Art Nouveau Design

Whereas buildings understandably need to comply with zoning laws and be practical to live in, decorative items like jewelry, porcelain, ceramics, textiles, cutlery, furniture, art, graphic design etc were less bound by such restrictions and it was in these areas that the Art Noveau style could really flourish to its full extent.

Art Noveau design too can also be divided into different sub-categories, some of which are more organic, flowing, detailed and naturalistic, whereas others are more geometric, stylised and have cleaner lines or an Arts & Craft style.

Organic Art Nouveau

Henri Teterger - Pendant-brooch (1900)

Henri Teterger – Pendant-brooch (1900)

Georg Kleemann - Bat pendant (1907)

Georg Kleemann – Bat pendant (1907)

Elisabeth Bonté - Pendant (1900)

Elisabeth Bonté – Pendant (1900)

WMF card tray with fairy

WMF card tray with fairy

Tiffany - Apple blossom lamp

Tiffany – Apple blossom lamp

Tiffany - Wisteria lamp

Tiffany – Wisteria lamp

Émile Gallé – Mushroom lamp

Antoni Gaudi - Miroir pour La Casa Mila (1906-1910) (Musée d'Orsay)

Antoni Gaudí – Mirror for La Casa Mila (1906-1910)

Gallé - Acorn vase

Émile Gallé – Acorn vase

Gallé -  Butterfly bed

Émile Gallé – Butterfly bed

Hector Guimard - Sofa for a smoking room (1897)

Hector Guimard – Sofa for a smoking room (1897)

Hector Guimard - Cabinet from Castel Béranger (1899)

Hector Guimard – Cabinet from Castel Béranger (1899)

Hector Guimard - Side chair

Hector Guimard – Side chair

Gustaf Fjaestad – Massive carved chair

Stylised Organic Art Nouveau

Otto Prutcher - Enamel pearl brooch (1900)

Otto Prutcher – Enamel pearl brooch (1900)

Carl Herman - Enamel brooch

Carl Herman – Enamel brooch

Alfred Bernheim - Amethyst brooch (1905)

Alfred Bernheim – Amethyst brooch (1905)

Georg Kleemann - Silver enamel brooch (1900)

Georg Kleemann – Silver enamel brooch (1900)

WMF pewter vase

WMF pewter vase

Chair (1898)

Henri van de Velde – Chair (1898)

van de Velde - Desk

Henri van de Velde – Desk

Henri van de Velde – China

Alf Wallander - Crayfish china (Rörstrand)

Alf Wallander – Crayfish china (Rörstrand)

Gunnar Wennerberg - Urn (1899)

Gunnar Wennerberg – Urn (1899)

Archibald Knox designed some fabulous silver and other products for Liberty & Co in London.

Knox - Brooch (1900)

Archibald Knox – Brooch (1900)

Knox - Opal pendant

Archibald Knox – Opal pendant

Knox - Bowl (1902)

Archibald Knox – Bowl (1902)

Knox - Clock (1902)

Archibald Knox – Clock (1902)

Knox - Clock

Archibald Knox – Clock


Art Nouveau Architecture

After the historical eclecticism of the 19th century, there was something truly fresh about this new impulse. A new sense of harmony & proportion. Stylised nature-inspired decorative elements – from local rather than mediterranean or exotic flora & fauna – integrated organically into the overall design. Daring, sometimes irregular, design with flowing lines. Often pastel colours in harmonious combinations.

Art Noveau building, Riga, Latvia

Rafael Masó – Teixidor flower mill, Girona, Spain

Émile André – Villa Les Glycines, Nancy, France

Art Noveau windows typically have panes with the main separation bar roughly two thirds up of and often small-paned sashes in the top third part. Some windows are slightly curved at the top and larger buildings may have one huge semicircular window in the middle.

Villa Ninni (1905), Wittebrugpark, Den Haag, Netherlands

Holmburger Plats 1, Ilmenau, Germany

Art Noveau can be devided into several subcategories, e.g. Organic, Geometric, Historic Revival, National Romantic and Queen Anne.

