Wednesday, 22 May 2013

What is Organic Architecture?

What is organic architecture? Is this it? Actually this is a rather quirky period photograph of John Lautner's Elrod House. It is so period that one of those tiresome words that is usually applied to the organic cannot be used: timeless. It's got time all right, and it's got gardening, and interior design too, neither of which are organic, but deeply synthetic. The only organic bit about it might be the rock sitting in the middle of the living room.
Perhaps if we defined the organic as synthetic, as a cultural product, that might help, a sort of all embracing term that can be helpful at a distance, like a mirage- something we need over there in the distance, something that can sustain us in our desperate need but turns out with great disappointment not to be there at all. We can all identify an organic building at a distance by the look of it, but it disappears when we get close up. Close up, even the Seagram Building might be considered organic to the post war culture of the United States (indeed I think Mies felt it was and felt it deeply) but it doesn't look it at all, and I sense that if I got close up to a Lautner building, I'm going to be thinking how expensive it all is, how rich the clients were and so on, and not so much about it as a great manifestation of the human spirit. I might just go so far as to enjoy the view, but living in Europe, I'm not used to them, so that's a bloody cultural construct too.
Anyway, I'm not sure what the human spirit is, or where to find it, as far as I'm concerned Donald Duck exemplifies it in spades, so I may well be a lost cause.

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