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SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT

What is Organic
in Architecture
Mondira Ganguly

Lotus temple

he term “organic architecture” was natural forms and structures and simple
Integrating human
habitat with the
natural world.
T coined by the famous architect,
Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959).
Presently organic architecture forms the
local materials. Patterns and forms in
nature such as the spiral and fractal are
products of internal laws of growth and
foundation and mother of all architec- of the action of external forces such as
ture – sustainable architecture, alterna- sun, wind and water. In modern &
tive architecture, ecology, bio architec- post modern period, many eminent
ture and so on. Organic architecture Architects have all set out, in their differ-
develops itself from inside to outside, ent ways to display order, harmony, hier-
from the interior life (that flows in space) archy and orthogonal form. Their work
to outdoor. Primitive vernacular archi- shares some organic interests in the use
tecture was innately organic, based on of fractal geometry.

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WHAT IS ORGANIC holds the promise of achieving a com- natural materials blending into the sur-
ARCHITECTURE? patible and sustainable relationship roundings and honest expression of the
Organic architecture is the outcome of between people, nature and the human function of the building with relation of
the feelings of life, like integrity, freedom, built environment, It is interlinked with each piece to the whole and the whole to
fraternity, harmony, beauty, joy and love. Sustainable Architecture, which means the surroundings.
It is a philosophy of architecture which any building to be designed with envi- David Pearson proposed a list of rules,
promotes harmony between human ronmental goals in mind. Sustainable known as the Gaia Charter for organic
habitation and the natural world through Architecture seeks to minimize the neg- architecture and design -
design approaches. It is well integrated ative environmental impact of buildings 1. Let the design be inspired by nature
with its site and has a unified, interrelated by enhancing efficiency and moderation and sustainable, healthy, conserving
composition consisting of buildings and in the use of materials, energy and and diverse.
its surroundings. developmental space. 2. Unfold like an organism from the
seed within.
ECOLOGICAL + INDIVIDUAL’S EXPLORING ORGANIC 3. Exist in the “continuous present” and
= ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE “begin again and again.”
Organic Architecture does describe envi- Primitive vernacular architecture was 4. Follow the flows and be flexible and
ronmental concerns. It also embodies the innately organic, based on natural forms adaptable.
human spirit, transcending the mere act and structures and simple local materials. 5. Satisfy social, physical and spiritual
of providing shelter from surroundings Patterns and forms in nature such as the needs.
which shapes and enhances our lives. spiral and fractal are products of internal 6. Grow out of site and be unique.
Organic Architecture describes an expres- laws of growth and of the action of exter- 7. Express the rhythm of music and the
sion of individuality. It also explores our nal forces such as sun, wind and water. power of dance.
need to connect to nature. Organic Temperature flows also behave better in 8. Celebrate the spirit of youth, play
Architecture is not a style of imitation but curvilinear interiors. It gives respect to and surprise.
rather a reinterpretation of nature’s prin-
ciples to build forms more natural than
nature itself.

OBJECTIVES
It is not a style, but unique and unre-
peatable because it is related to the
man, site and time (three variables).It is
visually poetic, radical, idiosyncratic and
environmentally known, multifaceted,
flexible and surprising. It is a total har-
monized blending of outdoor and
indoor space. It promotes a more posi-
tive link between man and nature.
Organic Architecture is influenced by
Biophilia (love of life – nature or living
system). Organic shapes and forms that
elicit a human affinity for nature. It has
more of a vernacular approach.
Vernacular is a characteristic style com-
mon to a particular region, culture or
period. Vernacular Architecture consists
of buildings or landscapes that affirm a
distinctive material, affinity for place and ParqueGuell, Gaudi

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Architects Gustav Stickley, Antoni upon us either past, present or future. In modern & post modern period,
Gaudi, F.L. Wright, Louis Sullivan, Bruce There should be marriage in between Frank O Gehry, Peter Eisenman,
Goff, Rudolf Steiner, Bruno Zevi and the site and the structure and a union in Remkoolhaas, Zaha Hadid have all set
most recently Anton Alberts and Laurie between the context and the structure. out, in their different ways to display
Baker are all famous for their work relat- Architecture has an inherent relation- order, harmony, hierarchy and orthogo-
ed to Organic Architecture. ship with both its site and its time. A nal form. Their work shares some organic
(1868-1959) Architect, Frank Lloyd building is a product of its place and its interests in the use of fractal geometry.
Wright who coined the term ‘Organic time intimately, connected to a particu- Fractal geometry describes natural
Architecture’ designed the famous resi- lar moment and site, which is never be shapes and rhythms such as snowflakes,
dence, ‘Falling Water’ for Kaufman family the result of an imposed style. leaves, tree branches, mountains, waves
in Pensylvania. The house is directly over
the waterfall and creek, creating a close,
yet noisy dialog with the rushing water
and the steep site. The horizontal stria-
tions of stone masonry with daring can-
tilevers of colored beige concrete blend
with native rock outcroppings and the
wood environment.
‘Taliesin West in Arizona expresses
F.L.Wright’s theories of organic architec-
ture. Organic architecture strives to inte-
grate space into a unified whole. FLW
was not concerned with architectural
style, because he believed that every
building should grow naturally from its
environment and it should exalt the sim-
ple laws of common sense, or of super
sense if we prefer determining form by
way of the nature of materials, non cher-
ishing any preconceived form fixing Falling Water - FLW’s creation

