“Architecture inspired by nature”, at TEDxVienna started the discussion on the relationship between architecture and nature-based on what Ralph Waldo Emerson stated in one of his works entitled ‘Nature.’ Both a philosopher and an essayist, the American figure of the 19th century considered nature as a “new language” he eagerly wished to master so he “may read the great book that is written in that tongue.” 

Furthermore, Waldo at TEDxVienna insisted on the idea that he found in the wilderness “something more dear and connate than in streets or villages.” In other words, he saw the human-made realm much too different from what nature itself provides. For this reason, in particular, the article in review consists of two parts, one dealing with nature and its key four features and another one addressing architecture as a product of nature.

On Nature 

Long before one could speak about architecture, nature was there and provided the very first shelters to prehistoric men, therefore, the link between humans and nature is undeniable. Yet, today’s ‘settlements’ are more than opposed to nature. Sometimes the anthropic realm harms nature up to the point of even threatening its future existence. How did it come to this? Well, the answer is definitely rather complex, involving many actors. 

Even so, one may clearly notice that nowadays the inspiration no longer comes from nature. For this reason, maybe, most of the people living in cities feel alienated inside them.

Nature is the ultimate grandmaster, and the roots to a better architecture still lay in the thorough study of it. By examining nature and its spaces’ qualities, the article in focus emphasized four key aspects: unity, movement, shape, and materials. Each of those is further described in detail so that they give a glimpse of how nature works. 

The first key aspect, ‘unity’, refers to the idea that although nature is comprised of many varied and complex elements, they succeed in being strongly interconnected up to the point where the smallest change in one of these elements consequently attracts changes in the entire system altogether. 

The second feature at TEDxVienna is ‘Movement’ that speaks about the adventure and opens up ahead of every person when in nature. Even the shortest step reveals a new experience so that in the end reaching the other end of the path becomes obsolete, whereas the spotlight moves onto the journey itself. 

The third key feature that TEDxVienna described is ‘shape’, which obviously highlights how each and every form in nature is, as a matter of fact, a result of its relationship with the environment. Ultimately, ‘materials’ depict the link between matter, it’s surrounding, and the particular function they serve. 

Article in Focus Architecture inspired by nature- TEDxVienna - Sheet1
Broccoli Romanesco close up_©iStock
Article in Focus Architecture inspired by nature- TEDxVienna - Sheet4
Algorithms from nature_©egtheory.wordpress.com

On Architecture

Following the presentation of the four headlines described before at TEDxVienna, the article “Architecture inspired by nature” turns (clearly enough) to architecture and presents it as a “product of nature.” Most of the architecture today, however, does not look like a product of nature at all, rather as merely built masses unconcerned with their surroundings, or even their users. In nature, all things are done with mastery, without unnecessary waste, and with lots of care. The tiniest of wonders are designed with respect to the bigger picture and no part is left aside. They all play a specific role in the entire setting and contribute to general harmony.

The crisis in architecture at the moment appears to be its lacking of this general harmony. Projects are not designed with consideration to a possible spiritual quality, but with respect to time, money, and quantity. It looks like architecture lost its own roots. Back in the days, it was all about trying to achieve the same skillfulness nature proves to have in all its designs. 

Vitruvius’ book, “De architectura Libri Decem”, is one of the proofs architects still have today of how deeply related to nature was their profession in that period. At first, it may sound extremely empirical and primitive as it constantly relates building materials and techniques to the five basic elements in nature: water, earth fire, air, and aether. But when considering its philosophical dimension, they make more sense than most of the technologies used today.

Some may argue that Vitruvius was way too long ago, but Frank Lloyd Wright, for instance, advocated the same principles and fought to free architecture from all unnecessary physical elements while embellishing its spiritual ones. In his book, “The Future of Architecture”, he promotes his idea of ‘organic architecture’ in a tight connection to nature. Javier Senosiain goes even further and claims that the spaces inhabited by people today are inadequate in relation to human nature itself.

Article in Focus Architecture inspired by nature- TEDxVienna - Sheet2
Casa Orgánica by Javier Senosiain_©www.archdaily.com
Article in Focus Architecture inspired by nature- TEDxVienna - Sheet3
IK Lab eco-resort in Tulum_©www.dezeen.com

The evolution of architecture is undeniable. Technologies changed, the range of materials is wider, the techniques are more numerous than before, yet something is missing. 

Architecture is not solely about those tangible elements, but it has to be invested with some spiritual value as well. Even this current pandemic proves the need for something else rather than walls, doors, windows, ceiling, etc. Most of the people forced to stay indoors chose to bring nature closer to their new ‘reality’ so they started buying new plants for decorating some green ‘escapes.’ Curious enough, isn’t it? 

Ștefan Palaghia
Author

Ștefan is a resourceful and professional young architect. Thirsty for innovation and knowledge, he is always willing to share his passions with the ones around. He finds himself intrigued by the tinniest of wonders and considers words just another material to build up with endless, brand-new possibilities.

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