Importance of Natural Resources

Buildings that blend nature and city | Jeanne Gang

Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Camille Martínez I’m a relationship builder. When you think of a relationship builder, don’t you just automatically
think “architect?” Probably not. That’s because most people think
architects design buildings and cities, but what we really design
are relationships, because cities are about people. They’re places where people come together
for all kinds of exchange. And besides, skylines
are highly specific urban habitats with their own insects,
plants and animals, and even their own weather. But today, urban habitats
are out of balance. Climate change, together with political
and economic troubles, are having an impact; they’re adding up
and stressing out cities and us, the people who live in them. For me, the field of ecology
has provided important insight, because ecologists don’t just look
at individual species on their own, they look at the relationships
between living things and their environment. They look at how all the diverse parts
of the ecosystem are interconnected, and it’s actually this balance,
this web of life, that sustains life. My team and I have been applying
insights from ecology to architecture to see how physical space
can help build stronger relationships. The projects I’m going to show you today use the idea of building relationships
as the key driver for design. Here’s an example of what I mean. Recently, we were asked to design
a center for social justice leadership called the Arcus Center. They asked us for a building
that could break down traditional barriers between different groups and in doing so, create possibilities
for meaningful conversations around social justice. The students wanted a place
for cultural exchange. They thought a place for preparing
food together could do that. And they wanted to be welcoming
to the outside community. They thought a fireplace
could draw people in and help start conversations. And everybody wanted the work
of social justice to be visible to the outside world. There really wasn’t a precedent
for this kind of space, so we looked around the globe
and found examples of community meeting houses. Community meeting houses are places where there’s very specific
relationships between people, like this one in Mali,
where the elders gather. The low roof keeps everybody seated
and at equal eye level. It’s very egalitarian. I mean, you can’t stand up
and take over the meeting. You’d actually bump your head. (Laughter) In meeting houses,
there’s always a central space where you can sit around a circle
and see each other. So we designed a space just like that right in the middle of the Arcus Center, and we anchored it
with a fireplace and a kitchen. It’s pretty hard to get a kitchen
and a fireplace in a building like this with the building codes, but it was so important
to the concept, we got it done. And now the central space
works for big social gatherings and a place to meet one-on-one
for the very first time. It’s almost like
this three-way intersection that encourages bumping into people
and starting a conversation. Now you can always pass the kitchen
and see something going on. You can sit by the fireplace
and share stories. You can study together
in big groups or in small ones, because the architecture
sets up these opportunities. Even the construction
is about building relationships. It’s made of cordwood masonry, which is using logs
the way you would use bricks. It’s super low-tech and easy to do
and anyone can do it — and that’s the entire point. The act of making is a social activity. And it’s good for the planet, too: the trees absorbed carbon
when they were growing up, and they gave off oxygen, and now that carbon
is trapped inside the walls and it’s not being released
into the atmosphere. So making the walls is equivalent
to taking cars right off the road. We chose the building method because it connects people
to each other and to the environment. But is it working? Is it creating relationships
and nurturing them? How can we know? Well, more and more people
are coming here, for one, and as a result of the fireside chats and a full calendar of programming, people are applying
for the Arcus Fellowships. In fact, applications have increased
tenfold for the Arcus Fellowship since the building opened. It’s working. It’s bringing
people together. So I’ve shown how architecture
can connect people on this kind of horizontal campus scale. But we wondered if social relationships
could be scaled up — or rather, upward — in tall buildings. Tall buildings don’t necessarily lend
themselves to being social buildings. They can seem isolating and inward. You might only see people
in those awkward elevator rides. But in several major cities,
I’ve been designing tall buildings that are based on creating
relationships between people. This is Aqua. It’s a residential high-rise in Chicago aimed at young urban professionals
and empty nesters, many of them new to the city. With over 700 apartments, we wanted to see
if we could use architecture to help people get to know
their neighbors, even when their homes are organized
in the vertical dimension. So we invented a way to use balconies
as the new social connectors. The shapes of the floor slabs
vary slightly and they transition as you go up the tower. The result of this
is that you can actually see people from your balcony. The balconies are misregistered. You can lean over your balcony
