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)

We were promised flying cars…so where are they?

We may not be too far from the stuff of sci-fi fantasies. In this fascinating talk at TEDxKC, designer Jared Ficklin introduces a new type of transportation: high-speed urban cable cars that run on wires above the ground. Modeled after ski lifts, these fast, energy efficient cable cars reduce traffic, save cities money, and help everyone avoid a heinous morning commute. We’d swap New York’s jam-packed subways for these flying pod cars any day. 

Watch his whole talk here.

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)

Walking through clouds: TEDxHamburg speaker creates a walkable cube of clouds 

If you were to have visited the Sunken Garden at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo last year, you would have seen something quite surprising: a transparent cube filled with clouds. This cube is the design of environmental architecture firm Transsolar and Japanese architecture firm Tetsuo Kondo Architects, and is meant to immerse visitors in man-made clouds to show the importance of humanity’s connection to nature. 

The installation, entitled Cloudscapes, allowed visitors to climb a staircase through and beyond a layer of floating clouds. “When you climb [the stairs inside the clouds’ container] to reach the top,” says the designers at ArchDaily, “the museum, 
the surrounding buildings, and the sky stretch out above the clouds. The edges of the clouds are sharp, yet soft, and always in motion. Their color, density and brightness are constantly changing in tune with the weather and time of day.”

At TEDxHamburg, Thomas Auer, one of Transsolar’s environmental engineers, spoke about the firm’s installations, and their connection to his work with green design. From his talk:

[When it comes to climate change], the question is not so much, ‘Are we going to have global warming?’ The question is, ‘What can we do to minimize it?’ … What we do at Transsolar, we call climate engineering, and the idea [behind this] is, ‘How can we bring together the quality of the built environment and [its] energy performance?’

[In 2010] we at Transsolar, we got asked to do an installation at the Architecture Biennale in Venice, and we thought about, ‘What can we do? What can we show at Architecture Biennale?’ So we came up with the idea that we should do a cloud, because we thought a cloud is the only thing where we can make climate engineering visible.

…The question [was], 'How can we do a floating cloud?' … The cloud happens in a layer where we have 100% humidity — it’s what we call saturated air — in which we can spray water and it stays.

Watch Thomas’s whole talk below for more information about man-made clouds, green design, and climate engineering:

(Photos: Tetsuo Kondo Architects, Ken’ichi Suzuki, Yasuhiro Takagi)