Vancouver architecture students built planter-box backdrop for stage used on Day 1 of the conference

Original Source: The Vancouver Sun, March 25, 2014

If the motto for TED, the high-powered technology, entertainment and design conference in Vancouver this week is “ideas worth spreading,” Michael Green has quite literally taken that to a new stage.

When the first speakers began their talks Monday on TED’S so-called community stage, they did so against a five-metre high backdrop that Green, a Vancouver architect, and students from three architecture schools in B.C. built from donated wood into 400 individual stacked planters.

Later this week, the stage will be where the top 50 TED speakers from the past will give a reprise of their talks, including Sir Ken Robinson, the educator whose 2006 speech “How schools kill creativity” has become the top-viewed TED Talk video.

When the conference shuts down on Friday, the planters, each emblazoned with an inspirational message from those speakers, including many from Robinson, will be distributed to schools all over Metro Vancouver.

“We wanted to literally spread these ideas that are worth sharing,” Green said in an interview Monday. “We wanted to share the inspiration of TED with students.”

Green said he asked TED’s organizers if he could build the secondary stage for the “all-stars” and TED Fellows talks as part of a teaching project involving students from University of B.C., Kwantlen Polytechnic University University and the B.C. Institute of Technology. The stage is a cosier version of TED’S main stage at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Green asked 23 students from the three institutions to design and build the planter boxes. They also researched and found appropriate quotes from previous TED speakers that would resonate with students who see the boxes.

“I think this was a surprise for TED. It is a huge difference from the other stages, which don’t really go anywhere,” said Green, who donated about $30,000 to the project.

“To me it was build this and gift it to the community. This was a Vancouver story to give to our kids, with each box telling a story that an idea is worth spreading.”

Interfor, the forest company, donated the wood and the Forest Innovation Council contributed to some of the cost.

Green said the Vancouver school board will get as many of the boxes as they can take, but there will be some available for other school districts. He’s also taking some of the planters over to Ronald McDonald House, one of his architecture firm’s projects.

TED Curator Chris Anderson said his organization was pleased by the simplicity and direct message of Green’s project. He said Green’s talk at TED last year about the potential for wood skyscrapers led him to incorporate B.C.’s wood industry in both the main and secondary stages.

Although the students selected the quotes they wanted printed on to the planter boxes, Green said he had to overrule a few. But he left some provocative ones, too.

“There are a few in there about “question authority”, and I can see students saying “hey teacher, I think you’re wrong,” Green laughed.

TED’s main events got started Monday evening with an opening talk by Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab, followed by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. But Monday was largely a day for the TED Fellows program, featuring four-minute talks by innovators, artists and researchers who are given multi-year support and coaching by the TED organization. They acted as a priming pump for the rest of the week’s talks.

They included Steve Boyes, a conservation biologist documenting Africa’s last-remaining wilderness areas and Kitra Cahana, a former Vancouver photographer’s haunting images of nomadic travellers in the United States. There were a number of talks by Canadian TED Fellows, including University of Toronto engineer and architect Aziza Chaouni on her efforts to revive the once-polluted Fez River running through her birthplace in Morroco, and Shohini Ghose, a theoretical physicist at Wilfrid Laurier University on the “butterfly effect” of quantum physics and the novel imaging of atoms.

Unlike in the past, the proceedings of the weeklong conference aren’t sequestered from public view. Although physical access is restricted to paid attendees, the talks are being broadcast live at more than 25 locations in Metro Vancouver. A list can be found at | | Blog: