Organic Architecture

Organic Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright was interested in the relationship between buildings and their surrounding environments. He believed that a building should complement its environment so as to create a single, unified space that appears to "grow naturally" out of the ground. He also thought that a building should function like a cohesive organism, where each part of the design relates to the whole. Wright's organic architecture often includes natural elements such as light, plants, and water into his designs.

Through years of study and experimentation, organic architecture came to describe Wright's total design ideology. Some of the governing principles of this philosophy included:

  • The belief that a building should appear to grow easily from its site;
  • Choosing one dominant form for a building and integrating that form throughout;
  • Using natural colors, "Go into the woods and field for color schemes";
  • Revealing the nature of materials;
  • Opening up spaces;
  • Providing a place for natural foliage.

The principles of organic architecture are apparent in another of Wright's buildings, a private residence known as Fallingwater, in Bear Run, Pennsylvania. On the left is the site. As you examine the photo on the right with Fallingwater completed, describe how Wright has applied the principles of organic architecture to the design.

Suggested Activity

Ask students to imagine that they are architects who practice the principals of organic architecture. How would their designs change for a private home in the following environments?

  • On a tropical beach
  • In a city
  • Near snowcapped mountains
  • Discuss how climate and terrain affect architectural design.

Classroom Activity

A Wright building and its site are wedded. One cannot be considered without the other. Ask students to choose a photo of a site and design a building that is in harmony with its surrounding environment. When the drawings are completed, ask students to describe how the building they designed adheres to the principles of organic architecture. 

On View

This presentation, comprised of selected materials from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, pays homage to the first Frank Lloyd Wright–designed structures in New York City.

Works & Process

Photo: Petrus Sjövik

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