TEDxCLE conference 2011

17 04 2011

Illustration for TedxCLE 2011 conference

I took the day off of work on Friday to attend the local TED conference, TEDxCLE, held at the Capitol Theater in the Gordon Square District.  As a relatively new resident of the city, I felt the need to attend the conference to meet others who hold a similar vision for the transformation of the city that I do.  The organizers did a great job of pulling together some of the most influential people in the area to share their ideas and latest work.  A completely sold out theater with over 400 guests eagerly listening to the speakers about the their vision and changes to the city, nation, and the world.

The conference started with a few speakers that were particularly interesting to my personal views of the future of design for the area.  Ari Maron from MRN Ltd started the conference by discussing his work both on the East 4th St. development as well as some current work that he and his company have been working on near the University Circle area.  A majority of his speech was however focussed on the larger idea of a “world class city” and what it means to be one.  Mr. Maron questioned what metrics are used to determine what makes one city different from another.  The city of Cleveland has many factors that can be qualify us as world class.  One of the top orchestras in the world, world renowned healthcare facilities, incredible restaurants, and world class artists and exhibits.  However Mr. Maron was quick to point out that our city was is a bit bipolar when it comes to our amenities.  Public square is one of the worst utilizations of public space in the country (not to mention the potential changes by Field Operations) , the urban landscape is littered with surface parking lots, and other underutilized green space in the urban core, such as Mall C.  While there are some designs for the future of both public square and the malls, there needs to be a holistic approach to the way that we as Clevelanders look at and use our public space.  We can not consider ourselves a world class city, nor can we compete with other cities such as Seattle or Chicago who have established a complete public space plan.  Instead of looking simply at a project as the land inside the site border, the designers of our urban sites need to understand the impact, effect, and affect that these designs have on the area and entire urban context.

A few speakers later, Matt Hlavin of Thogus discussed how his company transformed from a tool and tie manufacturing company to their current business model as a quick injection molding company that utilizes rapid prototyping technologies.  While at first glimpse, this may seem to have little interest to the world of design, I found it incredibly intriguing because of two key components.  First, I have spent the fast five years researching how the idea of rapid prototyping can influence and be influenced by architectural design.  I have used many of the same machines that Mr. Hlavin promoted as ways to translate a digital model into a physical model.  Through the rapid prototyping process, it gives immediate feedback to the designer to continue their process and further the design.  Secondly, the ability for a manufacturing company to keep their finger on the pulse of the industry and stay agile enough to change as the industry and their customers demand their change is great to see, especially in an region that is a former rustbelt.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the economy of Cleveland is changing.  Thogus is the type of company that our new economy needs to embrace and support.  We are no longer looking for mass production, but mass customization.

Before the end of the morning sessions, a round table type discussion based on historic preservation brought to light the way that our existing buildings can be utilized, both at a local, state and federal level.  The idea resonated that we as designers need to focus on the creation of “sense of place”.  This idea is consistent with my discussion a few paragraphs ago where I discussed Cleveland’s need to focus on our public spaces.  By investing in places that we live makes these spaces worth living in.  A USA Today article recently reported that college educated professionals in their 20s and 30s are looking to move into urban areas, even as the city itself may be declining in population.

I will be attending a discussion tomorrow evening by Galina Tachieva from Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company at Battery Park after which I will be again posting my thoughts on how her discussion relates to Cleveland and the region.  There’s plenty of thought provoking ideas that I have taken in over the past few days that I will be posting over the next week that will discuss urban areas, parking, and zoning.  Stay tuned!




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