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The making of the TED2014 theater: an early view

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
A rendering of what speakers will see from the TED stage: flexible seatings areas where attendees can lean forward or lean back.

A rendering of what speakers will see from the TED stage: flexible seating areas where attendees can lean forward or lean back as they please.

The TED2014 theater will be something audacious: a theater designed specifically for talks.

TED stages in the past have had thrusts and three-quarter rounds, but have largely been determined by what existed in the venue. For TED2014, however, as we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we are building a temporary, pop-up theater designed just for us by longtime TEDster David Rockwell. The theater will be located inside the Vancouver Convention Centre, with sweeping views of the bay and the North Shore Mountains, and will be geared toward personal connection.

“This is a thrilling opportunity to create what we’ve long dreamed of: a theater designed specifically for TED Talks,” says curator Chris Anderson. “We think that with the right design it’s possible to create an even more powerful connection between speaker and audience — and to allow the audience itself to immerse themselves more deeply in the talk.”

The theater — which will house 1200 attendees as they watch four days worth of mind-blowing talks — will feature tiered seating areas curved around the stage. Audience members will be able to choose between multiple ways of watching — in traditional theater seats, on sofas or on comfortable floor seating. We are working with Steelcase on custom furniture for the space that will allow attendees to lean back, lean forward or stand at a rail — whatever feels right to them.

Rockwell is the architect and designer who envisioned the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, the viewing platform at Ground Zero David Rockwell: A memorial at Ground Zero David Rockwell: A memorial at Ground Zero (watch his talk about that) and the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, home of the Academy Awards. Yesterday, Rockwell spoke about his plans for our 30th anniversary theater on Charlie Rose.

“It’s a kind of dream project. I’ve been involved with TED for 15 years,” Rockwell tells Rose. “I have spoken [at TED] and have had that experience of: your talk is influenced by how you feel in the room. The environment affects how the talk evolves.”

He tells Rose that the key is creating a flexible space that allows attendees to orient toward speakers in different ways.

“TED is a combination of theater and festival,” continues Rockwell in the segment, “so we’re creating from scratch a theater designed around a talk. [It’s] like going back to the roots of theater. No one’s done a theater solely based on a talk.”

Anderson says that it’s precisely Rockwell’s excitement about this challenge made him the right person to create this pop-up theater. “He knows the power and potential of theater as well as anyone,” says Anderson. “His early design has us filled us all with wonder.”

To hear more about Rockwell’s plans for the TED2014, theater watch the video below, starting at 13:15. And stay tuned — we will reveal many details about the theater and stage as TED2014 approaches.