Exploring Organic Architecture—Natural Materials

Organic. It’s a familiar word that shows up in contexts as diverse as medicine, law, agriculture …and architecture. We understand what organic food is, because the “organic” label is governed by strict codes and procedures. But what does organic architecture actually mean? I’ve considered this question for decades and learned there is no simple answer. Organic architecture is a broad term describing a variety of interpretations and influences in design theory.  One definition considers materials. Building with natural, indigenous materials and minimizing the use of synthetic products that require excessive energy to manufacture and transport is one organic approach to architecture. Organic architecture in this vein embraces durable materials as close to their natural state as is practical. Wood, brick…

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Entry Elements: Doorway Design

Passageways and doors were so revered by the ancient Romans that they established Janus, god of beginnings, doorways, transitions and endings. He was usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and the past. Throughout history doors provided protection and invitation as they do today and can tell stories, evoke mood and create mystique. They frequently provide a strong first impression as an entrance to a building and mark transitions between spaces and connect the exterior and interior. They can be humble and unadorned providing a subtle change and draw minor attention or make a major statement demanding attention to an important entrance or transition. Often design solutions depend on both to provide a hierarchy of…

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Integrating Site and Structure: Our Architecture Philosophy

Frank Lloyd Wright often said a building should be “of the site,” and this ethos was further promoted by his pupil and my own mentor, E. Fay Jones. In all of our architectural projects and designs, I strive for a symbiotic relationship between the site and building with the intention of making both greater. Most buildings that are constructed today don’t honor their sites or contexts. We are so used to seeing buildings out of harmony with their site that we can forget the site has its own character that can inspire a unique vision for the building or home. Popular “model” homes offer several plans repeated throughout developments with slight color or material changes, each more or less like…

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