Our living environment is increasingly determined by manmade artefacts like buildings, machines and electronic devices. This has a profound influence on our lives, our wellbeing, social relations and cultural values. Moreover this influence often has a devastating impact on the natural environment. Yet we have only started to become aware of these influences and begun to design in accordance with these new insights. This raises an important question. How can we create buildings that truly serve our physical and spiritual needs, enhance our lives and are in accordance with nature? This exhibition – Living Architecture – is intended to raise awareness of the relationship between architecture and the natural, social and cultural life of which it is part and to stimulate the creation of buildings that support these life-processes. The exhibition does so by presenting projects from all over the world, which consciously relate to nature and to all human needs and thereby bring this attitude to an artistic expression.

Historical development

In traditional architecture, there was a close relation between human needs, social setting, natural resources and local building styles. People built their own houses, or had them built by direct commission and for the most part had only local building materials and limited technical possibilities available. Since the industrial revolution however this close relation has increasingly been disrupted. New building materials and techniques have become available which offer unprecedented possibilities. But at the same time this has put an end to the historical styles and more often than not caused severe environmental damage. The digital revolution we are presently undergoing offers us two possibilities. It can, without conscious awareness, either alienate us further from our natural and spiritual origins – encapsulating us in a fully artificial reality – or it can help us to find a new balance between nature, social life, cultural content and technology. To realise this potential, we have to develop new concepts that bring technology into balance with nature and human nature.


Traditional Masai yard, Africa, Photo: Frans Lanting


Taking inspiration from nature

By the end of the 19th century architects started seeking a synthesis between new building techniques, natural design principles and artistic expression. The term ‘Organic Architecture’ was introduced to describe this new approach. It did not denote any particular style, but rather embraced a colourful variety of architectural approaches and expressions arising simultaneously in different parts of the world. Pioneers like Frank Lloyd Wright, Antoni Gaudí and Rudolf Steiner drew inspiration – each in their own way – from the principles of living nature. This often led to sculptural and expressive forms that created some of the most inspiring buildings of the 20th century. Their lively forms were not intended to imitate nature, but rather to support people as natural and spiritual beings. Since then, new insights into ecology, natural formative processes and biomimicry have led to astonishing new building materials, construction methods and creative expressions.


Parca Guell, Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona, Spain 1900 - 1914


Casa Organica, Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Mexico City 1985


Interior Casa Organica



This exhibition follows the search for a ‘Living Architecture’ from the turn of the 19th century into our present time. Four phases can be distinguished during this period, each with its own specific character. Each of these phases is illustrated by a separate section of the exhibition. The first section shows the birth of ‘Organic Architecture’ around 1900 and explains the different approaches of its pioneers. The second deals with ‘The Transformation of Modernism’ in the nineteen fifties and sixties. The third part presents an overview illustrating the ‘Regional Diversity’ that was created worldwide in the late decades of the 20th century. In the final and most comprehensive section of the exhibition, new trends are shown, all pointing towards a more sustainable and life orientated approach to architecture. Each of these sections has its own specific character. Differences in the spatial grouping of the panels and their form and colour support the experience of the transformation of Living Architecture throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century.


Opera Valencia, Santiago Calatrava, Valencia, Spain 1995 - 2005