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What Does Organic Mean?

Organic architecture and design is a philosophical approach to creativity that is typically easier experienced and recognized than defined. With the Journal of Organic Architecture + Design, we will honestly and sincerely attempt to address the former.  However, regarding the latter, we will add herein below, for your deliberation and reflection, quotes and definitions that we come across that we feel may add to the understanding of just what is organic Architecture and Design. The Editors of the Journal of Organic Architecture + Design welcome our supporters and subscribers to submit their own thoughts and personal recollections as to the definition of organic architecture. Given permission, we intend to add these below.

organic, adj., 1. of an organ or the organs of an animal or plant. 2. of, pertaining to, or derived from living organisms. 3. noting a class of chemical compounds containing carbon. 4. characterized by the systematic arrangement of parts. 5. grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin. 6. inherent or essential.
   Dictionary definition.

“By organic architecture I mean an architecture that develops from within outward in harmony with the conditions of its being as distinguished from one that is applied from without.”
   Frank Lloyd Wright, from “In the Cause of Architecture: Second Paper.” (Architectural Record, May 1914).

“Nothing is more difficult to achieve than the integral simplicity of organic nature, amid the tangled confusions of the innumerable relics of form that encumber life for us. To achieve it in any degree means a serious devotion to the “underneath” in an attempt to grasp the nature of building a beautiful building beautifully, as organically true in itself, to itself and to its purpose, as any tree or flower.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, from “In the Cause of Architecture: Second Paper.” (Architectural Record, May 1914).

“In an organic architecture the ground itself predetermines all features; the climate modifies them; available means limit then; function shapes them.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, from “Broadacre City: A New Community Plan.” (Architectural Record, April 1935).

“Nothing can live without entity. Now, organic architecture seeks entity, it seeks that completeness in idea in execution which is absolutely true to method, true to purpose, true to character, and is as much the man who lives in it as he is himself, so that he loves it, lives it, and boasts of the fact that his house is the only house ever built. And he believes it. And it is, for him, if organic architecture has done its proper work.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, April 10, 1945; excerpted from speech reprinted in Truth Against the World, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1987).

“That’s a good question. The man wants to know the true significance of my own use of the word organic. Well now, it might be used in a biological sense and you’d miss it. We use the word in a spiritual sense. We take the word from the realm of the body to the realm of the soul. That thing is organic which has entity, in which the part is to the whole as the whole is to the part, which is the condition of life in anything, even physically. Spiritually, it is the same. Only as the thing is complete as a whole and has the unity of part to whole, as whole is to part, have you got organic entity. That’s the way the word organic is used by me in connection with architecture. Organic architecture is a thing of the spirit and so it is a matter of the soul.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, May 20, 1949; excerpted from speech reprinted in Truth Against the World, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1987).

“Because the principles of an organic architecture, once you comprehend them, naturally grow and expand into this great freedom that we hoped for when we founded this nation and that we call democracy.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, March 17, 1949; excerpted from speech reprinted in Frank Lloyd Wright: Essential Texts, Robert Twombly, Editor (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009).

“ . . but we use the word organic to mean imbued with that quality which can live, in which the part is to the whole as the whole is to the part, the entity - that is what we mean.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, July 14, 1950; excerpted from speech reprinted in Truth Against the World, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1987).

“Well, call organic architecture a natural architecture. It means building for and with the individual . . . Organic architecture is informal architecture, architecture in reflex, architecture seeking to serve man rather than to become, or be becoming to, those forces now trying so hard to rule over him. Here is one good reason why we may say organic architecture is the architecture of democracy. Now let us believe that any true concept of organic architecture, therefore of style, is the expression of character . . the essential style must be in and of all building provided only that style be naturally achieved from within the nature of the building problem itself and always found within the very means by which the building is built.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, January 1951; excerpted from interview reprinted in The Master Architect: Conversations With Frank Lloyd Wright, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1984).

“Now, when is a thing organic? When can you say that a building is organic? When it’s natural, properly appropriate to whatever end it’s put; where the part is to the whole as the whole is to the part.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, October 4, 1951; excerpted from speech reprinted in Truth Against the World, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1987).

“All buildings built should serve the liberation of mankind, liberating the lives of individuals. What amazing beauty would be ours if man’s spirit, thus organic, should learn to characterize this new free life of ours in America as natural.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, from A Testament, (Horizon Press, 1957).

“Now, after all, it’s not so much to be the greatest architect in the world because there aren’t great ones left. I never felt particularly flattered by such accusation because I wish there were more architects who understood the nature of organic architecture. It’s new - not very old yet but the principles are as old as Lao-tse, at least. Jesus was the original advocate when He said, “the kingdom of God is within you”; from there could have come this idea of building from the inside out. That is what organic architecture is - building the way nature builds . . In other words, organic means a very natural simple process.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, July 31, 1957; excerpted from speech reprinted in Truth Against the World, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1987).

“Organic means something that has entity. Only entity can live. So when you get that into a building, you have got it into civilization, and, when you understand the nature of the term organic and the nature of nature study as I am advocating it to you now, you can have the center line of the civilization that can preserve itself, that can persevere.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, October 21, 1957; excerpted from speech reprinted in Truth Against the World, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1987).

“The building is like the person. The building, if it’s a good building and made according to these principles I’ve been enunciating, is almost a living thing like a tree; like a plant; like anything organic in nature. Seems to me when you come right down to the whole thing Nature, with a capital N, is what we don’t understand and what we’re afraid of. We don’t realize that in Nature as considered as the nature is all the body of God we’re ever going to see and we should write it with a capital N in the sense that we use it in architecture because of that. Not that we’ve substituted it for God or for religion but that we know that in the character of that innate interior expression of life lies all we’re ever going to know of what’s called God. Does that sound heretical? Maybe it is. I hope it is. Anyhow, that’s the way organic architecture sees it.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, October 31, 1958; excerpted from television interview reprinted in The Master Architect: Conversations With Frank Lloyd Wright, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1984).

“So, to get the real idea of the thing we’ve got to use some word like organic - means integral, of the thing, now, and preceding from the interior of it outward. Therein lies the essential difference between what we call organic architecture and what is carelessly called, for lack of a better term, modern architecture.”
    Frank Lloyd Wright, October 31, 1958; excerpted from television interview reprinted in The Master Architect: Conversations With Frank Lloyd Wright, Patrick J. Meehan, Ed. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1984).

“ . . organic, an attempt to organize the requirements of the given building into a whole made up of related and interdependent parts, to find the seed, so to say, in order to grow the flower.”
    Montgomery Schuyler from "An Architectural Pioneer: Review of the Portfolios Containing the Works of Frank Lloyd Wright" (Architectural Record, April 1912).