NYC = TED + The Hudson River + Pier 40 Kayaking + Intrepid + Big Piano

This action packed adventure is shown by the neatly organised objects that describe my trip to New York City. (22nd May – 31st May 2011)

Click image for High Resolution

Top Row: MTA Subway Map, Computer Mouse, Swimming Goggles, NYC Swim Medal, Marc Jacobs Deodorant, Panadol, Passport, American Airways Air Ticket.

Second Row: NYC Swim Hat (no.465), Coins + One Dollar Bill, Met Admission Button, Speedo’s

Third Row: Destroyed Brick Model (Thanks Customs!), Architectural Association Sketch Book, Good luck Chick from Carey, TED Full Spectrum programme Guide, Metro Ticket, Strepsils, TED Full Spectrum Score Card, TED’s Ten Commandments.


In late April, my two favourite blogs Wired and FastCompany published articles announcing TED were to host an open competition for presenters. Each entry consisted of a youtube video submission and required a short essay.

Youtube – TED 2012 Full Spectrum entry – James McBennett

Three weeks ago I attended TEDxLBS (London Business School) that introduced me to Innovative Disruption with fantastic talks by great speakers such as Tom Hulme (IDEO), Dr Shamus Husheer (DueFertility), Andy Stefanovic (Prophet), Brian Forde (Llamadas) and Luke Dowdney (Luta) to name a few. Retuning home after a day of brain-fueled inspiration, I opened an email from Kelly Stoetzel only to be shocked with excitement. I had been selected to present as a finalist with sixteen others at the Full Spectrum 2012 Audition in New York City on My 24th.

Photo. © James Duncan Davidson 

My project from the Architectural Association on reinventing the brick using ceramic 3D printing to allow self-builders to make safer, stronger, taller and more intelligent construction for the city had become an “idea worth spreading”. Introduced to the stage by Chris Anderson, he explained that I might be the first TED speaker to fall asleep on stage (suffering from Narcolepsy) and wrote a Limerick  that assumed I was not a hit with the dames, (not sure where he got his intel, but do check out what my girlfriend Carey had to say about it.)

More about the actual talk and event in later update.

Photo. © James Duncan Davidson 

Training to swim the English Channel (Donate Now – AfH) this summer, I discovered “The Great Hudson River Swim” was to take place four days after TED, thus I entered my first ever open-water swim. Struggling with navigating a straight line in open water, I spent 33 minutes and 46 seconds to complete the 1.6 mile swim. While most wore wet-suits, I decided to man-up and wore only speedo’s accompanied by a pink swim hat. The valuable lesson learnt was: wear sunscreen.

Photo. Juan Martinez

The swim was finished by 9am, I then joined New York Sandboxers spending the afternoon in the water beside Pier 40 kayaking for free and had so much fun! We had a race shown below along with much ‘splashing and pirate-like behavior’ from our community organizer Fabian.

The Race
Photo. Joseph Augstein

I was asked to give a brief tour afterwards of the high life on the High Line. Explaining the architecture that fell either side of the park from how Gehry used digital information to directly control construction to further detail about Diller + Scofido and Field Operations who were the principle designers of this ambitious project for the city. Drinks were then had afterwards at “The Frying Pan,” where we began to discuss what everybody was working on in typical Sandbox style. After discussing Chris Anderson’s introduction to my TED talk above, we began to brainstorm how I could deal with Narcolepsy better, a conversation that lasted hours as we walked home street after street. A big, BIG thank you to Joseph Augstein for initiating this conversation, for your amazing ideas and I do hope we can now turn this into a real project solving Narcolepsy for me and the many that suffer from it. A design solution is proposed in opposition to the $20,000 that my insurance has spent on doctors and drugs that have yet to made any impact. I will update everyone with further details later, it is truly amazing what several exceptional under-30’s can come up with when asked a question so relevant to my life.

Thank you Niamh and Fabian for organising this day, throughly enjoyed.

James Kayaking
Photo. Joseph Augstein

The day after my New York City host and good friend Rob Daurio and I arrived late for admission at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum that I had wanted to visit during Fleet Week.  A tight security operation with machine-gun armed soldiers that guarded the gates, who would have thought the back door was wide open. An opportunity not to be missed, we enjoyed a free hour touring the Lockheed A-12 (Predecessor of the SR-71,) F-14 Tomcat , AWACS, BA Concorde among many others. Full List

Lockheed A-12
Photo. Rob Daurio

Photo. Rob Daurio

Photo. Rob Daurio

Photo. Rob Daurio

Photo. Rob Daurio

For my last adventure in New York, I wanted to visit FAO Swarchtz and play the Big Piano. I tested my piano skills in the video below, I love the background noise of a mother asking if her child can count that many zeros, $250,000.

I must learn “Chopsticks for my next New York City visit.

The giant piano used in the film ‘Big’ starring Tom Hanks.
Photo. Rob Daurio