and say, “Hey!” just like you would across the backyard. To make the balconies more comfortable for a longer period of time
during the year, we studied the wind
with digital simulations, so the effect of the balcony shapes
breaks up the wind and confuses the wind and makes the balconies
more comfortable and less windy. Now, just by being able
to go outside on your balcony or on the third floor roof terrace, you can be connected to the outdoors, even when you’re way above
the ground plane. So the building acts to create community within the building and the city
at the same time. It’s working. And people are starting to meet each other
on the building surface and we’ve heard — (Laughter) they’ve even starting getting
together as couples. But besides romantic relationships, the building has a positive social effect on the community, as evidenced by people
starting groups together and starting big projects together, like this organic community garden
on the building’s roof terrace. So I’ve shown how tall buildings
can be social connectors, but what about public architecture? How can we create better
social cohesion in public buildings and civic spaces, and why is it important? Public architecture
is just not as successful if it comes from the top down. About 15 years ago in Chicago, they started to replace
old police stations, and they built this identical model
all over the city. And even though they had good intentions of treating all neighborhoods equally, the communities didn’t feel
invested in the process or feel a sense of ownership
of these buildings. It was equality in the sense that
everybody gets the same police station, but it wasn’t equity
in the sense of responding to each community’s individual needs. And equity is the key issue here. You know, in my field, there’s a debate about whether architecture
can even do anything to improve social relationships. But I believe that we need architecture
and every tool in our tool kit to improve these relationships. In the US, policy reforms
have been recommended in order to rebuild trust. But my team and I wondered if design and a more inclusive
design process could help add something positive
to this policy conversation. We asked ourselves simply: Can design help rebuild trust? So we reached out to community members
and police officers in North Lawndale; it’s a neighborhood in Chicago where the police station
is perceived as a scary fortress surrounded by a parking lot. In North Lawndale,
people are afraid of police and of going anywhere
near the police station, even to report a crime. So we organized this brainstorming session with both groups participating, and we came up with this whole
new idea for the police station. It’s called “Polis Station.” “Polis” is a Greek word that means
a place with a sense of community. It’s based on the idea that if you can increase opportunities
for positive social interactions between police and community members, you can rebuild that relationship and activate the neighborhood
at the same time. Instead of the police station
as a scary fortress, you get highly active spaces
on the public side of the station — places that spark conversation, like a barbershop, a coffee shop or sports courts as well. Both cops and kids said they love sports. These insights came directly
from the community members and the police officers themselves, and as designers, our role
was just to connect the dots and suggest the first step. So with the help
of the city and the parks, we were able to raise funds
and design and build a half-court, right on the police station parking lot. It’s a start. But is it rebuilding trust? The people in North Lawndale say
the kids are using the courts every day and they even organize tournaments
like this one shown here, and once in a while an officer joins in. But now, they even have basketballs
inside the station that kids can borrow. And recently they’ve asked us
to expand the courts and build a park on the site. And parents report something astonishing. Before, there was fear of going
anywhere the station, and now they say there’s a sense that the court is safer
than other courts nearby, and they prefer their kids to play here. So maybe in the future, on the public side of the station, you might be able to drop in
for a haircut at the barbershop or reserve the community room
for a birthday party or renew your driver’s license or get money out of an ATM. It can be a place for neighbors
to meet each other and to get to know
the officers, and vice versa. This is not a utopian fantasy. It’s about how do you design
to rebuild trust, trusting relationships? You know, every city has parks,
libraries, schools and other public buildings that have the potential
to be reimagined as social connectors. But reimagining the buildings
for the future is going to require engaging the people who live there. Engaging the public can be intimidating,
and I’ve felt that, too. But maybe that’s because
in architecture school, we don’t really learn how to engage
the public in the act of design. We’re taught to defend
our design against criticism. But I think that can change, too. So if we can focus the design mind on creating positive,
reinforcing relationships in architecture and through architecture, I believe we can do much more
than create individual buildings. We can reduce the stress
and the polarization in our urban habitats. We can create relationships. We can help steady
this planet we all share. See? Architects really are
relationship builders. (Laughter) Thank you very much. (Applause)

