Organic Architecture By Frank Lloyd Wright
There are many forms and classes of architecture that exist in the world, some of which are recent while others are plainly ancient. Each of these forms of architecture has a unique style and each serves to accomplish a certain architectural purpose. A certain architectural style may seek to simply create convenience in house building and use, while other may be concerned with environmental conservation and the attempt to blend human life with nature that surrounds. These architectural styles are different in their own existence as to the beliefs of their founders who are also different individuals. Each of these founders who were also architects approached architecture with different views. One of the different architectural styles is Organic architecture. The following paper seeks to analyze and explain deeply on organic architecture, the prairie style, its founder as well as its characteristics.
Organic architecture was introduced or in other words founded by an architect known as Frank Lloyd Wright. According to Elman, Wright started using the word organic in his architecture in 1908 from the teachings of his mentor, a man named Louis Sullivan. Wright’s mentor, Sullivan, used a slogan to term style of architecture which stated as, “form follows function”. However, Wright took up a similar slogan, “form and function are one” which signified integration in his style of architecture. To Wright, this integration meant the integration of architecture and nature.
Organic architecture and its inventor Frank Lloyd Wright have its roots in the United States of America where its influence is evident across the country. This form of architecture however, has two lineages; one that follows the Classical style and the other leans toward a Gothic nature. Wright is quoted to have said that just as a plant grows from its surrounding/soil, an architectural structure should rise from the ground in much the same way.
In light of Wright’s beliefs and statements, it would be right to state that his style of architecture is more realizable in the country side especially for residential structures. This is quite evident in the American country side residential buildings. However, for the followers of the Classical style of organic architecture that do not completely follow Wright’s ideologies, their architecture easily blends in urban areas. Wright’s ideologies simply did not support the rise of cities but in the modern world, cities are inevitable and thus the development of the classical style of organic architecture.
Characteristics, Approach and Analysis
The word organic coined on this style of architecture is an obvious reference to nature. However, Wright’s approach was not to mimic or directly copy forms of nature but to create from nature something that would blend with its environment, more of a reinterpretation than an imitation of nature. Organic architecture seeks to respect even the materials used in building at the same time maintaining the design (form) versus function of the structure relationship. A good example by Wright is that a bank should look like its purpose and not like a temple but at the same time it should blend in with its environment thus respecting form and function.
A distinct style within organic architecture is the Prairie style of creating residential homes which is a direct creation of Frank Lloyd Wright. The design of these building is usually boxed with a square shaped plan. The boxes that form the entire house are of different heights as well as varying depths making the entire structure rather unique. The roofs are low and create overhangs that shield away direct sunlight but at the same time allowing a lot of natural light in. This roof is usually shallow and pitched with a hip kind of style. The residential houses are installed with large windows which are the ones that allow the flow of plenty fresh air to circulate within the house. The same windows also allow sunlight to fill the house giving it a natural lighting during the day. This way indirect daylight flows through the huge windows since direct sunlight has already been blocked by the overhangs. The light is neither too bright nor too dim for the house. The usual and preferred building materials are clapboards and bricks that sustain the natural look. These houses have porches that are one story high supported by huge square beams.
The Robie House in Chicago is one of Wright’s direct creations. This remarkable house is characterized by overlapping planes that are horizontal in placement. The planes retreat away from the street one above the other thus protecting its inhabitants from outsiders. These planes are the structures that define space unlike the normal housing whose space is defined by its walls. The same planes are the ones that reflect the house’s environment as per Wright’s ideologies. The house’s structure is at par with the Midwestern landscape that is flat and plane like.
The design used by organic architecture sympathizers, is simply influenced by nature. Regardless of the geographic location, such structures should take up characteristics of the environment around it. The structure should seem as if it sprouts from the same ground it is built on in a way such that like an organism/plant it seems to develop from natures seed. Organic architecture structures are visually appealing as well as inviting. It is usually flexible in nature and does not seem to intrude in the natural set of the environment thus being conscious to its environment. Some would term this style as poetic.
Organic structures are a form of sustainable development and the best example of such a structure is the residence in Pennsylvania known as ‘Falling Water’. These buildings are usually physically characterized by the allowance for natural lighting and spacious interiors. The materials used in developing these buildings are usually natural as compared to industrial manufactured materials. In the case that wood is used to build, its form should not be tampered with to the point that it no longer looks like wood but should be left in a state that screams nature to the eye. Should a house be built on a hill, it should blend in with the hill and not seem as if it was just placed on it. The building should be the real expression of what that building shall function as, mimicking its true purpose.
Organic architecture as discussed and analyzed above shows a style of architecture that conforms to the environment seemingly respecting it. It is an architecture that radiates with nature and life, creating a sense of comfort. The buildings seem alive and in support of natural life unlike the modern concrete and glass jungle that are our cities. Frank Lloyd Wright is one architect who had immense respect and awe to the environment thus creating an environmental conscious form of architecture. His form design and building naturalizes architecture wiping of its artificial status.
- Frank Lloyd Wrigh first used the term organic architecture