Architect Michael Pawlyn is one of the designers behind the Eden Project, a cluster of biodomes built in a 160-year-old clay quarry in Cornwall, England. Together, these biodomes house thousands of plant species from all over the world.

In a talk at TEDxLondonCity2.0, Pawlyn shows how he builds structures that mimic nature — from bird skulls to beetle wings, from slime mold to termite mounds.

For the Eden Project, Pawlyn’s team studied the structure of honeycomb. dragonfly wings, and bubbles.

Watch the whole talk here»

(Photos via Inhabitat)

Photos by architect Iwan Baan, whose talk at TEDCity2.0 this year celebrated ingenious homes in unexpected places.

1. Caracas, Venezuela: the Torre David, a 45-story unfinished office tower that was in the midst of construction until the developer died in 1993, followed by the crash of the Venezuelan economy the following year. About eight years ago, people started moving into the abandoned construction site, and today it is considered the world’s largest vertical slum.

2.  Caracas, Venezuela: With no lifts or escalators, the tower is essentially a forty-five-story walk up. You’ll find seniors or those less physically-abled on the lower floors, and the young and healthy near the top. Public spaces like this stairwell are painted with care in order to make the tower feel more like an apartment building.

3. Lagos, Nigeria: In the center of the city is Makoko – a community of approximately 150,000 who live and work on stilted structures, just meters above the Lagos Lagoon.

4. Lagos, Nigeria: From the barbershop to the movie theatre, every aspect of life in Makoko has been adapted to meet the demands of life on the water.

5. Caracas, Venezuela:Like a beehive, the tower provides a skeleton framework for each inhabitant to create something for himself or herself by whatever means they can afford

Below, Iwan’s talk in full:

This post comes from our friends at TED — we loved these photos so much that we just couldn’t help sharing!

TEDx Editors’ Picks: 10 great talks to fill the void left by Breaking Bad

imageHave you ever wondered who the people behind this blog are? Well, besides being extremely attractive, snazzy dressers, and, collectively, the viewers of over 10,000 TEDx Talks, we are very generous. So generous, even, that we’d like to share some of our favorite talks with you. So, without further ado, 10 of our personal favorites:

Hailey writes stuff for the Internet. She prefers sweet potatoes.

Our shared condition - consciousness: John Searle @ TEDxCERN

John Searle is a BAMF. Can I say that? Well, I did. I love John Searle. He is the incredibly smart, sorta cantankerous grandfather I always wished I had — you know, the one who debates semantics at the dinner table? That one. At TEDxCERN, he argued that consciousness is as biological as photosynthesis, and challenged age-old ways of explaining it. I’m still not completely sure of my take on this talk, but that’s why I like it: It jump-starts further thought.

The right to understand: Sandra Fisher-Martins @ TEDxO’Porto

How many times have you read a legal document and thought, “Sorry, what?” In this talk, the witty and sharp Sandra Fisher-Martins makes the case for crafting readable documents, because it’s every person’s right to access vital information, but a privilege to have learned terms like “tempestive payment.” Her use of the heart-achingly accurate term “information apartheid” choked me up, made me angry, and reminded me why I so love Strunk & White.


Nadia edits stuff on the Internet. She’s a fan of the oxford comma.

The power of vulnerability: Brene Brown @ TEDxHouston

I’m a sucker for great psych talks. Brene Brown’s is one of my all-time favorites — it’s funny, poignant, and smart. I have a touch of her totally neurotic need to organize and explain things, so I love this reminder to embrace the messy and unknown.

Confessions of a depressed comic: Kevin Breel @ TEDxAmbleside

This next talk — inspirational psych talk #2! — is one of my favorites because Kevin so beautifully articulates his own struggle and the problems with our attitude toward mental health. It’s thought-provoking and heartbreaking and generally really wonderful.

David is the grandmaster of TEDx Talk screening. He is the owner of a sweater.