Reader Comments

  1. And what about those who are anti-social? Those that want to get in and get out of a public place with minimal interaction? Those that want utmost home privacy and a balcony to enjoy without disturbance? People like that exist that are perfectly happy humans – it'd be wrong to say they "need" social interaction. I like this idea and could see it implemented in a few cities, but wouldn't expect its reach to be far.

  2. So, she and her team went green by putting wood in the walls–and then put a FIREPLACE in there? Wood smoke–if that's what it burns–is quite toxic, to say nothing of the CO2 release. I hope that chimney is insanely well-filtered, or they're undoing all that work.

  3. Well, nicely done. the concept is fine, but this architecture is a hundred years old. The balconies that break the wind current? Come on, really? I am an architect myself, and if the client wants a hospital, I design one, I do not "create the unique environment where people can get healed."

  4. Since when does making wood buildings equal being green? By cutting down those trees you INCREASED the amount of carbon in the air by REDUCING the number of trees. When has deforestation ever been a good thing?

  5. Yea the words social justice warriors turn my nose, but the second part of the video surprised me with some tears in my eyes. Lets not allow some contamined words distract us from the moltitude of one's possibilities. The idea of police being part of the people again in that block really lifted me, so beautiful.

  6. omg theese days, the second you say social justice warrior everyone gets triggered. I understand they are loaded words, but remember they are loaded with the will of the whiners and butthurt, but they represent also who really is trying hard and does good. So pls dont get hung up on it, try to look at what the context is, please.

  7. This is great but what does it have to do with blending nature and architecture? Yeah, wood is a building material, so what?

  8. This is god's work. Beautiful. keep it up. I totally see the benefit of these spaces. This brilliant mind made me tear up.

  9. no… you design buildings that make engineers shake their head… Im going to make a video.. "Engineers dont engineer they build dreams and imaginary spaces…" lol

  10. These how smart our architects nowadays i think they just tired of doing the same design over and over again or replicating others idea replace a couple of materials and colors so that they can tell to everyone that it was their job. But here its made by pure authentic creative design where you can see nature was included in every buildings and meeting houses we hope to see eventually a house or building that looks like a giant tree but inside of that tree you can see as do everything you want at the same time the three is growing too..

  11. Why is everyone upset about the social justice part of the video? That just happened to be the group that commissioned the building and the speaker was talking about buildings that create meeting places. It's not like the woman was advocating anything the social justice people stood for.

  12. I did poo poo some of what she said, but generally speaking I do appreciate and believe in this kind of thing. I hope she continues the good work.

  13. Banning discussions if public opinion doesn't fit your narrative isn't just censoreship, it's indoctrination. not going to support that kind of agenda

  14. The timber wall seems like a pretty cool idea, but has the embodied energy and carbon pollution created whilst making and transporting the cement etc been considered?

  15. Ive experienced this in my neighborhood. the police station here is surrounded by a community center and a park. lots of people like how police and citizens can come together. the police around here dont seem to just show up when there is trouble. they show up when there is social events, local parties and even festivals. yes they are there to supervise but also to be part of the community. after all they are humans too. i like this concept but it needs work. police also need to be protected. 2016 shows proof of that. the last thing we need is our local law enforcement to look vulnerable and weak.

  16. I'm going to comment on this video in response to the other video Ted has uploaded. I find it a bit hypocritical that Ted is all about "spreading ideas" and "sparking conversation", yet on their last video titled "Our story of rape and reconciliation | Thordis Elva" they disabled the comments and like/dislike ratings. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm referring to the video with the "rape victim" and "rapist" telling their story of how this "rape" occured and how the "victim" forgave him smh. TED you used to have a great channel with great content but now you're slowly but surely turning into another trashy SJW channel smh. Like this comment so that it reaches the top comments. Ted needs to see this 😠.

  17. almost watched the previous video ("our story of rape and reconciliation") but then saw comments were disabled.
    again: thanks for using that to mark some of your videos which arent worth watching, it helps keep me from wasting 20 minutes on a moving picture worth 0 words

  18. Please make sure this doesn't mean sacrificing my privacy. I don't see this design doing that in any way though.

  19. Great examples for how urban architecture does shape society.

    That building where the neighbors can see onto your balcony might be a bit too much, because people want privacy, when they chill on the balcony in their bikini, when it's warm and sunny.

