About organic Architecture
An easy question but it calls for an unusual answer which may confuse you (I hope not) or inspire you, so let’s see how you end up after reading this.
When it comes to the term of "organic architecture" most folks have associations of eco-friendly, sustainable or green architecture in their mind. But it is nothing about the used materials, it is also not the technical and intelligent use of power saving and less polluting systems. All that is certainly a preferred addition to any kind of architecture. Actually I’m not really happy with the term "organic architecture" by itself, I would prefer calling it "dynamical architecture", "flowing architecture", "architecture in movement" or "sculptural architecture" but without being a sculpture!
So the answer is simply: it is the form, the shape of the building itself.
But where do the forms come from and how do we get a grasp of it?
In former times it was (more or less) easier, because we were all in a closer connection to the spiritual world guided by spiritual leaders, however with less self-determination than today. In our times there’s a lot of confusion in our minds and deeds because nothing works any longer by itself. Traditional paths won't work any longer, ancient scriptures belong to ancient times. The "leash" hasn’t become longer,- it is completely cut. One modern-day approach of getting again in touch with the developing powers is to awake awareness through a contemporary way of thinking, feeling and willing to what is happening behind the curtain of the world shown in front of our senses.
Let us see how this could be put into practice. When the idea of an architectural plan turns into reality, it starts initially with a lot of demolition. You have to excavate a hole, cut trees, burn bricks and so on. Means the existing visible and also the veiled connections of the God given earth have to be destroyed. A thought of a conscious morality could be now: it is necessary to destroy a part of the environment , but I will take this as a chance to transform the existing situation as an artist, as a mature and respect giving human into a new place.
As a young architect I drew once with an ink pen, yes it was really an ink pen because the only computers you could see were shown in sci-fi movies, so I was drawing a detail for a capital, shaft and base of an ancient Greek column. It was an overwhelming experience! I listened to the thoughts inside me, the first one said: this shape is a true one and it is the right and artistic and aesthetic answer to the question, how to bring the load downwards and show the tension and its required countervail forces. So far so good, but there was another thought coming up saying this column was designed more than 2000 years ago! At next then the question popped up, how could a column look in a contemporary design?
On a personal level I can understand the needs of people who want to possess a palace look-a-like building of their own. At the same time keeping the reality of reincarnation in one's mind, all the souls have absorbed the todays so called historical architecture in their former lives. There could be deep desires and unfulfilled bits and pieces which lead them to this kind of architectural forms, something like having a blueprint in one's mind. Usually this subconscious memories are combined with hidden fears or a reluctant mindset but some just plainly want to connect their own today’s power and wealth to the glorious attributes of ancient centers of power or wisdom like palaces and temples. We have to look at the old wisdom in a respectful manner but we can’t go back by reactivating or modifying ancient methods again and again.
But back to the question how could a contemporary answer look like?
New ideas are always ahead the mainstream. In the beginning there are individuals. Artists like Antonio Gaudi who researched and developed so much, or Eero Saarinen, Hans Scharoun, Bart Prince and Imre Makovecz among others. But why didn’t Art Nouveau or the Expressionism survive or at least grow farther? As artists they expressed their feelings that there’s an essential call for something new in the world. Everything came out of their feeling hearts but the principle thoughts were never expressed in clear words so that other can cope with them. They stood unaccompanied (and often misunderstood) with their lonely work.
Rudolf Steiner a philosopher and founder of the Anthroposophical Science inaugurated the only remaining kind of organic architecture movement since more than 90 years now. It started with his design for buildings in Dornach, Switzerland like the Goetheanum, Heizhaus, Haus de Jaager. After the dark and wasted years of World Wars and fascist regimes, architects picked up his thoughts and buildings start spreading all over the world. Buildings for education like schools, kindergarten, home for handicapped, congress centers, banks, farms and private residences as well.
Rudolf Steiner has given us helpful instructions how to gain a knowledge about what a building could be like beside an accumulation of different materials. Among others, there are 3 ideas, or probably we may call them 3 principles.
- The Idea of Consciousness
In the sense as every part of the building knows about its duty or (in other words) like this part is carrying an understanding of its duty. Picture yourself inside a column, feel the load, feel the weight and feel the necessary power and strength to struggle and hold against it. Now try to show this powers and forces and create a column where you show the tensions and how it could be balanced. Balanced in the sense that it will become neither a mathematical abstraction nor a dynamical you-can-do-whatever-you-want answer. (Artists have a tendency to get tempted with the latter).
- What is Happening? (at this place or part of the building)
We will get a better understanding by thinking of some examples, like what is it about a roof? Technically (but merely adequate spoken) it avoids the inhabitants being exposed to rain, snow or sun or in short it protects you of the climates impact and of course from the curious looks of your neighbour(s), too. That’s all true but the answer for this could be the idea to create a sheltering gesture, which makes us feel safe and protected. The roof turns into a shepherd ...
Or what about a window? Is it only an opening in a wall, a spot where some bricks are missing, a hole to get light through it? Why not looking at it as the corresponding threshold between in and out? It is like our breathing, inhale and exhale, giving a rhythm to the façade. Let them imagine they are like our eyes, looking joyfully to the world, getting different sensations.
Or as another example, what happens at an entrance door? The gesture of an entrance should speak through a form which says: yes, you are really welcome, please enjoy it to pass through me and enter the house.
- All Paths should lead to the Light
If you ever have got lost and caught helplessly without any orientation in an anonymous and always the same looking corridor, say in a hotel, or in a hospital then you understand what happens to you and it definitely has a spiritual aspect too.
If you meditate about the 3 ideas you will realize that everything and everywhere could be independently researched and developed, no matter where the building will be located on this planet. Imagine an organic architecture here in India without imitating any ancient architectural style, be it a local or a foreign one.
Let me finish with something what makes anthroposophical thoughts about architecture so different to the common today’s architectural ideas. All this forms, shapes and ideas have an influence not only to the planet or to us as humans but to the unseen world as well. There are beings who do not have a physical body as part of their existence but then imagine how they draw closer to a building or even a room and how thankful they will be if they discover a form where they can feel, here is a something where I can settle.
Whatever we do, it has an impact and an influence two the both worlds, the material and the spiritual one.