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Organic Architecture

Picture Dictionary of Modern Architecture: Organic


Designed by Jorn Utzon, the Sydney Opera House in Australia is an example of Organic architecture.
The Sydney Opera House, designed by Jørn Utzon

The Sydney Opera House, designed by Jørn Utzon, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2003

Photo by David Messent, courtesy of Jørn Utzon/Utzon Architects and the Pritzker Prize Committee
Frank Lloyd Wright said that all architecture is organic, and the Art Nouveau architects of the early twentieth century incorporated curving, plant-like shapes into their designs. But in the later half of the twentieth century, Modernist architects took the concept of organic architecture to new heights. By using new forms of concrete and cantilever trusses, architects could create swooping arches without visible beams or pillars.

Organic buildings are never linear or rigidly geometric. Instead, wavy lines and curved shapes suggest natural forms.

Examples of Organic Modernism:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright used shell-like spiral forms when he designed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City
  • Artist and architectural designer used ocean motifs when he designed Sea Ranch Chapel in Gualala, California
  • Architect Eero Saarinen is known for designing grand bird-like buildings such as the TWA terminal at New York's Kennedy Airport and Dulles Airport near Washington D.C.
  • Architect Jorn Utzon borrowed shell-like forms for the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

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