The three sides of corruption: Afra Raymond @ TEDxPortofSpain

My favorite talks are the ones that make me forget what I’m supposed to be doing (that is, assessing the talk) before making me go “heh.” Afra Raymond had that effect on me. He cares so much about what he’s talking about and understands it so deeply, but his anger feels so fresh and obliquely spun. He lives and works half a world away from me, but there’s nothing alien about the corruption he’s talking about.

Let the governed build the government: Étienne Chouard @ TEDxRepubliqueSquare

Étienne Chouard is another of my favorites. I love how shoddy the video quality is. Everything about this makes you feel like you’re in some comfortably anarchic 19th-century coffeehouse deliberating over utopian visions for a better world — at a time before utopian visions went so out of vogue. I can’t say I’m 100% behind the specific ideas in the talk, but he, at the very least, forces us to rethink once hallowed views of representation.

Hamish is a tireless talk screener. He is easily overheated.

Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals: David Anderson @ TEDxCaltech

Caltech scientists in a lab feeding cocaine to fruit flies. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when that was happening, or when they were asking the DEA to let them handle narcotics. I love this talk because it gives a lucid explanation of a complex branch of neuroscience, and the research is leading to much more precise medical treatments for human psychiatric disorders.

•Emergency shelters made from paper: Shigeru Ban @ TEDxTokyo

Shigeru Ban designs houses built out of cardboard tubes. They’re intended as temporary disaster relief shelters, but the aesthetic beauty and functionality of his designs make them well-loved by people as far apart as New Zealand and Haiti. His quirkiness is both amusing and refreshing.


Asia screens TEDx Talks in foreign languages. She speaks many of them.

•More heroes: Brandon Spars @ TEDxSonomaCounty

This is one of the funniest talks I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It has everything: drama, suspense, travel, adventure, and a wicked twist at the end. Perhaps not a talk for the faint of heart, but well worth the effort. (WARNING: SATIRE AHEAD. TAKE ALL WORDS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. ALSO, WE BELIEVE IN EATING BABIES.)

The dance of the dung beetle: Marcus Byrne @ TEDxWitsUniversity

This is one of the first TEDx talks I ever watched, and it set the bar really high. At TEDxWitsUniversity, Professor Marcus Byrne weaves humor, scientific research, and genuine excitement into a talk about dung beetles — dung beetles!! I learned something, and I imagine you will too.

Building floating neighborhoods in Boston: Brian Healy at TEDxBoston

Above, renderings of Floatyard, a proposed floating housing complex in the Boston Harbor

After Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on communities on the United States’ East Coast, many concerns about the longevity and durability of coastline architecture came to rise. Fear of future extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and changing geography have made architects like TEDxBoston speaker Brian Healy re-think how they are looking at building near water.

At TEDxBoston, Healy spoke about his vision for creating a floating, residential neighborhood in the Boston Harbor, a plan he calls Floatyard.

Floatyard is imagined as a floating housing complex comprised of “three stories of living units [arranged] along the four sides of a central courtyard,” reports the Boston Globe. Units would come in different shapes and sizes, with the courtyard providing a communal space for residents, including a garden, playground, and meeting space. Shops and recreation would take up some of the first floor, while the roof plays host to gardens and solar panels. Additional energy for the complex would be harvested from the movement of the building in the surrounding tides.

In his talk at
TEDxBoston, Healy explains the Floatyard project and provides context for his plans. From his talk:

Water is essential to us: to our bodies, to the planet, to everything. And we naturally gravitate and want to live [by water]. But [Hurricane] Sandy reminded us of the challenges of living or investing along the coastline…We’re reminded by the predictions of the rising sea and the potential flooding [of coastal cities] that we need to re-think how we inhabit the coast…

What if [a building] floats?…We found technology in Europe, particularly in Holland and Germany: lightweight, concrete floating tubes that we could utilize…We got excited about the idea of thinking about new buildings being floated — shipped — up and down the coast…

For more on Floatyard and designing future cities, watch Healy’s entire talk below:

(Photos: Perkins + Will Architecture)