In recent years, architectural circles have been abuzz over building forms that mimic or evoke natural biological systems in swooping, curved systems of “biomorphic” shapes. Probably no one better perfected these forms than the late, great Zaha Hadid. However, while much of the aesthetic debate has centered on biomorphic architecture, others have pursued forms that draw inspiration from another feature of the natural environment: geology.
In contrast to the smooth, flowing surfaces of biomorphism, geomorphic architecture is characterized by hard-edged angles, beveled finishes and outcropping appendages. These forms channel the geomorphology of the landscape and resemble the rocks and boulders found in every corner of the globe. Rather than evoking the unseen and invisible markers of life within the body, geomorphic buildings play off the literal bedrock of civilization, observable in the landscape. The following collection of museum projects speak to the geomorphology of their respective contexts, and in doing so give form to the narrative of place, time and history that the institution of the museum seeks to elaborate on the public stage.
Set on a peninsula across from Hong Kong Bay, this geology museum is located in a stunning natural setting ringed by ancient volcanos, and resembles a rock formation organized into ambling zig-zag pathways. Creeping vegetation makes the building look ancient and gives the building a slowly recognizable form.
Drawing inspiration from the surrounding “stone forests” of carved rocks, this museum and cultural center features a series of stacked cubic volumes with alternating cuts and solids that fold inwards and out. A horizontal line cuts through the exterior façade, distinguishing the exhibition and service spaces, while vertical lines delineate supporting walls. A double-hung façade system filters light into interior exhibition space.
Positioned at the nexus between Utah’s burgeoning cultural assets and its ancient natural setting, this natural history museum features a voluminous open atrium with angular support walls that jut up and around the space. The exterior is clad in board-formed concrete at its base and copper and zinc alloy panels above.
An addition to an existing building — a renowned textile foundation — the masonry façade is this project’s most distinguishing characteristic, with individual blocks placed at differing depths to give the elevation a heterogenous composition. The effect is such that the building becomes part of the landscape, and vice versa.
Built as a gallery for the collection of a renowned Korean sculptor, this project blends smooth surfaces with rough-hewn materials, mixing in-situ poured concrete and stones excavated during construction. A series of walls composed of these two materials surround an exterior courtyard lined with reflecting pools, giving the space a half-formed feeling that acts as a metaphor for the continuous geological processes undergirding the region.
This 6,500-square-foot private museum incorporates exhibition space, conference rooms and a restaurant, utilizing lava, turf, grass and Cor-Ten steel materials. The building’s volumes sit snugly along the hillside, while the lava-coated exterior frames the windows and views towards Mount Hekla.