  20. I don't know about you but i wouldn't start a conversation with someone on the next balcony randomly, it'll be real awkward. When have you or has that happened to you before? Just because it enables opportunities doesn't mean it can actually incite quality conversations. If anything it promotes awkwardness and lack of privacy

  21. Amazing talk !!! Her idea and thought are such an impressive involution 😀 ! Her ideal city convince me totally 😀

  22. cities are destroying humanity. theyre risky, theyre breaking down society, and create vulnerability to supply chains.

  23. All honestly I thought the idea of having basketball courts outside of the Police station is great but she took it one step to far when she tried to make a mall inside a police station 😀

  24. 3:58 I kind of lost her as to how building with wood is better for the environment. Is she implying it would otherwise be burned?

  25. Besides the unavoidable stupid premises in a SJW building (you might not even look up the problems explained by a conservative like Ben Shapiro and just go for old school lefties like Jordan B. Petersen and Camille Paglia) the building itself has some potential as a community gathering if strip off the SJW bs and actually create a welcoming environment for EVERYONE. FYI this "is like getting cars of roads" talk is bs also, building with wood is great, but not only it used a lot of concrete (not very environmentally cool as they want to be) but that wood must have come from far away and must have been treated, so you carbon footprint there isn't positive at all, but these ideologues can't do math and sciences in general, at least not properly. The tall building, still is a tall artificial structure, with non-squared terraces or whatever, that's it, not very innovative and the building relationships thing is bs, probably anecdotal evidence and I bet it takes a few condo adm meetings to break things up. Just a stupid tall glass block! The Police station, on the other hand, actually has a great premise, since is factually proved that it's beneficial to get cops and the community close together. I just don't think the shopping mall kinda feel to it is viable on the long run, but the community center with sports and other stuff for adults and specially kids is great. Honest people shouldn't be afraid to be around cops, they usually don't need to, but bad history and badly told history(mostly) keeps people apart!

  26. OK, she's proven that architects can be relationship builders… if they try really, really hard. I don't think we can generalize to all architects though. Modern cities are relationship killers. The City of Chicago built a dozen intimidating, alienating police stations before they built exactly one experimental relationship-building station at North Lawndale. That is the way modern cities are built. Multiply the mistakes, celebrate the few successes that manage to break out of the mold of mediocrity and call it done. What do we end up with? A few increasingly small islands of relationship-builders in a vast sea of relationship-killers. Now if she had told us that the City of Chicago had given her firm a contract to build a dozen more police stations following the same process as North Lawndale, and maybe even replacing some of the newly-built alienating ones, that would be impressive. That would demonstrate that the City of Chicago was committed to building more than just an occasional island of excellence in a vast sea of mediocrity, and indeed, they were committed to consistently replacing bad architecture with good architecture and rectifying the most egregious mistakes in the landscape.

  27. Vertical buildings should definitely be helix in design with bacterial concrete carbonate that does not age like natural concrete.

  28. Tropical Vertical buildings should have xeriscape succulent gardens with cosmopolitan succulents, parmelia sulcata lichens, and non biting pollinators to care for the plants.

  29. I have been motivated and inspired by this kind of speech, as an arquitecture student. TED's speeches are owe
    some. thank you guys

  30. i get where she is coming from completely and agree with like everything said apart from the fact the apartment she made called aqua or whatever it was called with all the balconies making it easy to socialise, its a great idea, but people DO want to be alone at times, we should aim for buildings that encourage social interaction and help build relationships but sometimes people do want their privacy. to combat that id make it so that there are certain sections in the balcony where no one else can see you from any angle and other places on the balcony where you can see everyone and they can see you, that way not only would you get your privacy, but people would know its ok to talk to someone if they're on the part of their balcony that lets them socialise easier, making conversations less awkward.

  31. I only just now realized she is also the architect of the Vista Tower being built in Chicago. I have been in awe over the plans for the building. I'm a huge fan of architecture and first heard about this lady on an architecture tour in Chicago for a special birthday. Such an inspiring person to me!

  32. what a bs about balcony. just like bs architects tell themselves that elevator waiting space is social mixer.
    how intrusive it would feel for someone to stare at you from below or above.

    and an ugly tower nonetheless, justified by a bogus function

    Its awesome but i will never step outside onto the balcony unless i was on the lower floors

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