BRUCE GOFF ARCHITECT
Bruce Goff (1904-1982)Perhaps no Twentieth Century American
architect was as fearless as Bruce Goff. His only parallel in the art world
might be to outsider artists today. Frank Lloyd Wright even advised him to avoid studying at an architecture school
or risk losing what made him Bruce Goff in the first place. But though he remained classically unschooled, he
became so proficient in his art that he was appointed head of the Architecture Department at the University of
An obvious design prodigy as a child, he was apprenticed to a Tulsa architecture firm when he was twelve years
old. Early designs by him showed an artful comprehension of the Prairie idiom. Yet one of his only remaining
houses from 1920 would have seemed equally suitable in 1960.
Barely in his mid-twenties, Goff designed the most spectacular modernist church to this day, Tulsa's Boston Avenue
Methodist-Episcopal Church on Boston Avenue. Now regarded as an Art Deco icon, it predates the Chrysler
Building in New York and the Emerald City on celluloid. But he would soon tire of this stylistic language in favor of a
more international modernism. Resembling Wright's Usonian period, his houses from the mid thirties are spare and
simple, but his drawings of them were elegant graphic statements that went beyond practical design necessity. To
Bruce Goff, architecture was as much about drawing as it was about music, sculpture and dance. It also wasn't
about learned formulas that were applicable to any job at hand. Architecture was about now .
In 1934 he moved to Chicago to work for Alfonso Iannelli. Some of his drawings show the influence of Russian
constructivism or Germany's Bauhaus. He also began teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts. Teaching became as
much of an art form as designing for Goff. And throughout his career, his students would remember him as their
most inspiring mentor, so that the act of creation became paramount over the study of construction.
Goff went into the armed forces as a Seabee in World War II, allowing him to travel to California, Alaska and the
Aleutian Islands. Because building materials were scarce, he created barracks, chapels and mess halls using
simple military materiel. He seemed to find the purely utilitarian supplies liberating, fabricating quonset huts into
exercises in geometry beyond the usual bare bones of the structures.
After the war, his work evolved into total expressionism. His use of the materials at hand in the military inspired his
use of the native stone on a property for serpentine walls holding glass cullets for truly natural lighting. He rotated
quonset hut arches into spiral forms, and suspended floating rooms from steel cables.
No longer concerned with the conventional, Goff explored using any material for structural or decorative effect. Dime
store ashtrays embedded into walls allowed points of light to refract into rainbows in some of his interiors.
Cellophane strips replaced chandeliers and rows of white turkey feathers enabled ceilings to ripple in waves as the
homeowner walked through his house.
This hallucinogenic approach could sometimes lead to dreadful results, but like any great artist, Bruce Goff was
simply not afraid to be bad. His legacy is just now being understood as architectural expressionism has gained
newfound star appeal in the work of Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Peter Eisenmann.
The Art Institute of Chicago now holds the Goff archives and promotes him as an important Twentieth Century
forerunner of today's New Modernism.
LINKS TO BRUCE GOFF PAGES AND IMAGES OF THIS GREAT ARCHITECT'S DESIGN WORK.
Friends of Kebyar: Keepers of the faith and the cause of Organic Architecture: http://www.Kebyar.com/
Some early bruce Goff design drawings: http://www.architechgallery.com/arch_info/artists_pages/bruce_goff.html
Photo of Bruce Goff and several images of his architecture: http://www.mscs.mu.edu/~mikes/ArtsWeb/goff/
Bruce Goff designed Duncan house now a bed and breakfast: http://brucegoff-castle-bandb.com/
THE BRUCE GOFF ARCHIVE At the Art Institute of Chicago: http://www.artic.edu/aic/libraries/goff/rbgoff.html In 1990, The Art Institute of Chicago received Goff's comprehensive archive through the Shin'enKan Foundation, Inc. and Goff's executor, Joe Price.
Bachman House http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/B/BachmanHouse.html Architect Bruce Goff created a neighborhood sensation in 1948, when he remodeled a modest wood house (built in 1889) into the home and studio for recording engineer Myron Bachman.
Turzak House http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Landmarks/T/TurzakHouse.html Address: 7059 N. Olcott Ave. Year Built: 1938-39 Architect: Bruce Goff
Julius & Opal Cox Home (Boise City, OK) Bruce Goff, Architect designed in 1949 http://www.ptsi.net/user/museum/goff.html
Ruth Ford house, Aurora, IL, 1947-50 and Joe Price house, Bartlesville, OK, 1956, Several photos of these two house designed by Bruce Goff: http://www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/Cities/imgb/197/197m.html
Bruce Goff designed the Education Building at Redeemer Lutheran Church 1961 Several photos http://hometown.aol.com/redeembvl/bgoffedubldg.html
Bruce Goff's Bavinger House, student term paper: http://www.chuckiii.com/Reports/Architecture/Bruce_Goffs_Bavinger_House_.shtml
Los Angeles County Museum - Japanese Pavillion http://www.washington.edu/ark2/archtm/USA414.html
LACMA Pavilion for Japanese Art Bruce Goff (completed by Bart Prince, after Goff's death) 1988
Several photos: http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/goffla/goffla.html
This page built by James Schildroth, Architect. Back to his web site