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5 Incredible Examples of Organic Architecture

“Wait; What’s Organic Architecture?”

The term “organic architecture” was coined around 1908 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s a little difficult to define the term as it’s more a way of life than anything tangible.

Organic architecture respects the surroundings of the area and uses nature and the purpose of the building to blend together something beautiful. One well-known example of organic architecture is when Wright himself refused to design a bank that looked like a Greek temple. Here are five other examples.

Article by HL Architects in the North East UK

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Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright

It’s only fitting to begin with an example from the father of organic architecture himself. Robie Residence was built in Chicago, Illinois in 1909. The multiple roof planes of the building do more than just protect the interior of the property. They also help to emphasize the volume and mass of the building. Wright showed his command and mastery of the Prairie style structure when he created the Robie House. Prairie style means working with open plans, horizontal lines, native materials, and using as few trees as possible.

When Wright designed Robie House he also put together the mechanical and engineering systems that weave through the living areas. The original designed of the Robie House raised residence didn’t include a basement.

 

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Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright

Mr Wright is also the mastermind behind the second example on our list. Taliesin West, constructed in Scottsdale, AZ, was where Wright lived and worked. The property was originally designed for this purpose and stands to this day as a living, working, and educational setting that many can enjoy and learn from.

The ever-changing landscape around the building, especially the desert and the shifting sandbars, are showcased perfectly by dramatic terraces and walkways that give you an incredible view. Taliesin West also showcases how adept Wright was at blending interior spaces and exterior spaces seamlessly. One way in which Taliesin House showcases the ideas behind organic architecture is that, when you look at it, it appears to almost be rising out of the ground. It blends in perfectly with the surroundings and almost looks like a natural structure.

 

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Hanna Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright

The Hanna Residence, also sometimes called the Hanna-Honeycomb House, can be found in Palo Alto, CA. Wright designed the house following the Usonian style and fashioned the building from wood and brick. The property is built in such a way that the people living there can actually disassemble and reassemble the walls as they see fit.

The Hanna Residence is known as the Hanna-Honeycomb House because the design features hexagon building units rather than the more traditional octagon building units you see in other properties. Every board and batten in the property also uses this spacing. The home blends perfectly to the hill and so, much like Taliesin West, it effortlessly compliments the landscape and just looks like it belongs. Notice the way that it exists with the nature around it in a perfect harmony. That is the essence of organic architecture.

 

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Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright

Fallingwater is one of the most well-known design from Wright and it can be found in Bear Run, PA.

The only way to try and describe the property would be to see that it’s made up of cantilevered concrete forms that hang over a waterfall, held in place by natural rock formations. The organic nature of the property is further improved on by the use of rough stone to make the floors and the fact the property is painted using only two colours. Light ochre was used for the concrete and the steel is painted in the signature Cherokee red that Wright was known for using. When you live in Fallingwater you are living in perfect harmony with the waterfall. There’s no better way to put it and there may not be a better way to define organic architecture.

The waterfall the property is built on may be small, and it may have caused major damage to the house through leakage and structural damage, but Western Pennsylvania Conservancy have fought long and hard to preserve the property since 1963. They’ve done a wonderful job and there should be no future issues with what is undoubtedly a national landmark.

 

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Casa Milá by Antoni Gaudi

No list of organic architecture could be complete without mentioning the great Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi. Gaudi designed the Casa Milá (the Quarry) and it was built between 1905 and 1910 in Barcelona, Spain.

When Gaudi originally designed the property it was met with much controversy as it followed a honeycomb-style pattern rather than an octagonal one, and people were put off by the exterior stone walls that looked like they were coming straight from the earth itself. These days the building is considered a badge of honor for Spain, though at the time Barcelona attempted to sabotage the project with strict building codes. They even demanded that part of the property was destroyed because it was higher than the standard height.

Gaudi himself was a devout Catholic and intended Casa Milá to become a symbol of his spirituality. Instead the property was built to be the home of a married “Indiano” couple who came back from the US colonies with plenty of wealth in their pockets. The property still stands to this day and serves as an apartment house.

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Durham Cathedral Norman Architecture

The Enormous Achievements & Legacy Of Norman Architecture

Norman Architecture came about in the Middle Ages and was named for its roots in Normandy.  This era in architecture started in the early 11th century, following the Saxon architectural movement, then ending in the 12th century making way for the Gothic movement.

Norman Architecture is a form of the dominant Romanesque Architecture that sprang from the Normans (Vikings) who conquered England.  Its growth brought about large, impenetrable cathedrals, monasteries, castles, fortresses and fortifications.  The most typical monastery buildings were constructed during this movement.  These structures were short and stocky, rectangular or circular in form.  One of the most famous abbeys, Mont-Saint-Michel, was erected during the Norman era.

The majority of Norman Architecture was used in religious buildings such as grand cathedrals and churches that dotted the countryside throughout villages.  The most symbolic feature of these Norman churches is the cross-like shape which was borrowed from the Roman basilica motif.  These churches had bell towers, or campaniles which were erected nearby the main church building.  A-typical medieval castles are very distinctively Norman designs and sprouted up throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, Normandy and Italy.

The biggest difference with the Italian architecture was the combination of Norman features along with  Byzantine and Arabic styles. Unfortunately, this combination made for a very dark and gloomy atmosphere.  Actually, Norman Architecture is an offshoot of Romanesque Architecture which borrowed most of its architecture from the classic Roman approach and began in Lombardy, Italy.  These structures consisted of arches, vaults, columns and arcades.  It most commonly used the rounded arch that was actually a creation of the Romans  This style also used a variety of vault styles and most commonly the barrel and curved vaults which was broadly used in cloisters.

