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Organic architecture

Organic architecture. C20 term used in so many ways it is virtually meaningless. Organic suggests organization formed as if by some natural process, so organic architecture may mean governed in its evolution by natural factors rather than by an imposed predetermined plan. F. L. Wright, taking his cue from Sullivan, who insisted form and function should be one, suggested that the relationship of parts to the whole, and the special relationship of parts, whole, and site, whereby a sense of natural growth was given, constituted organic architecture. Häring proposed that architecture implied a search, allowing forms to develop during the searching, and that the very discovery of forms was associated with harmony in nature. Aalto rejected the determination of form by geometrical means, used natural materials in unusual ways (not always successfully), and claimed to respond to the qualities of the sites. Scharoun's buildings have also been claimed as ‘organic’ because their design-treatment was not unlike that practised by Häring. Curved reinforced-concrete shell-structures and tent-shapes (e.g. the work of Frei Otto) have been perceived as organic, while there are those who would claim the use of natural materials, especially those indigenous to an area, leads to organic buildings. ‘Organic architecture’ also seems to imply the opposite of rational, geometrical architecture, and is probably associated with intuition, irregularity, and a blurring of the man-made artefact with what is natural. The work of Makovecz has been described as ‘Organic’, probably because it is difficult to see where rocks, earth, and plants end and structure begins in some of the designs, while Kroll's buildings, evolving slowly as they are required, and altered by their users, have been labelled ‘Organic’. More recently, with the evolution of so-called Zoömorphic architecture, and explorations concerned with biomorphic forms, the term has acquired further associations.


Dvorszky (ed.) (1991);
D. Gans & Kuz (eds.) (2003);
Jencks (1988);
Lampugnani (ed.) (1988);
D. Pearson (2001);
Portoghesi (2000);
Powers (1999a);
Ree (2000);
Wright (1970);
Zevi (1950)

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