Type: Definition Essays
Sample donated: Freda Steele
Last updated: December 20, 2019
The Encroaching IconCatalina MoralesARCH 6359: Modern Architecture and UrbanismProfessor Michael KuboDecember 13, 2017?CONTENTSABSTRACT……………………………………………………………………………….
….3THE ORIGINS OF ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE……………………………….
.4Existing StylesThe Conception of Organic ArchitectureOppositions to Wright’s ConceptFallingwaterThe Guggenheim MuseumTHE EFFECTS OF ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE………………………………3A.Bruce GoffConclusionBIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………………10ABSTRACTThe present study will research the concept of “organic” architectural expression as conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Modern Movement in Architecture. Lloyd created a building method of immersing humanity into nature rather than pulling them away from it.
This study will trace the idea of “organic” and how functionalism, rationalism, and expressionism had an influence on modern architecture of the era. The creation of Wright’ Guggenheim Museum in New York and Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, among others, are prime examples of these ideologies that shaped a new style of architecture. This study will further compare different styles of architecture of the same time and analyze how those styles were developed simultaneously from classical predecessors and the International Style.
Frank Lloyd Wright attempted to create unique structures by challenging the industrializing modern architecture and the International Style so rampant in the 1920’s and 1930’s. By extracting the roots of the movement, one can analyze the impact on other designers and architecture after Wright’s time.?The Origins of Organic Architecture”Nothing is more difficult to achieve than the integral simplicity of organic architecture.
” – Frank Lloyd WrightArchitecture and the design field changed dramatically at the turn of the 20th century with the advent of new construction technologies, particularly the use of glass, steel, and reinforced concrete. This highly impacted the built environment, the way designers approached materials, and new art styles. In the early 1920’s Frank Lloyd Wright, most commonly known for his Prairie School style projects, pioneered a new architecture style which transformed the design world. He applied intricate concepts to simple materials to produce a new style he called “organic” architecture. This style of architecture is “an architecture that develops from within outward in harmony with the conditions of its being as distinguished from one that is applied from without”, as defined by Frank Lloyd Wright in his Second Paper from “In the Cause of Architecture.
” The term also “mean(t) something that has entity. Only entity can live. So when you get that into a building, you have got it into civilization, and, when you understand the nature of the term organic and the nature of nature study as…advocated by Wright, you can have the center line of the civilization that can preserve itself, that can persevere.”2 The essence of organic architecture was to “(build) the way nature builds…which involved a very natural simple process.” The creation of Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania (1935) and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City (1943) are prime examples of these ideologies. In turn, the perception of architecture changed and designers have continued to exercise some of his ideas into designs that consider the context into which they are placed. By extracting the roots and application of the organic architecture philosophy, one can analyze its social, economic, and ideological impact on other designers in the architecture world.Existing StylesIn the time leading up to Wright’s innovative architecture concept, architecture revolved around revival styles, Beaux Arts Classicism, and the International Style.
Leading architects drew inspiration from the significant industrial changes, both in machine mass-production and improved emerging construction technologies, to develop modern architecture suited to its era. Modern design was comprised of rectilinear forms, surfaces devoid of external ornamentation, and vast, open spaces. Moreover, this style employed the use of steel, glass and concrete to satisfy the desire for a new class of quality architecture that went beyond overly ornamented, traditional brick and stone buildings. “The distinguishing aesthetic principles of the International Style as laid down by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson are three: emphasis upon volume – space enclosed by thin planes or surfaces as opposed to the suggestion of mass and solidity; regularity as opposed to symmetry or other kinds of obvious balance; and lastly, dependence upon the intrinsic elegance of materials, technical perfection, and fine proportions, as opposed to applied ornament.
