What Is Organic Architecture?

What Is Organic Architecture

The world of architecture is complex, with different styles and philosophies that shape the landscape of this industry. Organic architecture is one such philosophy, and it’s had a profound effect on modern architecture.

But what exactly is organic architecture, who coined the term and what are some examples of this philosophy? We’ll explore all of this and more in our detailed guide.

What Does the Term Organic Architecture Mean?

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Organic architecture is an architectural philosophy that’s all about creating harmony between homes and nature.

The goal is to create a home that is integrated into its surroundings, blending in with nature and the landscape.

Architects who focus on organic architecture are known as organicists.

Over the years, several architects have laid forth their rules for defining the principles of organic architecture.

For example, to fit the mold of organic architecture, the design should be:

  • Inspired by nature
  • Healthy, sustainable and conserving
  • Unique and grown from the site
  • Flexible and adaptable

Natural materials are often used in organic architecture, such as bedrock. However, the definition of the word “organic” has changed in recent years. Those who follow these philosophies also focus on avoiding materials that take a great deal of energy to create and sustain. Modern examples of organic architecture often blend the structure seamlessly in with nature.

Today, many buildings built under the organic architecture philosophy are considered historical sites.

Which Architect Coined The Term Organic Architecture?

organic architect example | Fallingwater home by Frank Lloyd Wright
FallingWater Home: Image © DearEdward: Wikimedia Commons

The term “organic architect” was coined by Frank Lloyd Wright. Although his writing style is a bit cryptic, Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture principles laid the foundation for the philosophy that is still going strong today.

Lloyd’s book Language of an Organic Architecture, which was written in 1953, further details the qualities of his philosophy. In his book Cause of Architecture, Wright also outlines six core propositions of this philosophy.

  • Simplicity. Wright believed in creating fewer distinct rooms and, instead, having open living spaces.
  • Everything from the windows to the doors and furniture should be part of the structure as a whole and a reflection of the individual living in the home.
  • Colors should be derived from the surrounding landscape.
  • The building should appear as if it is growing from the site and shaped by nature itself.
  • Buildings must be true and filled with integrity.
  • The nature of the building’s materials should be expressed freely.

According to Llyod’s philosophies, it’s not just the building’s relationships with nature and its surroundings, it’s also about the design elements. It’s about the way each design element relates to one another, from the floors to the windows to the chairs that fill the space.

Wright’s work is a fine example of the organic architecture philosophy in action. He designed buildings and their elements as if they were a unified organism.

One stunning example of organic architecture from Wright is the Fallingwater home located in rural Pennsylvania. For this project, Wright had many options to place the home on the large lot. However, he chose to sit the house right on top of the waterfall. The home’s stone masonry and cantilevers blend right in with nature.

Wright’s “organic” philosophy was inspired by his childhood. As a teenager, he worked on his uncle’s farm, and he became inspired and fascinated by the natural vibrancy of the land, the open spaces and wooded areas.

Why Organic Architecture Makes Sense

Organic architecture makes sense in the design world, but why? First and foremost, organic architects will focus on harmony among:

  • Buildings
  • People
  • Terrain

However, this concept goes even further with the following:

  1. Unification: Architects focusing on organic concepts help buildings mix perfectly with human presence. The landscape is a major focal point of the design and creates its own ecosystem rather than focusing on just the building without melding the indoors and outdoors.
  2. Natural elements: With unification in mind, an organic architect will integrate the natural elements around the building into the design. Plants, rocks and even water are all taken into account to adapt the building and landscape into one, beautiful ecosystem.
  3. Lighting: Along with the natural elements considered, the orientation and design of buildings will work to allow natural light into the space. Floorplans, skylights and windows are all perfectly positioned to allow natural light to pour into the space, often making the space more energy efficient.

Organic architecture utilizes the positioning of the home, natural landscapes and sunlight to make homes stunning and beautiful while also ensuring the building fits seamlessly in the space.

Prime Examples of Organic Architecture Starting in 1937

Throughout time, there have certainly been multiple attempts at organic architecture, but some of the more prominent examples include:

  • Taliesin West. Back in 1937, Frank Lloyd Wright had a winter home in Arizona. This is that home. However, the structure is now the site of his foundation. The home’s translucent roof allows in an abundance of natural light, while desert rocks on the wall allow in the natural hues found in the surrounding landscape.
  • The Organic House by Javier Senosiain. An interpretation of nature in the form of a peanut shell. Located in Naucalpan de Juárez, State of Mexico, Mexico, this 178-square-meter abode seems almost to grow directly out of the terrain on which it is situated.
  • Radhuset Metro Station. The station sits in Stockholm and was built around beautiful, natural bedrock that is fully untouched.
  • Tampere Central Library. The central library is one of the most stunning examples of organic architecture in Finland. Found in the city of Tampere. Glacial patterns and natural Rapakivi granite are used in the architecture of the library.

Architectural philosophies evolve and change over time, but this is one philosophy that will continue to remain. Builders across human history have tried to bring the outdoors indoors, and organic architecture succeeds in many ways.

Unification amongst building materials and design will continue to be popular with architects bringing their own concepts to the mix.

Nature naturally works to:

  • Inspire architects to create diverse, sustainable structures
  • Offer flexibility and adaptability to the design of a building
  • Satisfy the physical and social needs of people

Selecting the right space is crucial to the design process, and this can often mean placing the structure near creeks or waterfalls. The beauty of this natural element is enhanced a step further by the sounds that the running water tends to produce. Architects need to have a good understanding of the land to bring these designs to life.

Holistic and intentional, the idea of unification integrates every facet of a structure with nature. And in some cases, as seen in the Metro Station in Stockholm, the natural elements can take center stage in the building’s design.