“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.