” Despite the increasing use of these modern style principles, Frank Lloyd Wright confronted this architecture model. To him, modern architecture “(did not) mean a thing. Anything (was) modern that (was) built at the present time. He suppose(d) because everything was antique, everything was from the antique shops. Even the things people wore came across in the same fashion, washed up on the shores of the nation, so architects and designers thought it was marvelous that we should have everything modern.” Wright believed calling architecture “modern” was so absurd because it was a shameful imitation of a great idea.The Conception of Organic ArchitectureFrank Lloyd Wright introduced the concept of “organic” into his architecture philosophy in the early 20th century. In a time in which “form follows function” was the mantra of modern architecture, Wright evolved his own philosophy by expanding on the ideologies of his mentor, Louis Sullivan.
The elaboration of spatial organization and aesthetics proved to be crucial for Wright’s new designs. He claimed that not only did “form follow function”, but “form and function (were) one.”7 Wright explained, “Not until we raise the dictum, now a dogma, to the realm of thought, and say: Form and function are one, have we stated the case for architecture. That abstract saying ‘Form and function are one’ is the center line of architecture, organic. It places us in line with nature and enables us sensibly to go to work.
” He challenged the prevalent modern design approach into a distinctly “Wright” style. This new concept incorporated many of the underlying principles found in architecture and art of the time– functionalism, rationalism, and expressionism. However, Wright’s organic architecture and design took into consideration every aspect of architecture including the functional and rational, symbolic and spiritual. Many literary historiansFIX HERE have traced the concept of organic back to antiquity, starting from Plato and Socrates. This theory has found to be deeply rooted in the writings of transcendentalists Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.
According to historian Giordano Orsini, Socrates attempted to define “art” as a “living being, with a body of its own as it were, and neither headless or footless, but with a middle and members adapted to each other and to the whole”. Here, Socrates uses the organic principle that can be applied to essentially any work of art. The ideas were so influential to Wright that he began to develop his own notions of the great capacity of architecture. He believed that classic architecture was simply a block of material sculpted into different styles from the exterior, but by rejecting these principles he would “get inside the thing”, and by doing so, he could get inside the man.3 Essentially, Wright sought things of the spirit by way of the spirit and, thus, architecture was a matter of the soul, a flowing transition between inside and outside.While under the mentorship of Louis Sullivan, Wright formed his own ideas of what fluid architecture should be. As he observed the master crafting clay, Wright recognized that clay, as all other materials, were simply like moldable plastic in the potter’s hands. Wright sought after plastic continuity in the remainder of his work.
He regarded “buildings as a synthesis of society and civilization in a system of philosophy and ethics, when they (were) organic architecture”. He reiterated his design philosophy in his paper “In the cause of Architecture” by stating:”It is in Nature that the architect may develop that sense of reality that field in terms of his own work will lift him far above the realistic in his art … A sense of the organic is indispensable to an architect; where can he develop it so surely as in this school? A knowledge of the relations of form and function lies at the root of his practice.” His mentor, Mr.
Sullivan, also wrote of organic architecture: “For a great work, for us must be an organism – that is possessed of a life of its own. Thus Art comes into Life, thus Life comes into Art. For the true cause of a building is not external but internal.” In almost the same manner, Wright wrote: “I now realize that organic architecture is life and life itself is organic architecture” , and “The reality of a building is not in the four walls, the roof, but inhered in the space within.” These references illustrate not only the similarity in thinking but the development of Sullivan’s thoughts from concept to a built structure.
Sullivan planted the seed and Wright watered it to make it grow.Oppositions to Wright’s ConceptArchitectural historian Bruno Zevi argued that Wright overdramatized his architectural ideal and the adjectives used to describe them were no more than a vague, romanticized description to elevate a new effort. Zevi goes on to say that “the distinction, then, between organic and inorganic architecture appears not to be absolute but one of degree and emphasis”. Wright attempted to create a style that related to nature on all levels, making a poetic purpose of his designs. To him, architecture became more than a vocation, but a religion.
His philosophy turned him into the harbinger of new organic expression intended to suit the highest of modern architectural models. Frank Lloyd Wright stated that the term organic could only be used when referring to a “living form”. “The word ‘organic’ applies to living structure – a structure or concept parts are so organized in form and substance as to be applied to purpose, that lives is therefore organic. An organic form grows its structure out grows out of the soil… both unfold similarly from within.” As profound as this definition seemed, Bruno Zevi implied that few architects and critics were able to fully understand the depth of his intentions for “organic” expression.
