Organic and Sculptural Modern

1930’s-Early 1970’s

Organic and Sculptural Modern, inspired by sculptural forms or abstracted living organisms, rejects the hard edges and geometry of the International Style. It seeks total unity within the design or scheme through harmony with nature and a human touch. Following World War II, the style becomes extremely popular in furniture and the decorative arts, whereas the few examples in architecture and interiors are limited to individualistic examples.

Organic and Sculptural Modern represents a deliberate move away from geometry and hard edges toward asymmetrical, expressionistic designs that are still dependent upon functionalism and mass production.

1. Organic architecture has roots in primitive vernacular forms and a specific architectural language, which can also be seen in Art Nouveau.
2. Look for buildings with these characteristics: an asymmetrical composition overall, a dark, curved roof overhang, white, sculptural concrete facades, irregularly sized and shaped windows with deep reveals that filter light within, and the building to be sited on a high plateau with surrounding plantings.
3. Examples of Organic and Sculptural Modern define a surprising variety of public buildings, including large corporate headquarters, government complexes, airports, and museums.
4. Architects exploit reinforced concrete in a variety of curvilinear or parabolic shapes that move and undulate in biomorphic and sculptural forms.
5. Many roofs have curving shapes made possible by reinforced concrete or the use of a cable-hung system.
6. Also look for these characteristics: Natural stone building material, along with ochre concrete and russet-painted steel, natural light to penetrate from all sides, a cantilevered terrace projecting horizontally, building integrates with the site to become one with nature, and an organic architecture to emphasize asymmetry.

Furnishings and decorative arts convey some of the best representations of the abstract, biomorphic, and sculpural character. Organic furniture is often of new materials in fluid or free-form shapes that suit the human frame.

1. These are mass-produced but often offer a variety of choices for chair or table legs and bases, colors, and finishes for individuality.
2. Distinctive Features: Characteristic fluidity of line, rounded forms, free-form, biomorphic shapes, and lightness are made possible by new materials, such as fiberglass, and new construction techniques, such as molding and laminating.
3. Materials: fiberglass, plastics, aluminum, polyester resins, and plastic foams.
4. Seating choices expand substantially during the period, with more variety and experimentation.
Look for these details: a contoured seat and back, a curved from to emphasize the human body, molded shell, flexible and swivel tilt bases, and a metal base to visually separate the piece.

Symbols and Motifs:
Common motifs include amoeboid and kidney shapes, spheres, parabolas, atoms, molecules, rockets, satellites, flying saucers, abstracted and stylized fruit, flowers, plants, and objects of daily life.

Decorative Arts:
Architects and furniture designers produce decorative art objects with organic forms and patterns in glass, ceramics, wood, and metal. Decorative objects often have rich textures emulating the textural contrasts of interiors. Forms include bubbles, abstracted flowers, and stems in transparent glass. Ceramics display organic shapes influenced by sculpture, abstract patterns, and bright colors.

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