I subscribe to an architectural philosophy I call “Organic Design.” “Organic” is a good word and descriptive of what I appreciate and believe and practice, but the word is often used in ways that I don’t agree with. So to make my intentions clear, I created a one-page manifesto.
Principles of Organic Design
Every piece of land has a voice. The Organic Designer’s task is to listen intently to this voice, and to bring it, and all other considerations, into exquisite harmony.
Organic Design is the commitment to the elegant reconciliation of all relevant criteria, including:
- The needs and desires of the client
- Local history
- Natural light and climate
- Topography and vegetation
- Energetic sweet spots
- Distressed spots
When buildings and landscape are designed organically, they look and feel like a natural extension of the land on which they sit, as if the designer came along and finished what nature began. You can feel it in your bones, when you are in a place born of this attitude.
Essential geometric shapes found throughout nature (e.g. circles, spheres, hexagons, spirals, radial patterns) figure prominently in Organic Design. Spaces are soft, warm, and welcoming, without sharp edges or protruding corners. Doorways are often arched, ceilings can be vaulted, domed, and coved. Tables are typically round, and the great room or courtyard acts as a central, unifying hub, with other rooms, apartments, or individual plots radiating from it. Thus the space wraps around and nurtures its occupants.
Organic Design takes advantage of indigenous parts whenever possible: local stone, wood, tile, brick, metal, clay, recycled materials from local buildings, byproducts from local industry.
Sometimes it is possible to craft beautiful, functional, relevant new things from the parts of old things, to re-purpose a building or site while simultaneously paying homage to legacy. These are great opportunities.
Organic Design often uses un-milled parts of trees, unpainted and/or distressed metals, rough-hewn stone.
Wood and stone are often beautiful with just oils to seal and brighten them. Metals often have a rich range of natural patinas. Clays are often richly colored and can be pigmented with dyes derived from local plants and minerals.
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