Architecture is a special form of art, one that requires a lot of thinking, planning, and design. It is also a functional form of art because it yields structures that often result in utility. But human architecture is distinctly human… it sticks out from the environment and stands apart from the natural world. Wouldn’t it be something if our cities were designed to reflect nature by mimicking the natural designs of the Earth's topography?
Well, in some places they do. Organic architecture is a new trend that is sweeping the design world. Frank Lloyd Wright coined the term, and described it as: a form of architecture that interprets nature’s principles and manifests them in the product, creating buildings that are in harmony with the world around them. Here are a few amazing examples around the world:
The Lotus Temple - Delhi, India
This temple in India was designed by Iranian-Canadian Architect Fariborz Sahba in 1986 to resemble a giant lotus flower. The building is a Bahá’í House of Worship, which means the followers of any sect, denomination, religion, philosophy, or ideal are welcome. The floral design was symbolic of beauty and grace, suggesting that perhaps one day humanity will be a bit more welcoming to all worshipers.
Qatar National Convention Center - Doha, Qatar
An exemplary work of organic architecture, the Convention Center's platform roof is rooted by tree trunks wending upwards. But the structure goes beyond just mimicking nature. The Qatar National Convention Center is the first building of its kind to achieve a LEED gold certification for sustainability. It operates incredibly efficiently, conserving water wherever possible and using energy efficient fixtures like solar panels to power the structure.
The Gherkin - London, UKDespite being relatively new, The Gherkin, completed in 2003, has quickly become London’s “best-loved tall building,” giving Big Ben a run for its money. Designed to look like a pickle, I think it looks more like a stretched egg or a stalagmite, both items more commonly found in nature. The odd shape is more than just aesthetic, though, it also helps the building to conserve energy and increase sustainability.
Heatherwick’s East Beach Cafe - London, UK
Another example of London's organic architecture lies along the southern shore. An area under economic duress in the late 70’s through the turn of the century, it is a hard British seaside neighborhood. Renowned organic architecture firm, Heatherwick Studios, was tasked with creating something that looked natural and appealing that would fit into a narrow slot of land. The result is the East Beach Cafe. Designed to resemble a piece a driftwood, this elongated rust structure represents the area's industrious past. The restaurant has won several awards for its architecture, but its food is pretty good too.
Learning Hub at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) - Singapore
This incredible “Hive” was also designed by Heatherwick Studios to look like a tree grove. Inside the Learning Hub actually feels like a hive (hence the nickname), integrating formal and informal learning spaces to create a comfortable, casual environment. The space is interspersed with gardens, balconies, and nooks that encourage social and educational interaction. It is one of the most incredible buildings in Singapore, and while visitors may be taken with the outstanding exterior aesthetics, the inside is every bit as organic and harmonious.
Gaudi’s Casa Mila - Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is known for it's strange art, fountains, murals, and statues. But even more discernible is the architecture. Few structures catch the eye quite like Gaudi’s Casa Mila (or “The Miracle House”). The drooping edges and balconies look like they're made of wax, melting under the intense Barcelona sun. This is one of the oldest examples of organic architecture in the world, completed in 1912. Gaudi designed the building so that it has a constant curve, both inside and out, accomplishing this through the use of ruled geometry and natural elements. Perhaps the most enchanting part of La Casa Mila is the roof, which is covered in chimneys, skylights, fans and staircases, all of which stand as sculptures on their own. It’s like being in an art gallery on top of a piece of living art.