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Competition: TED conference pavilion, Vancouver

An international contest for students has been launched for a pop-up timber pavilion at the annual TED conference in Vancouver (Deadline: 1 January)

Organised by local architecture platform Design Build Research (DBR), the competition seeks proposals for a demountable and reusable events space which reflects on the ‘pause’ theme of next year’s The Future You conference.

DBR has delivered collaboratively built pavilions at the conference for the past three years, with all projects designed to be upcycled for legacy use in the community, helping spread the TED message.



Last year’s competition-winning pavilion for the 2016 TED conference

According to the brief: ‘The pavilion is about personal reflection. A pause within the forest, within the city. A place to reflect, gather, or interact, the applicant will define the user encounter.

‘The challenge is to create a space to reflect personally and in the same breath, share that experience with others. A reflection on the past, a moment in the present, and a thought for the future. Can taking a “pause” and connecting to nature answer the questions that TED is exploring?’

TED talks began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged. Today the global lecture programme covers a wide range of topics in more than 110 languages.

Two years ago TED moved its annual conference location from California’s Palm Springs to the 43,340m² Vancouver Conference Centre, one of Canada’s largest meeting venues.

A TED talk

A TED talk

A TED talk

DBR was founded in 2014 by architect Michael Green, engineer Eric Karsh and entrepreneur Scott Hawthorn as a non-profit school promoting design as an agent of social change.

The innovative platform hosts research programmes exploring systemic advances in building for climate change, environmental, disaster response and global shelter needs. Its long-term ambition is to encourage a generation of designers, builders and mentors across all age groups.

By engaging students in community-based projects, DBR aims to promote life skills such as leadership, teamwork, lifelong mentorship and community contribution.

Submissions will be judged on their creative use of wood, concept strength, difficulty of construction, response to the design guidelines and submission requirements.

The competition is open to students and young professionals in architecture, engineering and design, and invites both teams and individual submissions.

Applicants must be available to assist with the build and install of their winning scheme in Vancouver during the 10 days leading up to the conference, which runs from 24-28 April.

The winner will receive a TED 2017 conference pass for one person, return flights within North America and accommodation for the 10-day install period and the duration of the conference.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is at 11:59 PM PDT on 1 January.


Contact details

DBR Design Build Research
63 E Cordova St
BC V6A 1K3

Tel: +1(604) 336-4770

View the competition website for more information

TED Elevate pavilion case study: Q&A with the winning team

The winners of last year’s DBR competition discuss lessons learned designing a reusable pavilion for the TED conference

How did your ELEVATE project create an appropriate temporary pavilion for the TED conference?

The ELEVATE huts provided a special platform and unique point of conversation for TEDsters to share ideas between various sessions of the conference. The temporary pavilion created an outdoor extension of the conference, which is mainly restricted to the indoors of the Vancouver Convention Center, allowing visitors to catch a breath of the crisp February air. Inside the structures, TEDsters discovered the story of provincial and national parks, with graphics to connect visitors to the great Canadian wilderness. We hoped it would encourage the guests to get out and see our local mountains during their stay in Vancouver.



Last year’s competition-winning pavilion for the 2016 TED conference

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness?

The warming shelters were built using Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), an advanced wood product donated by METSÄ Wood, and sculpted with CNC technology. The structure was enclosed with shrink wrap to shelter guests from the elements and to create a bright interior, adding to the warmth of the exposed natural wood. The design was refined and constructed by a DBR class of 16 architecture, design, and sculpture students. To ensure the success of a quick prefab and install, the design relied heavily on the accuracy of 3D modelling translated into CNC programming.



Last year’s competition-winning pavilion for the 2016 TED conference

What advice would you have on designing a pavilion for the next TED conference?

Our advice to the PAUSE competition participants would be to focus on the experience. Defining how the user experiences the pavilion will bring depth to the submission. We look forward to seeing how the applicants address the challenge of creating a space of personal reflection that can also facilitate conversation and interaction through design. In addition, demonstrating the practicality of the design for fabrication and assembly is critical due to the logistical constraints and the competition timeline. The challenge here is to not let this aspect hamper the innovation.



Last year’s competition-winning pavilion for the 2016 TED conference