Organic Art Noveau

The light and swirly French-Belgian style of the Ecole de Nancy, represented by architects & designers such as Victor Horta, Hector Guimard and Henry Van de Velde is often considered the original Art Noveau. Another is the heavier but even more organic and unique style of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, and the Antroposophic style initiated by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, Switzerland (see separate post) during the same period.

Hector Guimard – Metro Porte Dauphine (1899), Paris, France

Giovanni Michelazzi – Villa Broggi Caraceni (1911), Florence, Italy

Antonio Gaudí – Casa Balltó (1877/1904), Barcelona, Spain

Geometric Art Noveau

The Vienna secessionist architects Josef HoffmannJoseph Maria Olbrich and Otto Wagner created a more clean, geometric architectural style, with much use of lines, geometric elements and even more stylised floral designs. A sort of proto-Art Deco. Other representatives of this style are Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, Louis Sullivan in USA and sometimes British-born William Walcot in Russia.

Otto Wagner – Kirche am Steinhof (1907), Austria

Jože Plečnik – The Zacherlhaus (1903-06), Vienna, Austria

Charles Rennie Mackintosh – Willow tea rooms, interior (1904), Glasgow, Scotland

Louis Sullivan – Home Building Association Bank (1914), Ohio, USA

William Walcot – Yakunchikova House (1900), Moscow, Russia

Historic Revival Art Noveau

For the first time since medieval times, Art Noveau meant a complete break from the yokes of neoclassicism, though one line of Art Noveau grew out and merged with the many historical Revival styles of the 19th century, especially the older medieval styles such as GothicTudor, and the squat Romanesque style with semicircular arches, towers with short pointed metal roofs and fortress-like thick walls, though more scaled down, rounded, ornamented and playful.

Romanesque Art Noveau villa: Nieuwe Parklaan 7, Wittebrugpark (1899), Den Haag, Netherlands

Romanesque Art Noveau church: Theodor Fischer – Pauluskirche (1908-12), Ulm, Germany

Gothic Revival Art Noveau: Lluís Domènech i Montaner – Casa Fuster (1911), Barcelona, Spain

Tudor Revival Art Noveau: van Lennepweg 38 (1907), Wittebrugpark, Den Haag, Netherlands

Neo-Baroque Art Noveau: Hjalmar Kumlien – Villa Lusthusporten, Stockholm, Sweden

National Romantic Art Noveau

The National Romantic style often merges with Historic Art Noveau, though more progressive with freer interpretations, aiming more to inspire specific emotions, fantasies and ideals than to offer historical accuracy. Most common in Scandinavia, but can also be found in the Baltic region, Russia, Germany and Hungary. Inspiration may come from peasant architecture, Swiss chalets, national mythology or perceived ‘great’ eras of that country, e.g. the Viking period. Colours are typically darker or stronger, lines simpler and straighter, with use of local materials with rougher surfaces such as wood, dark brick and granite. The many small panes of the upper third of Art Noveau windows often cover the whole window in Scandinavian National Romantic buildings.

Agi Lindegren – The Biological Museum, Djurgården, Stockholm, Sweden

Curmanska Villan, Lysekil, Sweden

Solberg Church, interior, Anundsjö, Sweden

Gustaf Wickman – Kiruna Church, Kiruna, Sweden

Per-Olof Hallman – Lärkstaden, Stockholm, Sweden

Emil Wikström – Studio (1883-12), Sääksmäki, Finland

Lars Sonck – Kallio Church (1908–12), Helsinki, Finland

National Museum of Finland

National Museum of Finland

Alexei Bubyr & Nikolai Vasilev – Estonian Drama Theatre (1876-1919), Tallinn, Estonia

Grundtvigs Kirke, Copenhagen

Grundtvigs Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark

Queen Anne Art Noveau

In the United States, the Victorian Queen Anne style also lasted into and merged with the Art Noveau period. Victorian Queen Anne homes often have towers, turrets, onion domes, wrap-around porches, front-facing gables, bay windows, shingles, Eeastlake style ornaments or other fanciful details along with typical Art Noveau features such as arched windows etc. Some are made in wood, others in stone or brick masonry, in styles that could also sort under Historic Revival Art Noveau.

