25 Best Architecture TED Talks

by | Dec 11, 2019

Marc Kushners Ted Talk
Ted talk

In the past years TED talks have been taking the online world by storm. 

It started out in 1984 as an annual conference, devoted to spreading ideas delivered through short, powerful talks. 

It’s main focus was on Technology and Design (TED = Technology, Education, Design) but now the talks cover topics from all kinds of fields.

Including architecture.

With the internet, TED talks gained a lot of popularity fast. 

The videos of max 18 minutes are accessible for free on their website and offer subtitles in over 100 languages.


With more videos being added to the site consistently it can be hard to find the right one to watch.

To fuel inspiration for the next project or just information about the industry, here are 25 of the best TED Talks about Architecture.

This list is arranged in no specific order.

Table of Contents

1. Bjarke Ingles – 3 warp speed architecture tales

Danish star Architect Bjarke Ingles spoke at the TEDGlobal Conference in London back in 2009.

Discussing his ‘eco-flashy’ designs stories behind some of the firms biggest project to that date.

In these 3 architecture tales he talks about the times like when he accidently built the People’s building in China by losing a scandinavian design competition.

He explains how he designed ‘The Mountain’ just opposite his own balcony and how BIG has plans to built the first carbon neutral resort and residential Island in the Caspian sea.

In 18 minutes he shows how architecture and nature can become one again.

2. Joshua Prince Rasmus – Behind the design of Seattle’s library

Joshua Prince Rasmus is one of the founders of the acclaimed architecture firm REX based in New York City.

In this 20 minute talk he discusses 3 of his project he worked on before 2006. 

The Seattle Central Library opened in 2004 has since been voted one of America’s favourite structures.

Another mentioned project is the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre which was completed after the talk in 2009. 

The Museum Plaza in Louisville he talks about in this TED talk has been dropped in 2011 even though it received sufficient funds.

3. Cameron Sinclair – My wish: A call for open-source architecture

Cameron Sinclair is a London born and based Architect who took his career into a new direction by starting the charitable organisation Architecture for Humanity

The group focused on finding solutions to humanitarian crisis through architecture and design.

In this TED talk Cameron talks about his work with the organisation and projects around the world.

Topics included the introduction of mobile health clinics, in Sub-saharan Africa to battle the high rates of HIV/ AIDS with brilliant design ideas.

4. Julien Treasure – Why architects need to use their ears

At a TED conference in Edinburgh Julian Treasure wants architects to start designing with their ears. 

Noise and acoustics are often left out when making design choices for constructions which ends up creating issues when the building is in use.

From children only hearing half the words in a classroom to the sound systems on airplanes, Julian explains the importance of listening in architecture.

5. Liz Diller – A new museum wing…in a giant bubble

Elisabeth ‘Liz’ Diller is one of the 4 partners making up the Diller Scofidio + Renfro design studio which combines architecture with visual and performing Arts.

In this talk she explains one of the firms designs, a bubble for the Hirshhorn Museum.

The project was an answer to the project of adding another exhibition hall to a not so great building.Even though the design never ended up being built, the bubble is an interesting solution to public space.

6. David Bryne – How architecture helped music evolve

The former rock band Talking Heads separated in 1991 after frontman David Bryne left the group.

In 2010 he returned on stage, this time not to sing but for a TED Talk. In 16 minutes he discusses how the structure of a building affects the music played in it.

The tall ceiling church halls compliment gospel singing, while a song played by an orchestra would drown in the echo.

7. Greg Lynn – Organic algorithms in architecture

That architects have to know their numbers isn’t anything new.

But Greg Lynn and his firm are known for using math to build groundbreaking structures that seem to defy the norms of design.

In his talk he explains how organic algorithms are used through an example of the korean presbyterian church in New York.

8. Michael Pawlyn – Using nature’s genius in architecture

Continuing with nature’s patterns in architecture Michael Pawlyn talks about 3 projects which use processes found in nature as inspiration for new developments.

The first project is the Eden Project found in Cornwell, England, which turned a previously dead landscape into a greenhouse and park that sustains itself.

Another is the plans for a restaurant which would create a life cycle in itself, using waste as fuel for new food. 

