An historical accounting of architectural styles can be relatively well categorized up until about the Moderne period, then we drift into mid-century and the following neo-retro-classic cacophony. The scenery has been pretty bleak overall, but in the last decade,a new look is popping up, sometimes discreetly and at other times boldly. What to call it? Organic? GAIA?
The elements are a style which grows from and connects to the environment, both natural and man-made. It optimizes materials to perform at their optimum, not their traditional. And at the core, it celebrates people.
One such form is the AquaTower, created by Jeanne Gang and her Studio group within the one week given concept design. Her team built a physical neighborhood model, and explored sightlines by attaching strings to different landmarks nearby, such as Millennium Park. To get around the obstacles of blocked views, she created terraces that extended beyond the tower’s window wall into the view corridors. The result was a wavy surface, which completes the connection by reflecting the waves of Lake Michigan.
This building grew up organically out of the commitment to providing a view for the occupants. It challenged the limits of cantilevered construction- resolved by asking the right questions. Questions which helped identify the existing constraints of the systems which were limiting the possibilities of the material. On other projects, Gang has been known to use salvaged beams directly from a steel mill, and broken glass for terrazzo. In this sense, she is drawing from the man-made environment.
Panchoran Retreat in Bali, not the typical “luxury imposed on landscape” resort, but a design which is made of bamboo that grows wild in the area as well as old telephone poles purchased from the local government. The open-aired villas draw from the local environment, which still providing luxury. All this, designed by Linda Garland, who also provides decorating advice to the likes of David Bowie, Richard Branson and Mick Jagger.
In between the extremes of high rise and jungle retreat are a host of other organic buildings, coming in all shapes and sizes, and at all price ranges. They can be square, or free-flowing; ornate or simple. But above all, these are honest, putting the person in the center of the equation, and calling on all processes, materials and systems to rise to the occasion.
Over the summer, I look forward to “collecting” these projects, as one does artwork or favorite recipes- for inspiration and enjoyment. Please share your websites, your projects. For a start, try out:http://inhabitat.com/architecture/ or www.dwell.com/homes/.
It's never too late to be who you might have been.
George Eliot (a.k.a. Mary Anne Evans)