5 Beautiful Examples of Organic Architecture
“…in an organic architecture, that is to say an architecture based upon organic ideals, bad design would be unthinkable.”
-Frank Lloyd Wright
What is Organic Architecture?
Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated the term "organic" into his architectural philosophy in about 1908. But he wasn't thinking about farmer's markets and pesticide-free produce.
Organic architecture is more of a way of living than a tangible thing. It involves respecting the properties of surrounding natural materials, understanding the function of the building, and making them work together with the building site in a harmonious way. One famous example is of Wright rejecting the idea of making a bank look like a Greek temple.
Robie House, by Frank Lloyd Wright
Robie Residence in Chicago, Illinois was built in 1909. Its multiple roof planes not only protect the interior, but emphasize the building's volume and mass. Here, Wright shows his mastery of the Prairie style structure (open plans, horizontal lines, native materials, and no or few trees) but also his mastery of creating "microclimates" within structures.
Wright also designed the mechanical and electrical systems which manifest themselves in the interior living areas. There is no basement in the original design of this raised residence.
Taliesin West, by Frank Lloyd Wright
Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, AZ, was Wright's home and studio. Designed for these purposes, the site is still used as a living, working, and educational setting.
Dramatic terraces and walkways display the desert and the constantly changing landscape in the form of shifting sandbars. Taliesin West demonstrates Wright's faculty in joining interior spaces with exterior ones.
Hanna Residence, by Frank Lloyd Wright
Hanna-Honeycomb House, also known as Hanna House, is located in Palo Alto, CA and was designed in the Usonian style. Fashioned in wood and brick, it allows dwellers to disassemble and reconfigure walls easily as needed.
It is referred to as the Honeycomb House because the design uses hexagons instead of octagons as building units, and all the boards and battens use this spacing. The home adjusts to the hill, complementing the landscape.
Fallingwater, by Frank Lloyd Wright
Fallingwater in Bear Run, PA is probably the best known of all of Wright's designs.
Imagine cantilevered concrete forms hanging precipitously over a waterfall, anchored by natural rock. Rough stone floors and only two paint colors (light ochre for the concrete and Wright's signature Cherokee red for the steel) add to the organic feeling. Living at Fallingwater is living in harmony with the waterfall.
Granted, it's a small waterfall, and the house suffered greatly from leakage and structural damage. But the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has preserved Fallingwater at great expense since 1963. There should be no future issues with this national landmark.
Trailer for the documentary film "Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater"
Casa Milà, by Antoni Gaudi
But the short list of organic architecture marvels would not be complete without at least mentioning Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. He designed Casa Milà (the Quarry) which was constructed in Barcelona, Spain between 1905 and 1910.
The design was controversial when it was built due to the honeycomb-styled sections and rippled exterior stone walls that appear to heave themselves from the earth. Today, Spain considers it a badge of honor. During construction, the city of Barcelona had cracked down on the project in the form of building codes; in fact, they required demolition of some portions of the building that exceeded the standard of height at the time.
Gaudi was a devout Catholic and had originally planned for the structure to be a spiritual symbol, but instead it was built for a married “Indiano” couple who returned from the US colonies vastly wealthy. The building currently serves as an apartment house.
Casa Milà, Barcelona
What do you think?
What's the best example of organic architecture?
Ching, Frank. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order, New York, NY. Litton Educational Publishing, Inc., 1979.