For more than 3 decades now, the annual TED Conference and its many affiliated events have served as an important platform for, as their tagline puts it, "ideas worth spreading," and has inspired countless people through its fast paced thought-provoking presentations. Founded in 1984 by architect and graphic designer Richard Saul Wurman, there have been many architecture presentations throughout the conferences—but there are even more inspirational talks which aren't necessarily about architecture. Here we've compiled 21 of the best TED Talks in recent years which, while not strictly about architecture, will certainly appeal to the architectural mindset. Covering a variety of topics such as creativity, art, productivity, technological advancements, and the science of cities and the natural environment, these videos will inspire you to become a better architect.
Which non-architectural TED talks have inspired you? Don't forget to share further recommendations in the comments below!
In 2014, Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni won the Syria category of the UN Habitat Mass Housing Competition for a housing scheme she developed for the city of Homs, her hometown. Now over two years later, Thames and Hudson has published her bookBattle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria. Throughout all of these events, al-Sabouni has remained in Syria. As the Guardian puts it: “As bombs fell around her, Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni stayed in Homs throughout the civil war, making plans to build hope from carnage.”
In this TEDSummit video, Al-Sabouni argues “that while architecture is not the axis around which all of human life rotates... it has the power to... direct human activity” She believes that the Old Islamic cities of Syria were once harmonious urban entities which advocated for co-habitation and tolerance through their intertwining. However, she posits that over the last century, beginning with French colonization, the Ancient towns were seen as un-modern and were gradually “improved” with elements of modernity: “brutal unfinished concrete blocks, aesthetic devastation and divisive communities that zoned communities by class, creed, or affluence.” This urban condition, she argues, is what created the conditions for the uprising-turned-civil war.
Dallas Architecture Forum, a non-profit organization for everyone interested in learning about and improving the architecture, design, landscape and urban fabric of the North Texas region is pleased to continue its 2015-16 Lecture Season with award-winning architect Marc Fornes. He is the founder of THEVERYMANY™, a New York-based studio engaging Art and Architecture through systematic research and development into applied Computer Science and Digital Fabrication. Fornes creates complex, curvilinear self-supported structures located in France, Canada and the United States. His work is in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France and in many private collections. He has created private residences and Pop-Up stores for such well-known designers as Louis Vuitton and Irene Neuwirth.
The advancement of contemporary technology is changing the way we study the world around us. The way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed, along with the tools we use to envision and impact their physical form.
These new technologies allow us to understand the built environment differently. The city is no longer a static collection of built objects, but can instead be understood as a series of social, environmental, and informational networks. Can we this new knowledge to positively impact the city of the future? Can these technologies allow us to rectify the mistakes of the past? What new possibilities exist within their creative use?
Could you be one of TED's first Residents? TED is offering a new space in their New York SoHo headquarters for a brand-new program: TED Residency. Searching for creative individuals who believe their work deserves more exposure and can benefit from interdisciplinary interactions, the TED team will give each resident a chance to develop their idea for four months with the support of their team. If chosen, you will be provided an office space, technical assistance, and an opportunity to present your idea in the TED theater.
Submissions are due February 24. This year's residency program will run from April 1 to July 31. Apply here!
In his TED Talk filmed at TEDGlobal London in September 2015, Ole Scheeren eschews what he describes as the “detrimental straightjacket” of the modernist mantra “form follows function” in favor a phrase he attributes to Bernard Tschumi, “form follows fiction.” While Tschumi was referencing how cultural artifacts, such as literature, impact architecture, Scheeren reinterprets the phrase, imagining the stories of building users in order to inform the design process. Scheeren recounts, for example, how the daily activities of CCTV employees, the lifestyles of residents of a Singapore housing block, or the traditional tools of Thai fishermen have informed his various designs for OMA and Büro Ole Scheeren.
Of course, this “fiction” that Scheeren describes, these stories, are not really fictions at all, but the real experiences of the people who live or work in his buildings. In that sense, the fiction that drives his forms is really just another type of function, albeit a more human approach to function. Nevertheless, for Scheeren the stories of these designs goes beyond just the users, also encompassing the stories of the hundreds of people it takes to make such buildings a reality, and even how architecture can become a character in the narratives of our own lives.
“As an architect you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown. The green agenda is probably the most important agenda and issue of the day […] all the projects which have, in some way, been inspired by that agenda are about a celebratory lifestyle, in a way celebrating the places and spaces which determine the quality of life.”
“As a designer, we create architectural spaces which are de facto instruments—they contain sound, they manipulate it, they can even create sound—so we’re tasked with a very powerful tool for affecting human cognition.”
"When you put many children in a quiet box, some of them get really nervous," says Japanese architect Takaharu Tezuka, founder of Tezuka Architects. "In this kindergarten, there is no reason for them to get nervous. There is no boundary." Speaking at TEDxKyoto on his design for an open-air kindergarten in Tokyo, Tezuka discusses his playful and unorthodox approach to the creation of the eccentric building. The unconventional space blurs interior with exterior while accommodating a varied program of athletic, educational and relaxed space. According to Tezuka, the concept was based on a progressive philosophy employed by the school administration: "The principal says: if the boy doesn't want to stay in the room, let him go. He will come back eventually." On children, Tezuka's own philosophy is one of empowerment: "Don't control them. Don't protect them too much. They need to tumble sometimes. They need to get injured. That makes them learn how live in this world."
Architect and designer Neri Oxman, head of the Mediated Matter research group at MIT and developer of the “Material Ecology” approach, has given a TED Talk on design as the intersection of technology and biology. Oxman begins her talk by introducing the juxtaposition of left- and right-brain thinking in the design world, noting that her work seeks to marry the two by making design less about assembly of parts, and more about growth. Learn more about Oxman’s distinct work and views by watching the video above.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about bamboo - besides being an entirely natural, sustainable material with the tensile strength of steel that can grow up to 900 millimeters (3 feet) in just 24 hours - is that it's not more widely recognized as a fantastic construction material. Like many traditional building materials, bamboo no longer has the architectural currency that it once did across Asia and the pacific, but the efforts of Elora Hardy may help put it back into the vernacular. Heading up Ibuku, a design firm that uses bamboo almost exclusively, Hardy's recent TED Talk is an excellent run through of bamboo's graces and virtues in construction, showing off sinuous private homes and handbuilt school buildings.
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.
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.