Queen Ann house (1889), Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, USA

One of the ‘Seven-villas’ (sjuvillorna), Saltsjöbaden, Sweden

Romanesque Queen Anne with brick tower, USA

Victorian town houses, San Fransisco, USA

Queen Anne houses, California Street, Washington D.C., USA

Still – with the exception some stunning buildings by a few of the most visionary architects – Art Noveau architecture, for all it’s fanciful excterior, is often fairly rectilinear and traditional inside, with just some rounded corners and perhaps an organically designed entrance door handle, a wrought iron balcony or stairway railing or some stained glass windows. It manages to marry – in varying proportions – practicality, solidity & tradition on the one hand, with softness, playfulness & visions of a new era on the other. The masculine and femnine principle in synergetic harmony instead of competing with each other.

Anthroposophic Architecture


The visionary founder of Antroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, with his first and second Goetheanum (the first was burned down by the nazis) created a special style designed to be softer, more playful and human-friendly than traditional architecture; a style which has since been developed further by a host of subsequent Antroposophic architects.

Goetheanum (1925-1928), Dornach


Joachim Haider is an example of the many antroposophic architects inspired by Steiner.

School (model)


The late Sweden-based Danish architect Erik Asmussen designed most of the unusal-shaped buildings at the Rudolf Steiner Seminary in Ytterjärna.

The Culture House (1992), Ytterjärna

More about Swedish antroposophic architecture:

Beautifully located at the foot of a small mountain, overlooking a little lake, is the Solvik School, resembling something out of a fairy tale.


The Solvik School, near Järna


Welsh Christopher Day seems to be a true antroposphic/organic architect, and a sculptor as well, with a touch of the medieval.

Steiner Kindergarten (1989), Nant-y-cwm

Scotland-based antroposophic architect group Camphill Architects, design more modern and colourful houses.

Joan of Arc Hall, Botton, Yorkshire


Dutch Anton Alberts in a video-interview said something to the effect that Form is Spirit made visible (seemingly indicating that World of Ideas which Plato tried to describe). He also explained that shapes based on the square have played an important roll in humankind developing the concrete mind, that quantitative intelligence which has led to the scientific and technical development we see today. He predicted that in the future, as humankind also develops intuition and more spiritual qualities, buildings will be based on the circle (or sphere). But that this would be too radical a step right now (or back in the 80s when the interview was conducted) and therefore recommended still rectilinear but rounded and angled shapes as a first step on the way towards a softer future.

The ING Bank (1982), Amsterdam

Gasuniege HQ, Groningen

Gasuniege HQ, Groningen


Steiner-inspired Hungarian architect Imre Makovecz has made many fascinating houses in unconventional styles.

Onion House Theatre (1996), Makó

Image from:

Holy Spirit Church (1987), Paks

Image from: Makovecz Imre


The space-age visions of the 1960’s and early 70’s produced some rather extraordinary architectural pearls:


Villa Spies in the Stockholm archipelago, “…a futuristic, hedonistic summerhouse designed in 1969 by the young Swedish architect Staffan Berglund for the wealthy Danish visionary and business genius Simon Spies.” Completely round, it was really something different from the traditional houses in Sweden.

Staffan Berglund – Villa Spies (1969), Stockholm archipelago

Staffan Berglund – Villa Spies (interior)


In the early 70’s Finnish architect Matti Suuronen designed a UFO-shaped mobile home called Futuro.

Matti Suuronen – Futuro (1970)

Picture from: (which has more info and pictures of it).


In the 1950’s and 60’s, Disneyland exhibited some very interesting visions of future houses. One example was the Monsanto-sponsored House of the Future.

Monsanto House of the Future (1957), Disneyland

Monsanto house of the future interior

Monsanto House of the Future (interior)

Picture from:

In the 1970’s, science fiction TV-series such as Moonbase Alpha continued to inspire home design with white or cadmium orange, red and yellow plastic products and furniture.

