9 Biomorphic Forms

Herzog & de Mueron’s 2008 Olympic Stadium in Beijing, China was designed in collaboration with Chinese sculptor Ai Weiwei. Nicknamed the “Bird’s Nest” by the public, the building exterior is described by the architects as “a chaotic thicket of supports, beams and stairs, almost like an artificial forest.” Photo Credit: WikiCommons

The undulating waves of Aqua Tower in Chicago, Illinois reflect the sky and Lake Michigan, with balconies designed to create community on the exterior of the building. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

R. Buckminster Fuller designed the geodesic system based on geometries found in nature. As in the shell of an egg, geodesic domes distribute stress efficiently around the entire structure; no interior supports are needed. Fuller’s ideas inspired this conservatory at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. Called “the Climatron,” the building was designed by architects Mackey and Mitchell. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

Not all biomorphic forms in architecture are brand new. Antoni Gaudi’s Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain incorporates tree-like columns that branch out at the top to support the sanctuary. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

Completed in 1973, Jørn Utzon’s design for the Sydney Opera House prominently featured a series of curving concrete shells. Without the availability of today’s sophisticated computer-aided design and construction tools, the builders had to innovate on-site methods to fabricate the huge concrete parabolas. Photo Credit: WikiCommons

Biomorphic Forms

As Frank Lloyd Wright matured in his practice, he coined the term “organic architecture” to describe his increasing desire to integrate the manmade and natural environments. In 1937, his Fallingwater home epitomized the concept: a house literally integrated with a waterfall. But even that design found its form in a series of rectangular shapes. Later, he would achieve a less rectilinear vision with his 1959 Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Today, architects as diverse as Frank Gehry, Jeanne Gang, and Herzog & de Mueron are thinking even further outside of the box and finding inspiration in fluid, organic forms.

Thanks to computer-aided design and construction technologies, these architects are able to create structures with more biomorphic (life-shaped) forms, forwarding Wright’s vision of organic architecture to a curvaceous new plane. From sails to waves to nests, these forms bring the geometries of the natural world into our architectural landscape.