Despite the complex definition, Wright promoted his natural architecture as “buildings (that) appear to grow easily from its site and…shaped to harmonize with its surroundings”. Wright drew from natural forms – trees, flowers, and more – to generate architecture that acknowledged the role natural systems around it played. He thought of the building as an organism which was composed of many parts, integrating form and function, the nature of materials, and space within. Wright’s notion of the organic was different to the idea of a building as a machine in an era that celebrated the machine and all things mechanized. Architecture was being industrialized along with all other aspects of society and international modernists encouraged the standardization of large-scale structures and the materials that went into them.4 However, Wright challenged the norm by designing buildings with the care of a handmade craft. Yet, Zevi suggests there is fallacy in his theory of the built environment at the root of expressionism when buildings begin to represent sentiments, states of mind, or the actual content of the building. Zevi proposes a new definition of organic architecture: “Architecture is organic when the spatial arrangement of room, house and city is planned for human happiness, material, psychological and spiritual.
The organic is based therefore on a social idea and not a figurative idea. We can only call architecture organic when it aims at being human before it is humanist.”15Fallingwater Fig. 1 Fallingwater. Photo by Harold Corsini.
A well-known example of Wright’s organic architecture is Fallingwater located in rural Pennsylvania. Designed as a residence for the Kaufmann family in 1939, this was a building Wright intended to be fully integrated into its surroundings. It was constructed in the midst of Bear Run’s waterfalls in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. When Wright visited the site for the first time “he appreciated the powerful sound of the falls, the vitality of the young forest, and the dramatic rock ledges and boulders.
” It was reported that after visiting the site, Wright did not touch or draw anything until nine months later when he met up with Mr. Kaufmann. This claim enlarged the creative genius, as he thought he was, into a sought-out designer. CITE He had to rethink the relationship between built space and the natural world, even the nature of domestic life.
The first exterior impression of Fallingwater mimics the stone ledges surrounding the site including a series of stacked, cantilevered concrete floor plates, revolving around a central stone chimney. He described the house as an “extension of the cliff beside a mountain stream, making living space over and above the stream upon several terraces upon which a man who loved the place sincerely, one who liked to listen to the waterfall, might well live.” Wright saw the cantilever as the device to deliver a liberating space such as the branch from a tree or a physical human limb. Even though he intended to create the cantilevers from stone, it would not be possible at the scale of Fallingwater. Instead, for the first time, Wright chose reinforced concrete due to its ability to be cast in any form; it was completely plastic in nature.
17On the interior, Wright made an effort to create a sheltering effect where the visitor has access to view the raw environment but also feels a sense of safety and intimacy within the residence. Edgar Kaufmann Jr., son of the client, mentioned, “although all of Fallingwater is opened by broad bands of windows, people inside are sheltered as in a deep cave, secure in the sense of hill behind them.”17 All throughout the house, there are moments where the guest steps up or down a few steps to enter into a new room, integrating fluidity into the experience. The house was successful even in the minimal details, such as custom chairs for the dining room, built-in seats with cushions running more than thirty-eight feet across the living room, and even wood shelves for linens and more. From the cabinets to the fireplace to the fixtures to the stairs, Frank Lloyd Wright specified and tailored the house around the primitive nature of the site that it rests on. Fallingwater is seamlessly embedded into the landscape through natural materials and earthy colors. Wright further establishes his understandings of organic by integrating the senses into the home through the rugged façade and gentle sound of moving water.
The Guggenheim Museum Fig. 2 Exterior, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Photo: Robert E. MatesAnother building intended to reflect Wright’s organic ideals is the Guggenheim Museum in New York built in 1959. This was work commissioned by Solomon Guggenheim and Hilla Rebay. As a result of World War II, the erection of the museum had to be delayed. Once designed, the building stood in violation of numerous New York City building codes, it lacked enclosed fire exits, for instance.