Living room 05

Moonbase Alpha-inspired living room

Moonbase Alpha-inspired living room

Picture from: Sorellarium: 13

Read more about other retro-futuristic visions: Tales of Future Past

See also Googie Architecture

Light-Weight Concrete


For those who wish to stay above ground there is an innovative method for creating fantastic organic Art Noveau-inspired shapes using light-weight concrete:

Bill and Patti’s Art Noveau house

Tim’s house (terrace)

Tim’s house (kitchen)

Roof 07




Roof 05


Stairs 01


Stairs 05


Pictures from: Flying Concrete
(where you’ll find more inspiring pictures and info)

Now, that’s what I call an improvement of the use of concrete! Viva la Mexico! for breaking out of the concrete box and away from the depressing greyness of regular concrete.

Earth houses


The earth-covered spray-concrete earth house must be one of the most eco-friendly & harmonious structures ever concieved by man. Swiss architect Peter Vetsch has designed a large number of these stunning organic earth houses, including his own home. Here are but a few examples:

9 Houses earth house estate (1978), Lättenstrasse, Dietikon

Leuzinger house, Dietikon

Schweizer house (interior), Flurlingen

Brighter and fresher looking than one would think when first hearing the name ‘earth house’, isn’t it?

Vetsch home (bedroom), Dietikon

Pictures from Vetsch Architektur (which has numerous other pictures of his past and current works)


An earth house does not necessarily have to be in flowing design. There are geometric designs that use the same principle, for those who just want to have the ecological benefits but find organic shapes impractical.

Model earth house (1979) Columbus, Ohio

Picture from: Underground homes

More examples of rectangular earth houses can be found among these informative links: Stockton Earth Home Project


There are monolithic domes (made in, or into, one piece), geodesic domes (assembled from triangles or hexagons) and other domes which can be round, elliptoid, saucer-shaped or onion-shaped.

Modern domes usually consist of steel structures forming triangles, rectangles or hexagons, whereas most historical domes were made of brick or stone and covered with plaster or mosaic. Here are some examples of modern domes:



Of course, one cannot mention domes witout mentioning geodesic dome pioneer & visionary Bucky Fuller, but so much has already been written about him elswhere. Those interested can read more at Buckminster Fuller Institute.

Here are some examples of a modern domes, based on his principles:

Timberline “Gertz” dome house

Timberline dome (interior)

Timberline - Horton Dome 2

Pictures from Timberline Geodesics


Geodesic bubble structure can be used to create a gigantic greenhouse.

The Eden Project, Cornwall

Picture from: Eden Project

Bucky Fuller’s daughter Allegra is reported to have been delighted to see this great example of her father’s vision.



Monolithic domes come in many sizes and can be one or several stories high. 

Monolithic dome

Inside, they are often more modern and sophisticated than the often plain exterior reveals.

Vista Dome (interior), Yucaipa, Ca

Garlock home, Colorado Rockies

The rounded shape is often better able to withstand the forces of nature. This Florida dome home “made national headlines when it emerged virtually unscathed from a direct hit by Hurricane Ivan”:

“Hurricane-proof” dome home, Florida

Now, what exactly is so surprising about this? Any decent engineer should have been able to figure that out at least a hundred years ago. Why are we still building wind-trapping rectangular buildings in hurricane-ridden areas instead of natural, rounded shapes that the wind can easily sneak around and leave alone? Aerodynamics, anyone? Why do we keep insisting on building ‘against the grain’ when Mother Nature keeps giving us more and more drastic hints that this way of building is not working? How long are we going to insist on erecting ever new rectilinear structures to be turned into rubble in the next hurricane or earthquake? Seems like a battle we can’t win – unless we adapt to nature and build according to obvious natural laws.

For a simpler dome design, Iranian-born Californian architect and humanitarian Nader Khalili had the idea of making domed hoses out of sandbags, a so-called super-adobe. It is said to work just as well for refugee camps as for potential colonies on Mars. Or if you just like organic design and wish to build your own house using local sand.

