The understanding of organic
architecture varies with different interpretations and responses. The process
of a building is the subdivision of itself, the parametric and the generative
In this text I will discuss how aspects of organic architecture
might have influenced the design nature of the Shell House by Kotaro Ide.
“The mission of an architect is to help people understand
how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to
give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.”
– FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT, 1957 1
In order to understand the meaning of
organic architecture, the natural surrounding held inspiration to the designs
and incorporation. When adapting to a particular landscape, it is important to
compliment it rather than damage its beauty.
Wright’s principle of organic architecture
“is a natural architecture-the architecture of nature, for Nature” 2 and creative possibilities. It concerned
the forms, colour, patterns and textures and how the building can be adapted to
a person’s use. The purpose of design for Wright was not styling a building,
but having an intimate connection with the place and site. Wright favoured
Japanese architecture in methods of unifying man and nature.
The Shell House located in Karuizawa,
Japan is a holiday villa. It had great inspiration from Wright’s Fallingwater
House as both correspond with their natural surroundings and incorporate nature
within their design.
Ide had the opportunity to
explore the unique environment. The conditions in Karuizawa are very moist and
damp. The decision to raise the building from the ground helped protect the
villa from this harsh environment.
According to Ide, “Design has to be accompanied by logic,
function, and reason”. 3 Ide’s thoughts for the building was
designed to enable the building to co-exist harmoniously with nature rather
than forcibly incorporate nature. The isolated location allows the futuristic
building to blend in with the traditional Japanese landscapes.
Both Wright and Ide incorporated nature
within their designs differently. For Wright, the purpose of a building was
very important in comparison to Ide who focused on harmonising the building with
its surrounding from a rationalist approach.
Concrete was a key element to both Wright and Ide’s
architectural design. Both of whom had used it for different purposes.
The Fallingwater House uses concrete cantilever slabs which
are projected over the stream and rocky banks. The combination of reinforced
concrete and natural stone is well suited for the damp climate
The Fallingwater House holds many aspects of organic
architecture, the unique design and shape of the house responds to the rocky
banks and the running river. Similarly, in his other designed buildings, the
Fallingwater house was a late example of using the site’s surroundings as an
inspiration for its design.
The materiality used for this house
combines the surrounding landscape with an interior feel. The broad use of
glass and no solid walls facing the waterfall draws in a clear view of the
skyline and the forest opposite. This allowed nature’s ambiance to be bought
into the interior space.
The terraces connect the house with the profound beauty of
nature. The overlaid terraces vary in directions, creating a sculptural element
to the house. All in which have been designed to be planes raised parallel to
the ground. This complex design had structural issues regarding the horizontal
For Wright to
connect the house with the site it had “a definite masonry form”4 with a cantilevered structure. This was his
first project using concrete for a residential building. The diverse use for
concrete through casting into shapes and the increase in strength properties
fascinated Wright’s interest.
The different approach to concrete by Ide has
been implemented through the smooth organic shaped building
harmonises with its surroundings. Organic architecture commonly uses a concrete
structure, as used for Wright’s Fallingwater house. “The existence of the structure
depends on its power to endure nature.5” The clarity between the structure and
nature affects the purpose quality.
There is a distinct contrast between the two elements,
structure and nature. The harsh concrete structure clashes with the green landscape.
The double-glazed windows inbuilt into the subtle shell allows uninterrupted
view of the surroundings. Light is able to enter the two-storey interior space,
creating an open and freeness environment.
The use of concrete suits well with nature
and also in prevention of mould from developing. Wright had
focused on understanding the material quality and structural properties having
the abilities for concrete to form a sculpture. Ide who developed a more
seamless smooth shape from concrete had grasped the understanding of connecting
concrete with the site creating a fluid building complementing movement with
and around the site.
The space in which a person moves throughout a building
provides structure to the place. The perception of identification and
orientation provides a sense of understanding place and how one is ought to
A signature element to Wright’s design is the placement of
the fireplace, the fireplace is the focal point and the heart of a room. This
is located on the first floor living space.
The large glass panelled windows allow for natural light to
enter. However, the dark and narrow passages circulating through the spaces
creates an experience of compression between the walls, but once moving towards
the outdoors the sense of expansion happens.
The connections of the natural flow of water from the
waterfall produces an endless sound of flowing water which can be heard through
the open planned floor throughout the whole house.
The simplistic curves of the
Shell house create a flowing structure which can be seen from the interior.
There is a sense of perception with available spaces. The oval shape may appear
to have much wasteful
space but they have been utilised fully by installing furniture to the lower
half of the oval cylinder. The oval shapes
allow there to be a constant air condition system flowing inside to keep the
psychological connection between architecture and an individual’s thoughts are
the main attributes of architecture. The physical and spiritual connections of
nature and architeure is formed through simplistic interpretation. It creates a
realisation of experience and engagement. The influence upon Kotaro Ide is one of many other architects who have
composed organic architecture to mix well with nature, rather than go against it.
About Frank Lloyd Wright | Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Frank Lloyd
Wright Foundation. Retrieved 12 January 2018,
WRIGHT, F. (2017). ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE
The Architecture of Democracy. London. UK: LUND HUMPHRIES (21, 60-61).
3 Shell Residence by Kotaro Ide | Yatzer. (2010). Yatzer. Retrieved 11
4 AD Classics: Fallingwater House / Frank Lloyd
Wright. (2010). ArchDaily.
Retrieved 15 January 2018
Etherington, R. (2009). Shell by
ARTechnic architects | Dezeen. Dezeen. Retrieved 11 January