Organic architecture has emerged as a movement in architecture and structural design. It is a philosophy that promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world. The phrase organic architecture embraces a colorful array of architectural approaches and expressions.
Organic architecture is a phrase first used by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. He used the term in the 1950s and has since influenced modern architecture – its unconventional design and architecture philosophy.
The Philosophy of Organic Architecture
Louis Sullivan was Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor. He used the phrase “form follows function.” Wright said, instead, “form IS function.” Organic architecture says that every structure should be able to mesh with its environment.
An organic architect is careful in surveying a piece of land. The structure must look like it has evolved from its surroundings. It is very similar to a seed that has sprouted into a green bush. A structure must look like it has sprouted among the vegetation.
Features of Organic Architecture
Organic architecture uses curves as a signature just as modern architecture uses straight lines. The organic structures must be influenced by the natural surroundings for the sake of conserving the environment.
Organic designs must look like they have grown naturally from the environment. These organic architects look to nature for inspiration. To appreciate the form organic architecture can take, one need look no farther than the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California in the United States. It is a controversial building but the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which performs there, attests to its superb acoustics.
A Homeowner’s Viewpoint
Living in an organic structure provides benefits to the inhabitants. They insist man was not meant to live in a box structure, but rather in one that mimics nature and its environment. There is satisfaction gained in living in communion with the environment.
Michael Rust is an organic architect in Arizona and he believes sustainable design architecture must be a work of art. It must also:
Serve client’s needs
Be in harmony with its: site, climate, and cultural background
Have a unique character
Modern Approach to Organic Design
The term “organic” implies having to do with life. An organic structure must support life in its setting. An organic architect must strive to build structures that hearken to the living organisms on the site.
By using new forms of concrete and cantilever trusses, architects can create swooping arches without visible beams or pillars. Modern organic structures are never linear or rigidly geometric. Instead, wavy lines and curved shapes reflect natural forms, such as a seashore.
While organic architecture takes into consideration the environment, it also embodies the human spirit. Using nature as the basis for design, a building must grow, as the surrounding trees and shrubs grow from the inside out.
Organic architecture involves a respect for natural materials blending into the surroundings and an honest expression of the function of the building. In that light, wood should like wood, a house should be of the hill, not on the hill, and a bank should not look like a Greek temple.
The Gaia Charter
Architect David Pearson proposed a list of rules towards the design of organic architecture. These rules are known as the Gaia Charter for organic design. It reads like this: the design should:
1. Be inspired by nature and sustainable
2. Unfold like an organism
3. Exist in the present and begin again
4. Follow the flows and be flexible
5. Satisfy physical and spiritual needs
6. Be unique
7. Grow out of the site
8. Celebrate the spirit of play and surprise
9. Express the rhythm of music and the poses of dance
Examples of Organic Architecture
1. Notre-Dame-du-Haut in Ronchamp, France
2. TWA Terminal, at JFK Airport in New York, USA
3. Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia
4. Philharmonie in Berlin, Germany
5. Finlandiahall in Helsinki, Finland
Organic architecture has evolved since the 1950s and is today in vogue. It brings people closer to the heart of the planet – the environment!