Dissecting Organic Architecture

Roots and Trends in a Budding Field


Re-discovery pervades our present digital mega-scape. Groovy design and organic architecture are oozing out of archives and into the limelight of saved content; this is a new kind of archive, one of hyper-personalization and self-disclosed curation. These archival spaces quantify and reinforce rediscovery as algorithms curate new content based on old information. Consequently, a new affinity for groovy, curvilinear interiors defines many current architectural trends.

These images of curvilinear interiors, sunken spaces and primitive materiality offer a reminiscent reimagining of what it means to dwell. Eye-catching for it’s strange familiarity, the particular aesthetic quality these images cradle display attitudes relating to humanity and humanness.

Void of straight lines and sterile modernity, these interiors hold a softness in their curvature, blobiness and cavernous qualities. Such spaces are often referred to as “Earthships”, a name coined by architect Michael Reynolds but popularized by the tiktok generation who have taken to, and shared, the architecture’s imagery and philosophy.

“Earthships” and other forms of organic architecture are cut from the same theoretical cloth, breeding similar aesthetic qualities. In fact, architect Michael Reynolds’ firm’s homepage bolds a list of commandments that steer his building practice:

“To reduce the economic and institutional barriers between humans and their habitat.

To reverse the overall negative effect that conventional human housing has on this planet.

To create a less stressful plane of existence for humans in an effort to reduce the stress that they in turn place on the planet and each other.

To interface economics and ecology in a way that immediately and tangibly affects current pressing problems with life on earth.

To provide a direction for those who want to live in peace with each other and their environment.

To empower individuals with the arguable forces of natures as opposed to incapacitating them with the smothering forces of politics and bureaucracy.

To find and distribute the appropriate soil from which the flower of humanity can blossom.

To evolve humanity into an earthen harmony already exemplified by more evolved structures such as plants, animals and water.”

Architects who create spaces with similar aesthetic qualities to “Earthships” like Javier Senoisianin, Antti Lovag and Roy Mason appear to observe Reynolds’ commandments, designing spaces that primarily relate to the human form and condition. Although most architects would argue that they too design for human form and condition, the aforementioned architects lean into anthropomorphism and primitive ideals rooted in anthropology.

These homes transcend traditional building methods and enter an ethereal, yet natural realm. Filled with gentle sculpting of wall and floor planes and womb-like attributes, they foster an intimate connection between dwelling and the elements.

Of the organic architects, Javier Senosiain may be the most mentioned. La Casa Organica, El Tiburon, Conjunto Satelitte and Nido de Quetzalcoatl are just a few of his most iconic works. Their picturesque vantage points, playful use of color and instinctual materials create enthralling images that transport one to a habitual wonderland.

Due to their curvilinear forms and primordial material quality, many of Senosiain’s homes mimic the form of living creatures. “El Tiburon” translates to The Shark, while “Nido de Quetzalcoatl” translates to the Feathered Serpent’s Nest. In Senoisiain’s homes, one finds likeness of different creatures while identifying the various body parts that compile the whole. “There’s the mouth! Those look like two eyes! I found the ear!” and so on.

With swooping curves, womb-like circulation and furniture sculpturally integrated throughout the home, Senosianin’s La Casa Organica explores the idea of a “maternal cloister,” which illustrates the comfortable surrounding of a coalescent space.

The walls of Casa Organica embrace occupants as they circulate. When describing La Casa Organica and the inception of the home’s design, Senosianin uses words like “born” and “grow,” illustrating the human-centric consideration these homes foster.

Encapsulating the experience Casa Organica provides, Senosianin states: “The organic house was born of the idea of creating a space suited to human beings, adapted to their environmental, physical, and psychological needs, which takes into account both their natural origins and their historical background.”

The aesthetic quality of these homes impersonates natural landscapes, and cultivates harmony of humans and the elements. Through seamless modification of the natural environment to dwellings, Senosianin creates environments similar to those of early humans. Mimicking the shelter of igloos and the “arms of a mother cradling her child”, these organic homes nurture an experience that is “continuous, ample, and comprehensive.”

Rather than humans adapting their bodies to space, these spaces yearn to mirror the “natural rhythms of the people who live in them.” Through the integration of embedded furnishings and contracting circulation, the forms of the space nurture those who enter.

Homes with organic characteristics tend to approach the human experience empathetically during the design process. Rather than focusing on economic efficiency of traditional building practices, these homes challenge convention to achieve a more compassionate, sensitive environment.

Organic homes often deviate from the conventional post and lintel logic of architectural consumerism and production, achieving a new aesthetic through the integration of cocoon-like curves that feed human form and primitive desire.

The current affinity for organic homes signals a philosophical desire as well. These homes defy consumerist-efficiency and lean into a sensitive humanist approach, reflecting a desire to decolonize from a metropolitan lifestyle and regrow into our surroundings.

Rather than imposing people, and land, to cubes and harsh edges, these spaces fulfill the desire for refuge. Spaces filled with sharp edges and sterile materiality, also known as an architectural box, are a symptom of a capitalist mindset. Economic efficiency and accessible building practices encourage the construction of architectural boxes.

Organic architecture challenges these values, and is becoming more accessible through increased pedagogy surrounding non-traditional building techniques. Companies like CalEarth and EarthshipGlobal provide training courses so builders, architects and others can access “off-grid design principles, construction methods, and philosophy.”

Antti Lovag, an architect who creates organic spaces akin to Senosiain, begins his radical design process from a place of rebellion against the capitalist ideal. Lovag believes that humans have surrounded themselves with harsh edges and confined themselves to unforgiving cubes. He believes these spaces detract from the human experience and defy all notions of natural habitat. Lovag, in his desire to return humans back to their idealistic surroundings, calls this attitude of architecture “habitology”.

Both architects are determined to deviate from the conventional way of building in order to revert back to primal refuge; a refuge familiar and referential to the human body.

As admiration for “Earthships” and organic architecture grows, a desire to reunite with our natural surroundings in an unopposed manner, and the realization that sustainability, self-sufficiency, and innate comfortability are achievable through these design principles will attract escapists and humanitarians alike. The trend of organic architecture could catalyze a paradigm shift in how we choose to dwell.