“The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built”. 

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) gives us, with this quote, the exact key to organic architecture. Its main objective is the harmonious integration of buildings with their surroundings, with nature. And he himself, considered the father of this type of architecture, achieved it through one of his most famous works: ‘Fallingwater’, located in the middle of the Pennsylvania forest.

“I want you to live in the waterfall, not just look at it,” the architect told Edgar J Kaufmann, the businessman who commissioned the house. And, without a doubt, he succeeded. It is the perfect example of harmony between nature and architecture, that is, the perfect example of organic architecture.

Lloyd Wright was a visionary and a genius of architecture and he left for memory another phrase that explains what organic architecture means: “no house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be on the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other”.

In this regard, it is important to note that the term organic architecture is often mistakenly used to refer to what would be sustainable architecture, i.e., that which is based on the design and construction of buildings that meet a series of sustainable requirements. Therefore, for organic architecture to occur, a symbiotic relationship between nature and architecture must be fulfilled.

Principles of organic architecture

For Lloyd Wright, this type of architecture should not be understood as a style in itself. Even so, he himself defined the principles of organic architecture through these 6 key points:

  • A building should appear to have grown where it is located.
  • A predominant form should be chosen to be used throughout the building.
  • Use of natural colors.
  • Reveal the nature of the materials.
  • Use open spaces.
  • Reserve space for green areas.

The best examples of organic architecture

Lloyd Wright led the way, but organic architecture has continued to develop over time. Contemporary houses in trees, surrounded by jungle or installed in deserts, but always perfectly integrated in nature. The book ‘Living in Nature: Contemporary Houses in the Natural World’ collects the best in the world, from Costa Rica to Italy through Brazil, Norway or Canada. 

In Decommunity we have selected six examples of organic architecture, which are a breath of fresh (and natural) air. Buildings that explore architecture from nature.

1. Tree house – Olson Kundig – Costa Rica

An inspiring home in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle is this tree house by architect Tom Kundig of the Olson Kundig studio. An idyllic location, next to the waters of the Pacific, required an equally beautiful project. And this house, built entirely of teak wood harvested on site, is. 

It follows a passive design that allows the house to breathe and the atmosphere to enter the house. In this way, the conditioning is 100% natural thanks to the wooden enclosures, which provide natural light and natural ventilation. The result? A cabin that extends outward and blends into the landscape in a respectful way.

An example of organic architecture in Costa Rica
© Olson Kundig

2. Luca Pasqualetti Bivouac – Roberto Dini and Stefano Girodo – Italy

The second of our examples of organic architecture takes us to an altitude of 3,290 meters. This is a construction in a barely accessible location at the top of Morion in Valpelline (northwestern Alps of Italy). A bivouac designed according to the philosophy of minimum environmental impact.

A structure that blends in with its surroundings and that has been erected in this unique location without using concrete. Moreover, all its components are recyclable and ecologically certified. 

Luca Pasqualetti Bivouac: an example of organic architecture
© Grzegorz Grodzicki

3. Pigna – Claudio Beltrame – Italy

Another organic architecture project in Italy. This one takes us to Pigna, a shelter that is a mimesis of its surroundings. From the tree, for the tree in a building in the Italian Alps, near the border with Austria and Slovenia.

The structure is made entirely of xlam wood insulated with wood fiber, covered with larch wood shingles, which blend seamlessly with its surroundings. A place to disconnect and connect with nature.

Pigna is an organic architecture project in Italy. A shelter that is a mimesis of its surroundings.
© Claudio Beltrame & Luca Beltrame

4. Aculco House – PPAA Pérez Palacios Arquitectos Asociados – Mexico

We travel now to Mexico to get to know ‘Casa Aculco’, an organic architectural project that seeks a constant dialogue between the house and its surroundings. A vacation home disconnected from the city and in the middle of nature.

A project that stands out for the simplicity of its construction, with minimal need for maintenance and that wants to be close to its natural environment. In short, the construction becomes just a container of views.

An organic architecture example in Mexico. In the picture, the facade of this incredible house.
© Rafael Gamo

5. Varden – SPINN Arkitekter and Format Engineers – Norway

Thanks to the initiative of the Norwegian Trekking Association, the fifth of our outstanding organic architecture projects was born. The goal was to encourage hiking in the mountains surrounding the Norwegian town of Hammerfest. The result was Varden, a mountain house made from prefabricated panels with cross-laminated timber in a totally organic framework.

As the architects explain, “Varden is designed as a response to the surrounding Arctic landscape, and with a framework that blends in with the mountains and rocks. We also wanted the design and construction to have minimal impact on the site and to be built with sustainable materials”.

A mountain house made following the principles of organic architecture.
© Tor Even Mathisen

6. Nimmo Bay – Canada

A resort that blends in with its surroundings. A place created and designed to rediscover nature and reconnect with it through unforgettable adventures but also moments of reflection.

Wooden cabins are created following the philosophy of organic architecture to be in constant communication with nature. Would you get lost in this incredible resort? 

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