Taliesin West Casa Mila, Gaudi

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and coast lines. Applied to architecture,
rhythm and composition become fractal.
In the later half of the twentieth century,
modernist architects took the concept of
organic architecture to new heights, by
using new forms of concrete and can-
tilevered trusses. Architects could create
swooping arches without visible beams
or pillars. Modern organic designs are
never linear or rigidly geometric. Instead
wavy lines and curved shapes suggest
natural forms, because most of the natu-
ral aspects are curvilinear and asymmetri-
cal in shape. Antonio Gaudi, Spanish
architect designed sculpturally the cre-
Sydney Opera House, John Utzon
ative and irregular organic form.
Mainstream architecture is also from the concept of natural form of white The concept of organic architecture
adopting outward organic forms. More sea shell or with the white sails in the har- is experienced by Rem Koolhaas
liberated and imaginative forms unac- bour or unfolding petals. with overall coherence and it can turn
ceptable to major corporate clients a few The World Trade Center Transporta- the tensions and contradictions into a
years ago are now actively sought The tion Terminal proposed by Spanish new quality.
phenomenon of anthropomorphic archi- architect, Santiago Calatrava also rep- Zambian vernacular architecture is
tecture (organ like building) relates to resents modernist approach to organic organic, beautiful and most importantly
biological phenomena and has to detach architecture. Patrick Blanc overgrows comfortably integrated with the local cli-
itself from the rectangular rationality of the vertical surfaces of buildings in the mate, culture and harvest cycles.
traditional building language. A free pat- most beautiful way. His vertical garden Organic Architecture has a major
tern that changes all the time emerges. could rather be called eco-art or green- role in the improvement of any city
The Sydney Opera House by John Utzon er architecture consisting of a variety of .When any city expands due to develop-
is a modernist approach to organic plants trailing gently up any interior or ment and industrial growth, the con-
architecture. The design idea evolves outside wall. centration of people in the city will

Vertical garden, Patrick Blanc

October 2008 ARCHITECTURE - Time Space & People 25


aesthetically appealing,
but enhance the space
with the spirit of adven-
ture and curiosity.
In India the famous
architect Laurie Baker
designed the buildings
with local materials,
keeping the essence of
organic architecture
which is more comfort-
able to the inhabitants
with natural surround-
ings. The buildings are
aesthetically beautiful,
low-cost and high quality.
The design of brick jali
works promotes natural
air movement to cool the
homes interior and create
intricate patterns of light
and shadow.
The other eminent
Indian Architect, Nari
Gandhi uses ‘art of craft’
in order to achieve an
organic and sensorial
architecture with an
ethos towards the spiritu-
CDS in Trivandrum, Lauric Baker
al. In his design of
grow. Thus there will be a lack of con- of nature. In the city the free-flowing Gobhai Mountain lodge, he explores a
tact between human and nature. Luigi and curvilinear movement channels jewel like exercise in geometry and sim-
Fiumara says that the living Organic depict the natural organic form, plicity. Geometries themselves develop
Architecture tries to bring the qualities which are not only interesting and from the nature of the two distant

Gobhai Mountain Lodge, Nari Gandhi

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the features. Natural building materials,
like stone and mud, fly ash blocks, laterite
blocks are used.
We propose that all architecture
should be organic, individual, and eco-
logical. The solution of every problem is
contained within itself. Its plan, form
and character are determined by the
nature of the site, the nature of the
materials used, the nature of the system
using them, the nature of the life con-
cerned and the purpose of the building
itself. A building should grow from its
site as nature grows from the inside out
and shaped by the forces which sur-
round it. The nature of the material
should be expressed throughout the
building as inherent to their quality and
ability. Nature inspires our work and our
actions. By creating a place which com-
Lotus temple, Fariborz Sahba
plements the environment, other sys-
views, the Rajmachi hilltop fort and TZED homes in Bangalore by BCIL are tems will begin to regenerate.
the Valvan lake below, which the a residential project consisting of envi- Many more organic building are now
verandahs overlook. The roof of the ronmentally sustainable and aesthetically being designed with an increased eco-
east face is pressed down to redirect sound homes for ninety-five families. It is logical awareness to incorporate low
the airflow of the prevailing south- an integrated approach with several energy, sustainable, recycled materials,
west winds. innovative systems to minimize environ- energy saving systems and the concept
Fariborz Sahba designed the Bahai mental impact. Every aspect of TZED has of bio-philia which can reduce stress,
temple in Delhi, in the natural form of been designed to conserve the natural improve physical and mental health of
lotus, which is again the modernist resources and to have minimal impact on inhabitants.
approach of organic architecture, like the environment. Fresh air input and Organic architecture is an honest
Sydney Opera House. builtin energy efficient lights are among expressive dynamic form of natural mate-
rials, natural light and ventilations, inte-
grated with its surrounding landscape.

REFERENCES
1. Design with nature –
by Ken Yeang.
2. Biomorphic Architecture –
by Gunther Fenerstein.
3. 100 Contemporary Architects –
by Bill Lacy. ■

Mondira Ganguly, Architect


Urban Designer and Assistant
Professor.
Photographs: Courtesy the
TZED Homes
Author.

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