Sadik-Khan, listed as one of Business Insider’s “50 Women Who Are Changing the World,” is responsible for re-purposing 26 acres of dense New York City car lanes into pedestrian-friendly space. “More people on foot is better for business,” she says. Despite commanding a two billion dollar budget, her economical approach as commissioner of NYC’s Department of Transportation are testaments to her design sensitivity, relying on rapid-testing and regular iteration to expand the city’s public domain.
“The modern architect is designing for the deaf.” Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer makes a valid point.  The topic of sound is practically non-existent in modern architectural discourse. Why? We, as architects, think in terms of form and space; we balance scientific understanding and artistic vision. The problem is, we have a tendency to give ample thought to objects rather than processes and systems. Essentially, our field is ocular-centric by nature. So how do we start to “see” sound? And more importantly, how do we use it to promote health, safety and well-being?
TED has commissioned architect David Rockwell to mastermind a temporary, pop-up theater inside the Vancouver Convention Centre, designed specifically to “create an even more powerful connection between speaker and audience — and to allow the audience itself to immerse themselves more deeply in the talk.”
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Rockwell, who designed the interior of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas and the viewing platform at Ground Zero (on which he gave the TED Talk above), expresses his enthusiasm for the project, saying: “I have spoken [at TED] and have had that experience of: your talk is influenced by how you feel in the room. The environment affects how the talk evolves.”
The theater will house 1200 attendees in tiered seating areas that curve around the stage. The layout will be entirely flexible, allowing audience members to choose from multiple seating/standing options — from leaning on rails to traditional theater seats, sofas, or floor seating.
Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, architect Michael Green says build it out of wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it’s not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it’s necessary.
Read more about Green’s ‘Case for Tall Buildings’ here and share your comments below.
In this talk at TED 2013, WikiHouse co-founder Alastair Parvin elaborates on some of the ideas which he presented in 2012. WikiHouse is his project to create an open-source library of houses which can be downloaded, manufactured with a CNC machine and assembled in a day – an idea which he hopes will democratize the production of housing and the city as a whole – as he puts it, “In a way it should be kind of obvious that in the 21st century maybe cities could be developed by citizens”.
Inspiration 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 TED talks 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…