Organic architecture is a genre of architecture that promotes balance, or even symbiosis, between human dwellings and the natural world they sit on. Organic architecture is attractive to some because it acknowledges that an ecosystem includes people and the structures they build, rather than considering our race to be “above” or separate from the environment. This article explores three architects whose work embodies this philosophy.
Primitive or Contemporary?
Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori created structures some would call eccentric. Although Fujimori is also well known as an architectural historian and professor at the University of Tokyo, his architectural works have gained notoriety for being out of the box in both building methods and design aesthetic. Take his popular tiny (non)traditional tea house, Beetle’s House, a work that resides at the Victoria and Albert museum. The Beetle’s House elicits a primitive feel with its tree house like form and charred wood siding, a method for sealing wood from bugs and moisture that is considered archaic and laborious, yet beautiful. The charred wood technique, or Shou Sugi Ban as it’s known in Japan, utilizes the natural element of fire as a preservative, but the practice has fallen out of favor to due to the modern use of chemically treated wood, plastics, and other synthetics. The small building is accessible only by a trap door and ladder.
(Images by Pasi Aalto)
The interesting form of this small structure comes from Fujimori’s wish to shy away from existing architectural styles. As an architectural historian, he felt the pressure to not be biased towards any classical styles or be a copy of his contemporaries. Fujimori embraces organic forms even in his smallest details. The metal used to hold the rung of the ladder features a primitive look as well.
The “Onion house”, located in Kona, Hawaii, is a beautiful example of organic architecture by Kendrick Bangs Kellogg. The home’s nickname came about when a neighbor perceived it as an onion, and it stuck. Kellogg has a way of making some of his architecture appear rooted to Earth, as if it were a plateau or sandstone arch. His work has been described as a hybrid of the Sydney Opera House and Stonehenge; both structures organic in form and rooted in nature. The Onion house is a bit different from some of his works like the wedding chapel in Karuizawa, Japan or Joshua tree house,
Hoshino Wedding Chapel in Karuizawa, Japan
Hoshino Wedding Chapel interior. Images from kendrickbangskellogg.com
Images from The Onion House, Hawaii
The Onion house is not rooted to Earth in the same way as the previous examples, instead, this paradise home has no vertical walls, only colorful stained glass that meets the curvilinear support. Onion house is available for rent at www.onionhousehawaii.com
Follow Your Passion
If you have ever visited the Sagrada Família in person you would know photographs don’t do it justice. The catholic temple designed by Antoni Gaudi is massive and flooding with detail. In fact, the walls of the church speak a visual language depicting the entire bible. Gaudi had a huge fascination with nature, closely studying organic forms found in nature. Gaudi was determined to use such forms in his architecture, believing that nature had it absolutely right when it came to the support structures for things like trees and the human skeleton.
Construction work for Sagrada Família has been going on since 1882 and is anticipated for completion anytime from 2026 to 2028. At the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, the 73-year-old had been devoting all his time to work on the church, so much so that he didn’t mind sleeping at the work site or his “homeless guy” look. Thanks to Gaudi’s meticulous planning and model building, the immense structure packed full with details and uniquely complex engineering methods (that were far ahead of his time) continues to be built.
“Sagrada Família, Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family (Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família) ( UNESCO World Heritage Site) (interior, ceiling). Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain” by Mstyslav Chernov –