Considering the Earth with Organic Architecture

Nature inspired art and architecture has always existed, and can be observed in history, from Ancient Greece to Art Nouveau.  Click on the images above to glimpse at a few of the visionary architects that I am inspired by personally.  Nature’s forms and structures give rise to unlimited ideas for many art forms – including textile and furniture design and the topic of this current project – architectural structures.

Organic is curved, organic is asymmetrical, organic is natural materials, organic is individualistic, organic is holistic.” Sidney K Robinson

Organic architecture is an ancient philosophical concept coined by Frank Lloyd Wright. Its term refers to a style of architecture that is based on natural forms of design that are sympathetic and promote harmony with the natural world and the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human being.

Architecture historian Pevsner (2011) has called Wright “the Greatest American Architect to date” and “a poet of pure form”. (p. 166). His numerous works as a prolific designer, had a dynamic and rhythmic style that successfully emphasized the contrast between rectilinear and curvilinear forms. They comprised of open plan spaces, flowing into outdoor living, bringing the inhabitants closer to their natural surroundings. He revolutionized the then typical ‘box’ style of the current domestic home by creating contrary interconnecting spaces with expansive horizontal lines, replicating the landscape where it stands, that contributed to the calming and reflective qualities of his designs.

A well designed ‘organic’ building will feel better and freer. (Pearson, 2001)

The re-emergence of ‘organic’ design stems from the post- industrial world, which sought to bring back and celebrate traditional ideas of living in harmony with the planet.  Understanding the science of nature and her forms, allows artists and designers to consider what is possible in creating work.

The complete architect is master of the elements; earth, fire, light and water. Space, motion and gravitation are his palette; the sun his brush. His concern is the heart of humanity. He of all men, must see into the life of things; know their honour. – Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wright knew how to place form within space in a holistic manner. With consideration for the natural surroundings and the highlighting features that Nature gave the site, Wright would design the structures, gardens, terraces, and even the furniture of the cosy interiors to compliment each other, so that the entire home would become one organic, living entity with its land.

Wrights “Falling Water” is one of his most famous houses, that demonstrates his ability to create feelings of space and freedom. To read more about this National Historic Landmark click here.  Although in contemporary western homes, we see open plan living as a commonality, for his time Wright challenged the stereotypical designs of 20th century domestic home in America. It wasn’t long though before he made it possible to provide low-cost and even small scale homes with the same organic and holistic intentions to many  – the dwellings known commonly in America as the ‘Usonian House’.

One of the other free thinkers of the post-industrial world, Fritjof Capra is an advocate for a holistic approach to understanding the universe and our place in it as human beings. Capra is a founding director of the Centre of Ecoliteracy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education for sustainable living.  I admire his contribution to contemporary society and hold his values and the concept of the organic architecture in my mind, as I consider my creative development in this module of Visionary Structures.

“Above all, organic architecture should constantly remind us not to take Mother Nature for granted – work with her and allow her to guide your life. Inhibit her, and humanity will be the loser” – Kendrick Bangs Kellogg.

Aaltonen, G. (2008). The History of Architecture: Iconic Buildings Throughout the Ages. London, UK: Arcturus Publishing Ltd.

Delana. (2013). If Wrights Falling Water was a Tree House. Retrieved June 26, 2013, from Web Urbanist: http://weburbanist.com/2012/03/17/if-wrights-falling-water-were-a-tree-house/

Falling Water. (2013). Explore: Timeline. Retrieved June 26, 2013, from Falling Water: http://www.fallingwater.org/explore?to=2

Kliczkowski, H. (2003). Complete Works Gaudi. Barcelona, Spain: Loft Publications.

Pearson, D. (2001). New Organic Architecture: the Breaking Wave. London: Gaia Books Limited.

Pevsner, N. (2011). Pioneers of Modern Design: from William Morris to Walter Gropius (Fifth ed.). (P. Todd, Ed.) Bath, UK: Palazzo Editions Ltd.

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