 

Building Materials & Adornments

Norman Architecture’s building materials mostly consisted of stones, for greater stability.  These stones were rough and uncut because there were no mason cutters in the Norman era.  Therefore, these stones were large and intermittently shaped which contributed to the building’s appearance as massive and bulky.

Like their Roman predecessors, Norman roofs were vaulted because the vaults made for a more balanced weight distribution across the entire roof.

Adornments were very minimal in Norman buildings, although some architects would chisel a series of carvings offering a trompe de l’oeil effect instead of an arch appearance. There were other architects that would carve moldings into the stone surfaces and a very small number who were so handy with their chisels, they would carve animals onto reliefs, over doorways or tympanums.  Rarely were arches or columns decorated at all.

A tympanum was usually a space between an arch and the horizontal head of a door or window.

By the time the Norman movement hit its peak in the 12th century, adornments became more popular.  These embellishments eventually climaxed with the first stained glass windows of the 12th century, directly before the progression of Gothic Architecture.

 

Norman To Gothic Windows

Another distinguishing feature in Norman Architecture were very small windows.  Before the Gothic movement, architects steered clear of building large windows because there was a high risk of buildings collapsing.  Those who lived in these buildings were in a very dark, dim environment, having to rely on candles for their only source of light.

Once the Gothic period took over, architects were able to safely install huge windows and finally bring in much needed sunlight.  These large windows attributed to cathedrals having a heavenly aura about them.

 

The Progression of Buildings & Walls

Also, during this time period, both Romanesque and Norman Architecture started the development of taller buildings such as castles and cathedrals which were to become the largest structures throughout Europe.  The buildings were generally square and housed guards who worked as night watchmen, scanning for intruders.

The walls of these taller buildings became a great deal thicker in order to provide a better support for the building’s height.  The interior housed enormous columns that also provided much needed support.  Eventually the walls became much thinner with the creation of the flying buttress, which came about through the Gothic movement. The flying buttress is considered one of the greatest architectural achievements in all of history. Though mostly Gothic now, the first Norman architectural achievement in England was London’s Westminster Abby, whilst Durham Cathedral is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England.

A lot of people are unaware that many Gothic structures started off as Norman buildings then later on were embellished upon by Gothic architects.  This is also true in regards to castle towers and towers erected on cathedral grounds.  These square, thick-walled buildings were used as dungeons and defense fortresses.

The world famous Tower of London, also known as the White Tower, served as a royal dungeon, imprisoning the likes of Anne Boleyn and Sir Walter Raleigh. This building is a next to last example of Norman Architecture. Considered extremely tall for its time, at 90 feet, The Tower of London had extremely thick walls that spanned approximately 15 feet in width in order to support it’s massive height.  Like many Romanesque buildings, it offers fortress-like in design and structure.

While Gothic Architecture was known for its very tall, magnificent buildings, the overall structures were a continuation of Norman. Norman Architecture used rounded arches and ribbed vaults that formed barrel vaults,  while Gothic Architecture used pointed arches.  It is commonly believed that the Gothic Architecture, as we know it today, would not have existed if it were not for Norman Architecture.

 

The Dark Ages

Norman and Romanesque architectural styles have been long associated with Fairy Tale structures of the medieval era.  Architects have since learned that most of these castles and cathedrals were not to house royalty as much as they were thickly armed fortifications. Unfortunately, many known Norman structures were the sites of extreme bloodshed and misery.  The Dark Ages, also known as the, Middle Ages is believed to have taken on that name due to Norman buildings and their extremely small windows.

Most church architects have taken more inspiration from the Gothic period than any other period.  That said, most architects regard the Norman movement as an architectural landmark.

Norman Architecture accomplished unsurpassed heights and renewed the magnificence of classical styles.  Though manifested in the awakening of human greatness, during a very dark time, its legacy rests in human desires and imagination that is believed to have been responsible for the evolution of the Renaissance era.

Architect Qualities

If you are looking into building your own home, you may have decided to get the professional opinion of an architect in an attempt to create a high quality design.

The problem is; there are too many to choose from and you don’t know exactly who to go for. Also, you don’t necessarily want to rush into a decision because the design of your home is vital; if you go ahead with something you aren’t comfortable with, you have to live with it for many years. For this reason, it is your right to be picky and to take your time in deciding. To help you along, here are some important qualities that every architect must have.

Experience

You want to find someone that has had experience at doing a project similar to yours otherwise you could be making most of the decisions yourself. Whether they have built their career from scratch or have been working under someone else, at least three years experience is important as you need to be able to trust their ability.

Manners

Remember, they are fighting for this project and not the other way around. Take your time in finding someone that is polite and kind and someone you’re happy to go into a partnership with. All good professionals should have built up a level of customer service and you need to feel as though you can approach them at any time with any problems.

Examples of Work

It is all well and good someone having three, four, or even more, years of experience but they count for nothing if they were standing in the shadow of someone more experienced. Find actual examples of their work in the shape of projects that they have had the lead on in recent years. Your trust in an architect can only increase if there is proof of their work that you can go and stand next to or even go inside.

Open to Discussion

You need to try and find the balance between an architect having their own creative ideas and the ability to listen to yours. Of course, a professional will have ideas and will know what will work and what won’t but they still have to listen to your plans as it is your development after all. The partnership between you and them needs to be strong and they need to be able to come up with solid ideas as well as listen to what you want and don’t want. There is no point choosing an architect that isn’t going to follow the basic premise of your plan.

Big Clientele

It doesn’t matter if an architect has three years or thirty three years of experience, they should always have a big list of clients that they are happy to share with you. For a construction to be great, professionals have to meet and work together on a variety of different projects. If an architect has a list of people to call upon, you know that previous projects worked out well and that they would be happy to combine again.