The Relevance of the Organic Tradition in Architecture in the Digital Age: Explaining the “organic disruption” of international modernism. Exemplified by Jørn Utzon’s work

Thomas Arvid Jaeger, Adrian Stanley Carter

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review


The paper will propose that as the digital technology evolves, enabling us to increasingly emulate the forms of nature within our built environment, as we see in the parametric design, it will be ever more important to understand the origins of nature and organic growth in form and concept - and what this means for our perception of architecture. The Digital Age has been introducing a new wave of sculptural, organic curved architecture – often placed as iconic landmarks in the city. These buildings represent a new kind of aesthetics in contrast to the rectangular Euclidian rationalistic architecture, which has been the hallmark of the modernist architecture since Bauhaus– but also a revival of the organic sculptural architecture of the middle of the 20th cent.
In order to understand the nature of this new “digital organic” language of form, we propose a study of the short but significant “analogue” organic period of architecture after the Second World War - exemplified by the work of Joern Utzon. Even though Utzon all his life was deeply focussed on the humanistic aspect of functionalism, he also was one of the architects that never gave up the idea about industrialisation and mass production and was in fact able to develop a prefabricated system for double curved form. This paper shows how Utzon’s major work collects the threads from the past and actually fulfils the goals in the architectural scale for new organic form – as Noyes defined it in 1941. This article will present some of the factors, behind and involved in, creating his version of “new organic architecture” in the fifties - in order to make it possible to compare this with later studies of “digital organic” architecture of the 21. Cent. The relevance of going back to Mumford’s criticism of the consequences of industrialization and mass production must be seen in the perspective of today’s digitalization of nearly every aspect of the modern architecture and society.
Translated title of the contributionDen organiske traditions relevans i arkitekturen i den digitale tidsalder. : Den organiske "disruption" af den internationale modernisme. Belyst med fokus på Jørn Utzon's arbejde.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the UIA 2017 Seoul World Architects Congress
Number of pages6
PublisherUIA 2017 SEOUL
Publication date2017
Article numberO-0281
Commissioning bodyUIA, International Union of Architects
ISBN (Print)979-11-961666-1-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventUIA 2017 Seoul World Architects Congress - Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 3 Sep 201710 Sep 2017


ConferenceUIA 2017 Seoul World Architects Congress
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of
Internet address


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