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Zoomorphic Architecture

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I hinted at zoomorphic architecture briefly in a recent post. If Art Nouveau took advantage of plants for novel architectural stylings, then ZA did it with animals. The V&A exhibition is long gone, but the website lingers.

V&A zoomorphicHere’s that splash text again.

Zoomorphic presents a startling new trend in architecture – buildings that look like animals. Animal resemblances arise for various reasons. An architect may wish to create a symbol, as architects have always done. Or, there may be a functional explanation for why a building comes to share elements of its design with that of some living creature.

Until now, the Art Nouveau was perhaps the high water mark of architecture’s attempt to embrace nature. Today, with computers and new materials, architects are able to design and build more freely so they are exploring the natural world once more.

hmm. Given that I believe, as all good misfits do, that to attempt to design a building to appear like it is a natural object is going to be extremely uneconomical – unlike Nature which, contrarily, prefers economy of design – I doubt Art Nouveau was really the high point of architecture’s attempt to ’embrace’ nature. More like, it was an exceedingly low point in architects’ attempts to selectively represent nature and claim some God-like authority/inevitability for those representations.

Is it from here that architects’ obsession with the creation of NATURALISTIC forms really derives? Could this perhaps be the big unspoken Q?

I totally agree with the Islamic prohibition on the representation of God’s creatures. I’d like to add to that list leaves, plants, flowers, rocks, miscellaneous crystalline formations, sand dunes, hills, mountains, caves, waves and clouds.

Anyway, check out the site. Enjoy zoomorphic architecture for what it is.


  • All the more crappy (read: pathetic) given the work of a misfit such as Gaudí whose work grew from his religious faith. These have none but the “style credential” — of what appeals to the vanity of the patron, be it corporate or municipal.

    I would be interested to learn what ˇmisfits¨ exist in the realm of funereal or memorial architecture — of cemeteries; for example. Jordi Abadi and his municipal funeral center in Léon, Spain or cemeteries of recent provenance in Germany or some of the better Communist cemeteries in Talinn or Budapest.

    • Hello again skies! I’ve always thought of Gaudí as a bit of a weirdo rather than a misfit. To be fair though, he did find himself a very rich client so he couldn’t have been that crazy. The history of architecture has no shortage of monuments, mausoleums and memorials but, as you say, there are very few examples of cemeteries for they are the functional end of the spectrum. The best that can be done is to provide the dead with someplace with dignity so the living can feel a bit better. I think Aldo Rossi’s San Cataldo Cemetery from 1971 does this quite well and with a minimum of fuss.

      FOOTNOTE: Death by traffic accident links Gaudí and Rossi. Gaudí was hit by a tram (1926) and Rossi died from a car accident on the way to his weekend home (1997). Post Modernism links Rossi to the semiotician Roland Barthes was hit by a laundry truck (1980).