Village of super-adobes

Back view

Super-adobe back

Dome with shady nook

Dome with shady nook

Triple-vault interior

Pictures & info on the building process: Cal-Earth


Join two or more domes together and you get a double- or multi-dome structure.

Monolithic double dome floorplan

Pictures, quote and more info from Monolithic Dome Institute

Chinese-American comtemporary organic architect and designer Eugene Tsui has created some wonderful multi-dome structures which look good enough to eat.

The Watsu school at Harbin Hot Springs, Middleton, Ca

Watsu 21

The Watsu school (exterior)

The Watsu school (upper floor office)

Watsu 03

The Watsu school (interior)

Watsu 14

The Watsu school (corridor)

Pictures from Tsui Design & Research Inc.


Antti Lovag, of Russian-Finnish origin, is another architect who has been designing multi-domed houses in the French riviera since the 1960s.


Lovag multi-dome (interior)

Pictures from: Habiter Selong Antti Lovag

In 1970, Lovag designed the famous spectacular Maison Bulles in Theoule just outside Cannes on commission from a rich industrialist. However, despite 7 million dollars going into the building, it was never finished. In 2005 it was put on the market for sale. It was bought by designer Pierre Cardin who resumed finishing it.

La Maison Bulles (1970), Theoule

La Maison Bulles (interior)

Pictures from Le Journal de Femmes


Concrete shell structures in the shape of semi-domes are perfect for large public arenas.

The Millennium Dome in London by Richard Rogers is a good example of how enormous a semi-dome can be built for public events.

Millennium Dome (1999), London


Palazzetto Dello Sport by Pier Luigi Nervi, built for the 1960 olympics in Rome, is another great example of an early use of the half-dome to create a stable structure that can house a large audience.

Palazzetto Dello Sport (1957), Rome



For those who are not afraid to be off the ground, Free Spirit Spheres in Canada have created a sort of Ewok hotel complex, comprised of one-room wooden spheres stuck in trees.

Spheric tree house, Vancouver Island

“Eryn” (interior)


From some of the smallest habitable houses to the world’s largest spherical building, built to represent the sun in a Swedish 1:20 million model of the solar system and house sports events, concerts etc. The advanced lighting system can be changed to display this enormous white golf ball in different colours on different nights.

The Ericsson Globe (1989), Stockholm

Roger Dean


Most people probably know Roger Dean as the visionary album cover artist for Yes and other bands, but he has also made some awesome organic architecture designs together with his brother Martyn, and a prototype Home for Life project.

Home for Life (vision)

Dean’s design for child’s bed was the starting point for his organic designs, which are based on how a room feelsVery important aspect, all too often overlooked for more practical and economic priorities. This bedroom is an example of “compassionate design” by creating a feeling of snug safety, and was arrived at by taking the time to ask children about their preferences (read more here).

Dean 18 Child bedroom

Child’s bedroom

Dean 07 Hall 02


Dean 09 Hall doors


Dean 10 Bathroom


Dean 13 Bath night


Dean 17 Corridor


Stairs to bedroom

Dean 04 Bedroom woods



Tired of square shapes, straight lines and sharp angles? Turned off by cool, harsh lighting and cold, high-tech design?

Well, I am! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to soft, organic shapes and repelled by classic architecture, furniture and design; it’s just not my cup of tea.

I’m sure I can’t be alone on the planet to have visions of a world of flowing, organic design, friendly interaction and harmonious living? Who keeps wondering why cars get more aerodynamic but not houses, even though we now have the technology and materials to build any shape or form?

Organically designed houses are usually more environmentally friendly, cheaper to heat, less wind-catching if tall, more stable in the event of a natural disaster, besides feeling more cosy to live in and fitting better into natural environments. OK, they may be trickier to furnish, but such problems can be solved.

Great introduction to the principles in organic arcitecture, which I found it very informative and inspiring: Organic architecture

And a wikipedia article for the newbie.

Next, I’ll be posting links to some of my favorite organic architects and designers.