Let me just set the scene. It’s the early industrial revolution in the United Kingdom – the centre of vast empire with tea from China, exotic spices from India, and sugar from the Caribbean. Yet despite being able to build a vast empire, goods are still manufactured by hand and moved at the same speed man had been going millennia. Isambard Kingdom Brunel changed Britain in that respect and indeed the world forever.
Perhaps his greatest engineering achievement was the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. This 412m metre long structure spans the gorge the River Avon runs through, one of the widest gorges in the UK. Structures such as the Clifton suspension bridge sped up transport in the UK and contributed to the rapid economic development of the UK. Another one of his innovations was building on the success of the railway concept pioneered earlier on in the century. This again allowed an even faster movement of goods and people around the UK.
What is interesting however is why he chose to engage in such demanding feats. Brunel wasn’t only an engineer he was also an artist. The mock-Egyptian gives an interesting twist to what could have been quite a boring design on the Clifton suspension bridge. The idea of using engineering devices clearly exposed to define the character of a structure also preluded the high tech movement within in British architecture. The philosophy of the high tech movement is to use devices contributing to the building’s design as elements that define the buildings style, you’ll see such designs incorporated into structures such as Terminal 5 at Heathrow designed by Richard Rogers and Gherkin designed by Norman Foster.
One of the other key members of the movement was Michael Hopkins the founder of Hopkins Architects who designed Jubilee Campus for the University of Nottingham, where TEDx UoN 2014 is being held. In buildings such as the Atrium restaurant you’ll see the exposed roof braces are clearly designed to add to the character of the space. The distinctive silver structures on the roofs of buildings such as the Exchange and Business School North give the buildings character through their very function to channel air down through the buildings to allow for natural ventilation.
Without structures such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Maidenhead Railway Bridge whose wide arches to accommodate large river traffic contribute to the beauty of the structure, the high tech movement may have never happened. Isambard Kingdom Brunel like many other great people continues to inspire the world even if we don’t quite realise it, and that’s why Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be my ideal TED speaker. Now only if he was still alive…
The reason why we need TED is that TED lies on the intersection between technology, entertainment and design. TEDs mission is to inspire future generations to excel in themselves and change the world for the better. If TED was to be summed in one of its own talks it could be summed up in the words of Simon Sinek.
In 2010 Simon Sinek spoke at TED about why leaders are able to lead and inspire others. The Wright Brothers in 1909 made the first powered flight, although the flight was less than the wing span of a Boeing 747 in marked an immensely important moment for invention. The Wright Brothers were competing against better funded teams they were the first ones to do it. So why were the Wright Brothers the first to do this? In codifying such achievements by leaders Simon Sinek found something he calls the golden circle consisting on three questions why?, how? And what? Leading to the inspiration and ability to make such achievements possible. Simon Sinek goes onto to suggest people buy into the why rather than the how.
This what TED is all about buying into the why? It would be easy to put a speaker on a stage and talk about the how? However it’s the why? That’s makes the difference. If you have ever watched Dragon’s Den you’ll see the Dragons are inspired to invest when given a good argument and business proposition based on the why? Rather than the how. TED inspires its audience by presenting the why? In a cognitively and sensory stimulating environment.
It’s often suggested the recipe for success are the human and physical capital available, however TED presents the real recipe for success be inspired by the why? Apple is multibillion dollar company because they are inspired by making great products which is why they do what they do, they just happen to be highly successful because of that ability to inspire giving them a massive following.
At TEDx UoN we aim to inspire the next generation of Nottingham students to go out and do something insanely great.
Universities are teeming with brilliant minds. Students are often young and optimistic, and have the academic intelligence to challenge and improve the way we live. Equally, TEDx brings together people who question, challenge, and rethink the world we live in. Continue Reading