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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Utopia

photography by Vicky RussellOver the past 3 weeks, I have discovered that the more I researched architecture throughout the ages, the more became intrigued by the stories of the architects and the various movements that influenced the structures and spaces in the world, and therefore the more I have come to understand.  ‘Utopia’ is a particular word that I have recently come to know in relation to Art and Architecture, and here I will attempt to share my brief understanding of it and how I can consider the concept when developing my work in this project.

Architecture represents the cultural context of its time. By observing the spaces by which people have lived, studied, prayed and revered, we can learn about the values and ideals that they held. The buildings that were designed for various purposes held in themselves the impulse of Utopia – places and spaces that were desired and manifested to represent the ideals of those who had the vision.

In simple terms I understand the word ‘utopia’ to mean ‘The ideal or desirable’.  The utopian place, object or concept is seemingly ‘better than’ the current reality or norm.   The utopian impulse exists within many aspects of culture, society, politics, and philosophy and indeed also the world of art.  It is a future-orientated concept that physically cannot ever be attained, for there will always be greener grass elsewhere so to speak.  I find it easier to grasp the concept from my own human experience when considering my ideal and preferred way of seeing or being in the world.

Being a hopeless eternal optimist myself, I can dismiss the fact that utopia can never actually be attained yet still carry on in life with the utopian impulse through my thoughts and actions with the hope of an ideal way of being, way of living, or way of relating to others and my experience in this life. A quote that resonates with my own Utopian self is…

The most modern art discipline – social sculpture/social architecture – will only reach fruition when every living person becomes a creator, a sculptor, or architect of the social organism – Joseph Beuys

Certainly, if I believe that I can actually attempt to create the Utopian reality that I so desire, one could call me naive, unrealistic, dreaming or at best, idealistic. By aspiring to make my world a better place,  I continue to always live in a future-orientated reality.  But by accepting that my actual reality is all that I need and want it to be right now in this very moment, I am more likely to experience life in a way that ultimately nourishes and sustains me. I can make choices in my life that are in alignment with my values and conducive to my ideals and therefore make it so.

Furthermore, I will be mindful of how my own understanding of the utopian impulse influences my work in this project.

References:

Goodreads. (2013). Quotes about Utopias. Retrieved June 22, 2103, from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/utopia

Noble, R. (2009). Utopias. London: Whitechapel Gallery; Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Visionary Structures

For this month’s module titled ‘Visionary Structures’; I have been set the task of developing sculptural and 3D design techniques and methods whilst relating my developments and outcomes to historical, contemporary and futuristic special structures.

In this module, more than any so far I have been challenged with the technical terminology of design, new medias that I have not worked with previously and the language of form and space.

Using the medias of metal, wood and plaster I am learning how to create a series of 2D drawings that successfully convey my vision of the 3D design that I have in mind. Being an amateur drawer to begin with I particularly struggled with representing my ideas with a 3D perspective, so I started with the basics and did my best creating works with my limited skill set and knowledge.

For inspiration and motivation to embrace this topic that is quite foreign to me, I started researching artists and designers in the field. Above are some unique structures that I have discovered that in my opinion are quite visionary.