Future - Visions

organic architecture? future or has passed

Posted by carinasong1990 on May 16, 2014 at 5:40 AM

What I gain from Wright and his organic architecture

Even in the 20th centuries, organic architecture, as a term proposed by Frank Lloyd Wright dating back to 10 decades ago, is always being put forward to the frontline of architecture style war. Parametrism mentions about organic for its movement and spatial arrangements, sustainable building systems refers to organic for its environmental benign, Alvaro Aalto used organic to include his use of natural materials and vernacular constriction methods. People who hold different architectural doctrines all want an ‘organic architecture’. Then, what is organic architecture?

In responds to the readings this week, I would say ‘organic architecture’ is a total work of art that does not separate building from its settings, both exteriors and interiors; its furnishings including utilities, decorations, furnitures; its owners and the emotions that its owners cast towards the building. Be true to materials and respect human’s five senses. That is, ‘exalting the simple laws of common sense or of super-sense if you prefer determining form by way of the nature of materials“, claimed by Wright in 1950s. It is an intergraded design approach that combines both the physical with the intangible feelings. It is a term that indicates building as a part of nature and everything within the building is a unity.

1. let the material speaks

His use of vernacular materials and construction methods in his early ‘OAK Park’ period( 1890s-1910s), represented by the shingle claddings, the pitched roof, and the arches all strengthened the horizontality which is also a respond to the flat vast Prairie landscape in Illinios. His later moving to California informs his design into a more monumental building type which is a respond to California’s metropolitan urban patterns and its filming culture background. During which period( 1910-1940) he chose to use concrete as a major construction material that sometimes make contrasts with rough stone claddings. In his later work in his hometown Wisconsin, we see his shift of interest to curves. But his designs throughout his life stays true to the settings they located at and I see his change of style is just various responds to the changing site conditions.

His belief in materials reminded me of many of the modern architects since 1900s, such as Alvar Aalto who is famous for his use of vernacular wood materials in decorating and construction the house. Aalto’s designs also take responsibilities to the landscape that surrounds the building. And Louis Khan is the second architect I think of when I was thinking about this topic. I remembered that in the film: ‘architect, a son’s journey,’ in which Khan was teaching his student in a design studio:’ If you want to make something using a brick, then ask the brick, what do you want to be? Then the brick says: I want to be an arch! Then you say, no, arch is too expensive for the massive production, I can make you into a spandrel or something to make it cheaper. Then the brick says, I want to be an arch!’ It is a very interesting episode that I want to share. At least, this tells that architects must stay true to the materials and see what the materials want to be in certain circumstances.

Wright chose vernacular material that suits its surrounds while he seemed never hides them. This makes me think of a fundamental architectural tenet: ‘true to material’. Being true to material can leave many expressive potential to designs. One can visually feel the texture, the volume, the temperature, the expression of a material upon seeing the structure.


2. A total work of art-----An insist on proportions, and balance

Strongly influenced by Sullivan and Japanese architecture, Wright’s building represents harmonious repetitions of geometries of rectangles. He has his own order yet still can find reference to the classical antiquity. His uses of horizontal lines, decorations of arch and modular panels, had become a basic design language of his. These basic ordering principles continue to repeat throughout the building as a whole, which I assume the design process counts for an organic integrated architecture. I appreciate in that time of transition when most of the architects were seeking for ‘movements’ and ‘speed’, he insist on his taste of classical orders and principles and continue to implement the order in his whole design process. Thinking in retrospect, this might inform me that even in this ear of digital architecture, I should still insist on my belief in classical orders and proportions. Rather than abandon the ‘beauty of orders’ and trying to make funky, crazy shaped buildings, I should think of how to make the classical orders and principles need the visual needs of contemporary people.

3. At last, are Wright’s work count for ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’?

He designs furniture to suit his building. He chooses every decoration for the finishings. He concerns the design process as a whole. For 20years ahead Germanys proposed the idea of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, does Wrights’ work count for a total work of art?

Then what is the difference between the ‘organic architecture’ with a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’?



In summary, I think what Wright has informed me by so far, was not only his architecture theories of separating functions, served and serving areas, but his idea of treating architecture as something that had its own soul and could be felt. That everything around it, inside it , attached to it, passed it, would somehow reflected on and by it.


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