By Dan Goodman
When an architect has reverence for nature the results can be fantastic. Frank Lloyd Wright has been praised for this, but what happens in a more urban setting where nature is more relegated to the outskirts?
Throughout history construction techniques have been dictated by the natural environment. Building materials were sourced locally until relatively recently when technology made it feasible to mass produce and transport supplies. This reliance on natural resources in the immediate surrounding area lead to distinctly regional architectural styles developing. Because of this, cities which have preserved their building style from the pre industrial era are remarkably cohesive in their aesthetic, making for some stunning overhead views.
Color scheme is important in maintaining this cohesion, and is often a direct result of local landscape. The earth itself is a common material used in construction. The southwestern adobe style is characterized by it’s color and the way it matches the desert backdrop and often includes turquoise accents to highlight the otherwise warm hue. These buildings look almost as if they sprout up naturally from the ground.
Halfway across the world a very similar architectural style can be found. Ancient African buildings have the same organic appearance, using mud over wooden frames to construct intricate works of livable art.
When a home is surrounded by wilderness, the architecture can take a backseat to the natural beauty around it. Large windows are often used in these instances along with structural details that blend into their surroundings.
This approach relies on the natural beauty of the environment, but building in a city is different. A city becomes an environment of its own, and has to work within a set of guidelines if visual harmony is to be achieved. A home that may look perfect hidden away in the mountains might look bland on a typical residential street. Building with locally sourced materials is a great place to start, and ensures a certain level on synchronicity within a city. The next step is cohesion of form.photo link
While wide, horizontal structures fit in well in a rural setting, urban environments are a different story. Ranch style homes are the norm in most residential neighborhoods, resulting in rows of houses spaced out awkwardly in an attempt at replicating the charm of the country with the convenience of a city. Unfortunately this usually leads to the worst of both worlds, with much of the isolation and none of the serenity of genuine seclusion.
Neighborhoods that embrace their urban nature are much more likely to achieve visual harmony, and compliment their environments. Leaving patches of grass between buildings doesn’t incorporate the beauty of nature within an urban environment as much as it breaks up the rhythm of the structures. Complimenting the natural environment doesn’t always mean incorporating nature into a city. If we treat the city itself as a landscape to be respected, we can more effectively build cohesively within it.