5 Beautiful Examples of Organic Architecture

Updated on January 3, 2017

“…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.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. This gorgeous example was completed in 1910 and still looks fresh.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. This gorgeous example was completed in 1910 and still looks fresh. | Source

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.

Taliesin West, by Frank Lloyd Wright. Note the way the building seems to rise from the ground naturally.
Taliesin West, by Frank Lloyd Wright. Note the way the building seems to rise from the ground naturally. | Source

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.

Hanna House exists in harmony with nature.
Hanna House exists in harmony with nature. | Source

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.

Hidden among greenery, Fallingwater remains the quintessential Wright structure.
Hidden among greenery, Fallingwater remains the quintessential Wright structure. | Source

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.

Antoni Gaudi's fabulous Casa Milà in Barcelona, Spain is now an apartment house.
Antoni Gaudi's fabulous Casa Milà in Barcelona, Spain is now an apartment house. | Source

Casa Milà, Barcelona

What do you think?

What's the best example of organic architecture?

See results

Sources

Ching, Frank. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order, New York, NY. Litton Educational Publishing, Inc., 1979.


Questions & Answers

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      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Great hub. I never heard of organic architecture before. Sounds pretty awesome and interesting. Thanks for sharing with those lovely photos. Voted up!

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thanks, Ish! Do the research was enjoyable and I find Frank Lloyd Wright fascinating. Thanks so much for stopping by, commenting, and sharing.

      • ishwaryaa22 profile image

        Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

        6 years ago from Chennai, India

        An extremely engaging and informative hub on organic architecture. I have not heard of this till now thanks to you! You explained each of these trademark buildings with flair. The suitable photos and videos added interest to this well-written hub! Well-done!

        Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up & Socially Shared

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hiya, Grrl! Nice to meet you. :^)

        Great comment! I don't know, but your comment made me think about the first adobe structures... beautiful shapes that also seemed to rise from the earth. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • That Grrl profile image

        Laura Brown 

        6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

        I was expecting organic architecture to be about houses made with hay, rock, mud, etc. But, this makes sense when it's about architecture, not construction. I photograph abandoned buildings, they didn't start out as organic architecture but are blending with their environment better and better all the time. I wonder if anyone has used that as a design theme for a new building.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thanks, celebritie! I appreciate the comment and thanks for stopping by!

      • celebritie profile image

        celebritie 

        6 years ago

        This is really nice like the architecture.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hey, Sunshine625! Thanks so much for visiting and I'm so glad you liked this one. :^)

      • Sunshine625 profile image

        Linda Bilyeu 

        6 years ago from Orlando, FL

        Very clever hub! I enjoy learning something new and I did with this hub! Awesome pics and details!!

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hiya, Vinaya! :^) Thanks for stopping by. If I could live in a place like this, I think my soul would always be light.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi, luciano63! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. :^)

      • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

        Vinaya Ghimire 

        6 years ago from Nepal

        I did not know about much about organic architecture.

        Thanks for this interesting and informative article.

        The pictures are great.

      • luciano63 profile image

        Luciano Bove 

        6 years ago from Paris

        Great Hub! I love this kind of architecture specially Lloyd Wright.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hey, thoughtfulgirl2! Unfortunately, I never made it there, but the pictures I've seen are simply fab. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments! :^)

      • thoughtfulgirl2 profile image

        thoughtfulgirl2 

        6 years ago from East Coast

        Loved this hub! Informative, beautifully put together, educational, and I am so glad you mentioned Gaudi's Casa Mia. Aside from world travelers, art students or architects, some people may not know about this most wonderful building. This is one of my favorites along with the Al-Hambra in Spain. (I think that's how it is spelled)!

        Voted

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hiya, Curiad! Thanks for stopping by, and the compliment! :^)

      • Curiad profile image

        Mark G Weller 

        6 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

        What an awesome Hub! Good job here :)

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hey, onlooker! :^) I just found out yesterday via openculture.org that Wright also designed a gas station!

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi, cherrycrime26! Thanks so much for stopping by! :^)

      • profile image

        onlooker 

        6 years ago

        This is useful, awesome, interesting, beautiful etc etc brilliant! Wow, I am awestruck and this is a great homage to the mastermind behind it all. Thanks to you Rachel =)

      • cherrycrime26 profile image

        January Moon 

        6 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

        fascinating Hub, beautiful designs, love the pics and video, voted up and useful.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Oh, Patty, you lucky duck!!! I haven't been there yet, but it's on my list. Too bad the open season is so short. :^(

        Thanks for visiting and for the votes!

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 

        6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        I've visited Fallingwater and never want to leave once there. My father learned Wright's style of architecture. Voted Up and more.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hiya, nifwlseirff! I flipflop with that and Robie House. All those plants on both sites make it a difficult choice for . Thanks for commenting!

      • nifwlseirff profile image

        Kymberly Fergusson 

        6 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

        Falling water is the winner for me, as I love the sound of running water! I also prefer the clean, crisp lines and varied surfaces of Wright's houses - they complement their surroundings, making both nature and the homes stand out.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi, Brainy! Yes, the Robie House is really something. I think I actually prefer it over Fallingwater, in certain respects. Maybe I will check out The Wright 3. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thanks, Rebecca! Great to see you. I really enjoyed writing this one. :^)

      • Brainy Bunny profile image

        Brainy Bunny 

        6 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

        The Robie House is so cool. I actually first heard of it when I read a kids' mystery book: The Wright 3, by Blue Balliett. You might enjoy it, if you can get over the embarrassment of slinking around the juvenile stacks at the library.

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        A great job showing such a variety of architecture! I have definitely learned something new here!

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Wright was an institute unto himself. And I would probably consider Gaudi his contemporary (although they were from different countries). So I'm not sure *copy* is the right word. Maybe we could say that Wright "served as a model for others." ;^)

      • flashmakeit profile image

        flashmakeit 

        6 years ago from usa

        Frank Lloyd Wright's architect look so modern. So I am guessing that other architects copied his style.

      • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

        Rachel Vega 

        6 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thanks, CC! Always great to see you. :^)

        Yes, I just love Wright's designs and when I discovered Gaudi his stuff took my breath away. Thanks again!

      • cclitgirl profile image

        Cynthia Calhoun 

        6 years ago from Western NC

        I love the architecture and pictures here! Beautiful! Wright and Gaudi are two of my all-time favorites. Nice job and great hub. You've got my votes. :)

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