Sustainable and eco-friendly buildings are a concept that has been introduced into mainstream design over the past 20 years but the historical movement of its predecessor, organic design, started long before.
With organic architecture and organic design stretching back as far as the 30’s there is a rich history of architects and designers deploying this philosophy in a poignant way, long before talk of biophilia and biophilic design. Indeed the creations birthed from this branch of design went on to heavily influence the trajectory of the design sector as a whole.
frank lloyd wright: the biophilia pioneer
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator that not only coined the term organic architecture but also believed in and abided by the concept. After a full career that involved designing over 1,000 structures—532 of which were completed—he published "The New Architecture: Principles”, an essay that laid out nine principles of architecture reflecting his philosophy of organic architecture and design.
what is organic architecture & organic design?
Organic architecture is best described as harmonizing the man-made world with nature. Or more abstractly put, "form follows function”, a statement coined by Wright’s mentor and fellow architect, Louis Sullivan.
A structure built using the principles of organic architecture can be said to display the following characteristics:
Closely resembles nature, blending in and utilizing its natural surroundings
Creates things from the inside out, mirroring how much of nature functions
Uses materials and shapes found in the natural world
The derivative term, organic design, extends the philosophy of organic architecture to smaller projects like furniture, accessories, and art.
biophilic building case study: wright’s fallingwater (1935)
A home that truly embodies the theory and spirit of organic design is Fallingwater. Built by Frank Lloyd Wright above the running water in Pennsylvania, this family home makes great use of naturally sourced material, such as cut stone and beige concrete.
biophilic design case study: alvar aalto viipuri library (1933)
Use of natural materials, skylights, and irregular forms can all be seen in the construction of the Viipuri Library, all stylistically typical of the architect Alvar Aalto. It is this organic design approach used in Aalto’s architecture, furniture, textiles, glassware, sculptures and paintings that are attributed to his success as a highly recognized, modern architect and designer in the 1930’s. Notice too how this wave-like form repeats itself in the glorious Aalto-designed vase that proudly sits on our showroom table.
Specifically designed for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, the organic chair was revolutionary. Up until this point, comfortable chairs were constructed with expensive springs and heavy bolsters of upholstery padding. The lightweight, molded plywood seat was a game changer.
After the competition the developers, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, discovered that the technology to mass-produce molded plywood chairs didn’t exist, so not many were produced. However, this did pave the way for a chair that Charles would go on to create with his wife, Ray Eames. An iconic chair known as the Eames Lounge Chair.
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