U2 360: A Concert of Organic Architecture

Posted: July 26, 2012 in Architecture, U2
Tags: , , ,

Can a commercial structure be massive in size, modern in its use of technology, and harmonious with the people that inhabit it or come in contact with it?  Frank Lloyd Wright coined the idea of such a structure in his book The Natural House in 1954 as seeing the whole of life, not just serving it and “not cherishing any preconceived form fixing upon us either past, present or future, but instead exalting the simple laws of common sense or of super-sense if you prefer determining form by way of the nature of materials.”

Architect and planner David Pearson proposed a list of rules towards the design of organic architecture. These rules are known as the Gaia Charter for organic architecture and design (Pearson, David (2001). The Breaking Wave: New Organic Architecture (Stroud: Gaia), p. 72)  It reads:

“Let the design:

  • Be inspired by nature and be sustainable, healthy, conserving, and diverse.
  • Unfold, like an organism, from the seed within.
  • Exist in the “continuous present” and “begin again and again”.
  • Follow the flows and be flexible and adaptable.
  • Satisfy social, physical, and spiritual needs.
  • “Grow out of the site” and be unique.
  • Celebrate the spirit of youth, play and surprise.
  • Express the rhythm of music and the power of dance

U2 360 – Barcelona  Photocredit:  U2station.com

A little bit of Wiki research explains this concept perfectly, but if you were lucky enough to see U2 360 in tour between 2009 and 2011, then you actually have now experienced an “organically constructed” concert.  The technological genius of the engineers and the design team is truly an engineering marvel.  You, one of 60,000 or 80,000 or more people can have a seat anywhere in a U2 360 concert, and yet you feel the entire concert is constructed specifically for you in this space and time.

Once the stadium lights switch off and “The Claw” commences concert ignition with light and sound, you know you are about to be transported into something like you’ve never seen or heard before.  Almost holographically, the band members quickly appear one by one, adding sound and volume as each one enters.  Then with perfect acoustic clarity, the music starts.

Immediately, the crowd is plugged in and singing, taking millions of frames per second of video.  It’s going live via satellite all over the world as they play live.  No cameras allowed?  Pffftttt!    Until smartphones are banned, the pics and vids keep clicking. It’s a genius marketing strategy, but it’s also brilliant because each person experiences and records and shares the event in a way that is meaningful for them.  Some people want to remember it digitally, others are content just to experience it and remember it only in their mind.  Most do a little of both; each way leaves people content.

For me, a U2 concert meets every criteria of the Gaia Charter, with perhaps the biggest stretch being “inspired by nature.”  But a claw is certainly part of nature, even if a spaceship is not.    It started with the Edge sketching a design on a cocktail napkin and that’s organic enough for me!  Our dreams and how we bring them about it about the most organic thing about us, this ability to create something “ex nihilo” (out of nothing) from what resides solely within us.

Just as U2’s music seems to know no limits in the diversity of direction they take musically, it has now been equally complimented by their design of structure during this tour.  In my humble opinion, it is unmatched by any other band in touring history.  The sheer engineering process of this band, whether it is the individual component or group construction of their songs, or the design process and creation of their concert environment, U2 pushes the envelope of risk and reward to its outer limits.

Watching the setup, the tasks the vast stage crew perform right before the show, and then the immediate and rapid tear down that begins seconds after the final encore, you realize you are watching a perfect and intricately choreographed team that prepared and rehearsed for months.  Much like the band itself!  Merging an ever increasing complex technology with their sound so that it blends in with nature is the true gift of the experience!

You are under an open sky in a giant stadium and you quickly become acutely aware that you are connected not to devices, but to the diversity of all of Earth’s people. If you weren’t aware of people and their plight and redemption in other continents, you are now.  If you didn’t know the person beside you, you probably do now.  You see light of every color, wavelength and degree of brilliance.  You hear a depth of undistorted sound and clarity unknown to you before now; it makes you want to crawl into it!  Their music is becoming part of who you are. 

  U2 does more than just entertain us, they challenge us to rethink, maybe even change part of our individual and collective consciousness to be more aware of our surroundings.  We’re all at a different place in our life.  Possibly for some, it’s just a really good show, and for that I’m sure Team U2 is very grateful.  For me, and many like me, it’s more;  and for that we leave grateful.  We don’t feel as if we just consumed something, but that for a slice of time, we were all part of something bigger than ourself.

It’s obvious the sweat equity, heart and soul that goes into U2’s creative process.  For me and many others, it satisfies the social, physical, and spiritual needs we carry to connect with people, God, and our universe.  That’s the undeniable magic that often happens between U2 and their fans.

Bono has said he’s not convinced music will change the world.  I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree, but I know this—it’s a good place to start if you wish to find joy and peace within, light it, and then take it out into the world.  I hope you do.

For a fascinating look at the design and construction process of U2 360 this is a great video to watch:


  1. For me, true religion/spirituality has a mystical quality to it. And I think you have captured this essence in U2’s artistry. I wish I could have been with you at one of the concerts. Truly, I do.

  2. Laurène says:

    Their stage is unbelievable!! i’ve never got a chance to see them for a gig, but it seems to be amazing!!!

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