Live blog, TEDxColumbus

Bart Overly – Live Blog


Outside of hating to wait in them, I’ve never thought much about lines. TED strikes again: early in his talk, Bart Overly calmly asserted that lines, while cheap, really have a lot of information and power behind them. In architecture and elsewhere (maps, roads, walls), a line can separate you, a line can take you somewhere, and a line can make a decision. I may be behind the curve on ‘getting’ this, but it delights me all the same.

The idea of being set adrift on an iceberg when he reached a certain elderly age did not delight Bart. Told of a supposed tradition in Siberia that did just that, Bart started thinking about a different line: his life span. Based on life expectancy trends, Bart could easily make it to 90. But if there’s good luck and good fortune, he could cross the centenarian threshold. There’s going to be a big party joining him–by the time 40ish Bart could turn 104, 23% of the U.S. population will be over 65; In 40 years, there will be 1.6 workers to 1 retiree. Lots of people in lots of different fields do work that aims to answer questions raised by that predicted future. For Bart, the question is: what does this mean for habitat?

Bart looks at the primary patterns in our habitats. We have stuff, he explains. We own. That ownership appears all over our habitat. As we grow older longer, will we start owning plots below ground when the above ground space is gone? Will we start owning air above our heads? Generally, we start to curate it: we create subdivisions, ideas where we’ll be self-similar. Hey it’s great to exist there, Bart admits, but: it’s certain to collapse. It’s an isolated habitat.

What to do? Bart looks to two different new patterns of use. The first, informal settlements such as those in Turkey and Brazil. These are completely different patterns of organization built out of extreme necessity: residents and builders look at the margins, and built around them. Sure, conflicts can happen when habitats meet other habitats, but this model can also be freer than a fully independent habitat. Next, Bart talked about the interdependency model, showing a model he’s worked with where a youth hostel is intertwined (physically) with a hotel. Are you student traveling on the cheap? Visit this building and you could score some cash or a fancier place to sleep by working for the hotel down the hall for a few days.

Bart admitted he was scared of being forced out of his habitat (though ultimately he doesn’t believe any Siberian citizens were ever set adrift). Maybe I should be too. I’ll have to think about it. If nothing else, I do now feel more equipped to imagine possibilities other than floating masses of ice. And that’s a good thing.