The Guggenheim Museum has a vertical orientation due to the nature of the constricted site.In 1957, Wright was asked by twenty-one concerned artists that the slanting walls and lighting were unsuitable for the proper exhibition of the paintings to be displayed. Elements of organic?Was it successful?Those opposed to it?Iconic? (bring in arguments of bldgs. As icons instead of relating to context?Was this good or bad? What did it do to the city? Bilbao effect? He passed away six months before the opening of the museum.The Effects of Organic Architecture In examining the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, it can be assumed that he rarely focused on the mechanical delineation of his projects, but on the articulation of solids versus voids and “the large-scale manipulation of spaces and masses into a vital, intrinsic architecture.” Though highly revered, and immensely pushed in academia, how might the perceived significance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic works have changed over time? Designers all over the world have fled to see his works.
Although Wright verbalized the concept that dwellings should be as different as their owners, he only fathomed this purpose toward the end of his life. The architect that developed Wright’s idea most effectively was Bruce Hoff. “So completely (did) he immerse himself in his clients’ needs that the resulting building (bore) little similarity to those he designed for others.
“217. IntegrationPERHAPSCONSEQUENTLY, blank architect employed blank of organic principle in blank work. This black was successful in applying the concept of…AS A RESULTFURTHERMORE, there seems to be a disconnect between verbal and visual communication.
….in Fallingwater, whereas the Guggenheim seems to be the odd-ball in the midst of historical structures? Did Wright really integrate nature and accomplish what his theory intended to prove?9. What can we learn from his “Organic” Architecture? Social impact (p. 67 in car article) Economic impact Ideological impact on other designers/architects in the worldDesigners seek after the timeless and universal qualities that made Wright’s architecture works of art……. By distilling Wright’s well-known buildings characterized as organic, ….
.Misleading rhetoric…fragmented thoughts…. Are there any successors? Who kept his work or ideologies going after him? Conclusion What did I learn from this? What conclusion did I come to? How can I apply what I learned to my life as a designer/planner/architect/student of design? Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas showed that modern architecture drew its deepest inspiration from a social purpose – to achieve man’s happiness in the realm of the built environment. However organic architecture was perceived, it brought about “freedom from the T-square and from geometric composition… open(ing) the road to the most imaginative developments in the organization of living space.” CITE Today, the meaning of organic architecture has been redefined by architects such as Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Zaha Hadid, etc. as “”….Structures that are organic in today’s terms are those that employ parametric designs….
CITE Lastly, organic architecture injected the playfulness to the built environment that can only be achieved by a logical method of designing. Wright’s concept of organic architecture was important in what would later be classified as Modern architecture.At the core of his ideology was the conviction that architecture has an innate with its site.
CITENonetheless, there are contradictions inherent in Wright’s view of organic architecture. These do not solely involve the architecture, for the definition has been clearly stated, but the role of the architect in the design process. Regardless of his notorious biography and pretentious personality, Wright’s novel ideas impacted America and the design field. Undeniably, his inventive proposals for revolutionizing the American skyline established his legacy that continually inspires current architects and students.”Know why a house is good, know that the proportions belong, know that the building looks as though it belonged there where it is and couldn’t be seen anywhere else and shouldn’t be. Know a building’s charm – the kind of appeal that good shoes fit you.
That’s the good house. That is the quality house. That’s organic architecture and it means according to nature, to the essential intrinsic character of everything. Not just trees, flowers, and out-of-doors but the actual inner life of everything.
In man, it would be soul.”3 BibliographyChanchani, Samiran. “Between icon and institution: the vacillating significance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum.” The Journal of Architecture 5, no. 2 (2000): 159-88. doi:10.1080/136023600408692.Chelazzi, Giuliano.
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1 Hoffman, Donald. “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater: The House and Its History.” New York: Dover Publications, 1978.Fig. 2 “The Frank Lloyd Wright Building.” Guggenheim.
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