Saturday, 13 November 2010

Rare Natural Architecture

The natural environment still manages to fill us with a sense of awe and amazement.  Despite the amount of scientific knowledge mankind has gathered, nature still holds great mysteries that we may never be able to unravel.

natural architecture 01                                          ‘la tonnelle’ by gilles bruni and marc babarit, 1996

This complexity has continually daunted man. in frustration, we try to control nature by enforcing order. As a result, we have distanced ourselves from the earth, even thoughour survival is completely dependent on it. we are now trying to regain our close connection to nature.

natural architecture 02
'running in circles' willow and maple saplings, patrick dougherty, 1996
There is an emerging art movement that is exploring mankind's desire to reconnect to the earth, through the built environment. Referred to as 'natural architecture', it aims to create a new, more harmonious, relationship between man and nature by exploring what it means to design with nature in mind.

natural architecture 03
'weidendom' by sanfte strukturen, 2001
The roots of this movement can be found in earlier artistic shifts like the 'land art' movement of the late nineteen sixties. Although this movement was focused on protesting the austerity of the gallery and the commercialization of art, it managed to expand the formal link between art and nature. This has helped develop a new appreciation of nature in all forms of art and design.

natural architecture 04
'ash dome' by david nash, 1977
The 'natural architecture' movement aims to expand on 'land art' by acting as a form of activism rather than protest. this new form of art aims to capture the harmonious connection we seek with nature by merging humanity and nature through architecture. The core concept of the movement is that mankind can live harmoniously with nature, using it for our needs while respecting its importance.

natural architecture 06
'fog pad' by n architects, 2004
The movement is characterized by the work of a number of artists, designers and architects that express these principles in their work. the pieces are simple, humble and built using the most basic materials and skills. Because of this, the results often resemble indigenous architecture, reflecting the desire to return to a less technological world. The forms are stripped down to their essence, expressing the natural beauty inherent in the materials and location. The movement has many forms of expression that range from location-based interventions to structures built from living materials. However all of the works in the movement share a central ethos that demonstrates a respect and appreciation for nature.

natural architecture 07
'toad hall' by patrick dougherty, 2004
These works are meant to comment on architecture and provide a new framework to approach buildings and structures. They aim to infuse new ideas into architecture by subverting the idea that architecture should shelter nature. Instead, the structures deliberately expose the natural materials used in the building process. We see the branches, the rocks and all the materials for what they are.

natural architecture 09
'reed chamber' by chris drury, 2002
We understand that these structures won't exist forever. The materials will evolve over time, slowly decomposing until no evidence remains. These features are intentional, provoking viewers to question the conventions of architecture. the designers aren't suggesting that architecture must conform to their vision, they are just providing ideas that they hope will inspire us all to rethink the relationship between nature and the built environment.

natural architecture 08
'clemson clay nest' by nils-udo, 2005
Patrick Dougherty is a builder and yet not an architect – he is perhaps best described as an artist and sculptor, a wood craftsman the likes of which most of us have never seen. Rather than cutting, planing, leveling and assembling rectilinear wood structures he shapes living trees into amazing natural tree buildings.

natural architecture 10
What started as simple arbosculptures quickly become inhabitable spaces and entire built environments. Some of the results seem like churches or gazebos, religious or resting places deep in the forest, as shown in the pictures above. Others are more abstract and open for interpretation or mixed-use occupation, changing with seasonal conditions as shown below.

natural architecture 11
Always temporary by necessity, he grows and shapes the constituent sapplings to create playful and interactive forms in all kinds of contexts (with over 150 installations worldwide to date). Some of his shaped tree structures interact with surrounding built forms but many of his most interesting and engaging work stands alone in fields or forests.

natural architecture 12
One of the most impressive parts of his tree building constructions is the way he works with surrounding natural shapes, colors and seasonal environments. His structures can on a completely different character depending upon the time of year and weather that informs them – as shown in the images of an incredible series of tree-formed buildings above.

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