Lastly is the current project by his firm Exploration Architecture, the Sahara Forest Project, which aims to provide water, food and renewable energy to hot regions by revegetating parts of the desert.

9. Xavier Vilalta – Architecture at home in its community

Xavier Vilalta brings two of his projects as examples on how to use the community as inspiration for designs. The first project was a mall in Ethiopia. 

The client asked for a building that had nothing to do with the culture and didn’t work in the climate, creating more issues than joy to the city.

By working with the traditions and patterns Xavier built a mall that would become part of the community. 

A similar approach created over 4000 new apartments in Tunisia directly inspired by one of the city’s oldest structures. 

Related Article: The Most Amazing 88 Contemporary Architects And Their Work

10. Alejandro Aravena – My architectural philosophy? Bring the community into the process

This TED Talk is all about how to involve the community in the design process of new buildings. Alejandro Aravena lays out the issue of urbanization and the vast increase in city population.

In a project from Chile, the architect solved the issue of insufficient funds for too many people by only building half a house and giving the families the power to expand it into a full house themselves. 

Alejandro shows that with the right design, all that’s needed for sustainability is common sense.

Watch him talk about his other 2 projects here.

11. Marwa Al-Sabouni – How Syria’s architecture laid the foundation for brutal war

Syrian architect Marwa Al Sabouni had to watch her own hometown disappear as a result of the brutal 6 year war.

Over a recorded video, she explains what role the architecture plaid in the countries battle. 

The city’s architecture intertwined communities and offered harmonic living of all classes side by side.

Over the course of decades before the war broke out, the modernization of the city changed the way it was divided and separated social classes created ghettos. 

This split in social and economic groups was what fueled the fights that soon turned into war. 

12. Magnus Larsson – Turning dunes into architecture

At the time of his TED Talk Magnus Larsson was only an architecture student.

Now he opened his collective Ordinary LTD in London and puts his bold plans to work.

Here he proposes his plan to use sand as a material to build a wall or entire cities in the desert. 

Tackling an issue of resources this student’s solution to sandstorms is a type of bacteria.

This bug has the ability to turn sand into a solid structure.

13. Diébédo Francis Kéré – How to build with clay…and community

In 2013 Diebedo Francis Kere tells the audience his story.

He grew up in a small Village in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world.

In his teen years he got his golden ticked by getting to study architecture in Berlin, Germany.

Using his education he returned to his home village Gando and built schools that would give others the chance to learn as well.

Showing 3 projects he has since worked on he introduced clay and the power of community as a way to build without western resources.

14. Michael Green – Why we should build wooden skyscrapers

Michael Green is staying true to his name and introduces a greener solution to the problem of urbanisation and climate change in one.

Using wood as a material for the skyscrapers of the future would not just help the 3 billion people that are going to need new homes in the next 20 years.

It would also cut back on the biggest contribution to CO2 emission in the USA.

The building industry as a carbon emission factor isn’t talked about as much as transportation but actually makes up nearly half of the US yearly CO2 production.

The use of material that is grown by the sun and not a factory could get two issues for one.

15. Jason DeCaires – An underwater art museum, teeming with life

Moving from alternative building materials, artist Jason DeCaires Taylor steps it up one by changing the location of buildings.

He takes his art from ground to the sea.

By creating the world’s first underwater museums he utilizes the force of nature to build unique sculptures that stand on the bottom of the ocean. 

The artists work helps shift the tourists attention from coral reefs to more sustainable displays and gives the wildlife a rest.

With a playground as big as the ocean, the possibilities are almost endless.

16. Theaster Gates – How to revive a neighborhood: With imagination, beauty and art

As a trained potter Theaster Gates traditional career doesn’t have much to do with the architecture world.

While working on pots and art, he couldn’t help but notice the issues that were going on outside his studio in Chicago. 

With help from other industries he showed the people that with imagination and community work any house can be turned into something beautiful.

17. Tony Fadell – The first secret of design is…noticing

Tony Fadell got his breakthrough as the ‘father of the iPod’, and has left his mark on the engineering world.

