Eric Corey Freed is Principal of organicArchitect and has 20 years of experience in green building. Read Eric Corey Freed’s profile for more in-depth overview.
I was reminded this week of a conversation I had with my old mentor, Philip Johnson, back in 1995 when I lived in New York. In an interview this month for Architects and Artisans, I recalled how Johnson once told me how architecture had to be imitable, that is, something easily copied by the masses.
“I can’t present the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright, ” he told me (paraphrasing), “the masses cannot copy that.” It was by this measure he promoted the work of more “easily digestible” architects. In fact, Johnson’s influence over the architectural community was vast, giving power to the overrated International Style and, later, Postmodernism.
In the decades since that conversation, I have come to understand what he meant. Design, as a profession, seems to be more divided than ever into two distinct camps. The first holds that design is reserved for special occasions like office buildings and libraries and, as such, is out of reach to most people. The second is that design can change the world and should be affordable to all. While Johnson enjoyed being the arbiter of architectural tastes, perhaps we are missing out on some great design possibilities.
We haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible in design. Design shouldn’t be based on what is easy for people to copy, but on challenging our sensibilities and questioning what we have done before. Johnson himself wrote, “All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.” As designers, our responsibility is to push the boundaries of what is known. For me, I find proof of this in the design found in Nature. Endless solutions, color palettes and intriguing geometries can be found within nature if we only take a look for them.
“Continuously nature shows him the science of her remarkable economy of structure in mineral and vegetable constructions to go with the unspoiled character everywhere apparent in her forms” wrote Frank Lloyd Wright. For Wright, whose lifelong dictum of Organic Architecture inspired his designs, nature was the primary source for inspiration. Before the Ancient Greeks, Romans or Egyptians, there was Nature.
This video begins to express what I mean. Based on fractal geometries, this video shows a sphere being divided into surfaces based on the mathematical randomness found in Nature. This lyrically beautiful display is what you may imagine buildings of the future might look like.
Imagine the possibilities! Floor plans generated from the dimensions of nature, sprawling into rooms constructed from living plant materials and following a plan embedded in Physics and Biology. Buildings could grow the way Nature grows… but we have to start by looking for our inspiration in the right place.
Have you started?