The root of it all - Smart design with the help of Mother Nature

Do you ever feel like new technology is…taking things a little too far? Like someone should hit the pause button before reality becomes a little too dystopian for comfort?

A few of our previous speakers from the TEDxTUM stage not only understand—but also use nature’s help to turn back time and do things differently for the health of our future.

As we press onward, it may not be such a bad idea to look backward, either. As our speakers have highlighted, innovation gains tremendous strength when Mother Nature is on its side. 

Here’s to planting a better future.

Sandra Decius: Towards greener cities — one walking tree at a time

Think of an average city street. It could be any city—with a bustling population and a clutter of cars at rest, sidewalks that are just a touch too narrow and garbage or construction debris or haphazardly-parked rental scooters strewn across the walkways. Got the image in your head? Okay, now clear all that off the street and line the sidewalk with trees instead. 

How do you feel? Lighter? Less anxious? Happier? Sandra Decius wants us to feel like that all the time.

“Natural green is a natural tonic. And knowing this, you would think that our cities would be bursting in green, and that it would be a breeze to convince city officials to plant more trees. Sadly, that’s not the case.”

-Sandra Decius

Through her work with Green City, e.V., Sandra is committed to bringing more tree’s to the streets of Munich—and she’s succeeding. Each year, Green City organizes a Wanderbaumallee (Wandering Trees) project, during which the organization parades trees through the city and plants them temporarily in urban spaces to create green awareness. After weeks of wandering trees, residents of Munich get a taste of how lush their sidewalks could be, and are urged to think in a new way about their environment.

Lin Kayser: Let’s build machines as complex as nature

How often do you have to make allowances in your day-to-day life for things to be “just okay”? How many times do you find yourself thinking, “this is fine” about a certain product or item? Why is “just okay” or “good enough” an acceptable metric…but not excellent? Why do we settle for average when things could be extraordinary?

Lin Kayser asks similar questions in his 2018 talk at TEDxTUM, “Let’s build machines as complex as nature.” After a brief moment of silence, he points out that there actually is a beautiful and uncompromising world out there where everything is designed to perfection: the natural world.

“Nature uses the absolute minimum amount of energy and the absolute minimum amount of material to build a perfect tree. And it was custom-designed for this specific location. Imagine if we humans could build objects like that. What would we build?”

-Lin Kayser

As Lin spells out for us in his talk: our methods of building and production haven’t really innovated in the past thousands of years…and it’s time to catch up. By fusing technology with the intelligence of nature, we can boost our building power and design products that are as smartly-designed as the unrefined world on which they were based.

Ferdinand Ludwig: Designing living buildings with trees

Some people move through life with their heads in the clouds. When it comes to TUM Professor and Architect Ferdinand Ludwig, his head has always been in the trees. And what happens when you mix an obsession with trees with a passion for design? Timeless sustainability.

At TEDxTUM 2019, Ferdinand explained why we should change the way we build structures in his talk, “Designing living buildings with trees.” Through the invention of a concept called Baubotanik, Ferdinand and his colleagues are able to design buildings through the use of trees and living matter. As traditional buildings break down over time in the outdoor elements, hybrid structures enhanced with natural materials only fortify themselves as time goes on.

“Living structures cannot be built as ready-made objects, as we are used to doing in architecture. In fact, it is about planning just the initial state and accounting for a developmental process in order to achieve desired future states.”

-Ferdinand Ludwig

As living structures grow and thrive for decades to come, this shift in architecture combats our sustainability concerns in the present, and by utilizing living materials in buildings, Ferdinand and his partners are doing their part to think beyond their own lifetimes.