In his talk he walks us through the steps behind every product. Identifying the problem that’s not visible to everyone. 

Being able to create a design that makes people’s everyday life easier is something architects have to consider too. 

He encourages to not underestimate the power of a young mind and to see the world as a series of challenges instead of saying ‘That’s just how it works’. 

18. Takaharu Tezuka – The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen

Takaharu Tezuka explains how he built the ‘best kindergarten you’ll ever see’ back in 2007.

The round structure provides the children with an open space rather than small classroom and the roof acts as a playground as well.

Working with the natural movement of kids, running in circles and being outside, Tezuka built a structure that allows for the optimal experience for teachers and student.

19.Alex Steffen – The route to a sustainable future

Alex Steffen is an American futurist who uses his platform to raise awareness of the problems our society is going to face if we don’t change the way we live.

Contrary to the worst-case scenario he sees a sustainable future.

The talk focuses on cities and how small changes to infrastructure and lifestyle choices can turn things around for the world. 

A great example of city development is Vancouver which is working on density in the area. 

20. Shigeru Ban – Emergency shelters made from paper

Shigeru Ban is an architect from Japan who praises himself as being the only architect to use paper as a material for his constructions.

He talks the audience through his projects that were aimed to help societies, rather than the rich people in the world.

The refugee camps made by the UN are inhabitable and not a sustainable solution to crisis situations.

By using paper pillars Shigeru built pavilions that are saving lives while also being completely recyclable.

Interesting Article: Modular Design is Changing the World: Architecture is Next

21. Michael Murphy – Architecture that’s built to heal

During his times as an architecture student, Michael Murphy took a break from an all-nighter and went to a lecture by a medical professor.

To his surprise, the doctor talked about architecture and the effect it has on health.

Inspired by the failures of hospital buildings around the world he has made it his mission to build architecture that heals.

Developments in different African countries show that with the right design it is possible to create a space that allows the medicine to do its work. 

22. Marc Kushner – Why the buildings of the future will be shaped by…you

At the 30th anniversary, TED conference American architect Marc Kushner reviewed the last 30 years of architecture styles around the world.

He believes that the age of a new architectural revolution is coming now, with the age of media. 

Through the better connection between architect and clients the buildings of the future are going to be shaped by the people themselves.

Direct feedback means no more constructions that no one actually likes.


23. Iwan Baan – Ingenious homes in unexpected places

Iwan Baan looks at buildings that were created by its inhabitants, rather than by the architects who designed it. An abandoned tower project in Caracas has become a home to over 3000 people.

The families living in the construction ruins have created their own environment and adapting to the structure of the building. 

In his talk, he shows examples from around the world where buildings have been left by the designer and taken over by the people. 

24. Ole Scheeren – Why great architecture should tell a story

German architect Ole Scheeren is known as the ‘Mad Architect’ and wants you to question the rules of buildings.

Typical skyscrapers aren’t part of his portfolio and he explains the stories behind some of his most famous designs.

From a twisted tower in China to the construction of a cinema floating along the coast of Bangkok.

Architecture should be able to tell a story, rather than just stand tall.

25. Frank Gehry – My days as a young rebel

The last mention on the list is a longer one, but nonetheless important.

One of the most influential architects of this century, Frank Gehry, takes the podium and goes on a trip down memory lane. Talking about everything from his early beginnings all the way to current constructions.

Frank explains the stories of the steel designs he’s known for now. 

He talks about his own home in Venice beach that has become a symbol for modern architecture through elements of destructuralism. 

Gehry explains the unlikely source of inspiration he discovered, fish

While we did our best to choose from the big selection, there are definitely talks that are missing from this list. 

If you are looking for more inspiration make sure to check out the TED website.

Which speech caught your attention and deserves to be shared?

Let us know who we’ve missed!

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  1. Jay the blogger

    Thanks for the different Ted talks list within architecture. I’d never seen most of these prior to now.

  2. Anja Abranham

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later.

  3. Len Carr

    I’m not quite sure if it’s relevant but I just wanted to say thanks for the great article, I hadn’t realized there were so many TedTalks related to architecture.

    Appreciate your list more than you know! Most of these I had never even seen previously.


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