ILMA of the Week: Bruce A. Goff

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Bruce Alonzo Goff (June 8, 1904 – August 4, 1982) was an American Architect distinguished by his organic, eclectic, and often flamboyant designs for houses and other buildings in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

Born in Alton, Kansas, Goff was a child prodigy who apprenticed at the age of twelve to Rush, Endacott and Rush of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Goff became a partner with the firm in 1930. He is credited, along with his high-school art teacher Adah Robinson, with the design of Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the United States.

Goff accepted a teaching position with the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma in 1942. Despite being largely self-taught, Goff became chair of the school. This was his most productive period. In his private practice, Goff built an impressive number of residences in the American Midwest, developing his singular style of organic architecture that was client- and site-specific.

Goff’s accumulated design portfolio of 500 projects (about one quarter of them built) demonstrates a restless, sped-up evolution through conventional styles and forms at a young age, through the Prairie Style of his heroes and correspondents Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, then into original design. Finding inspiration in sources as varied as Antoni Gaudi, Balinese music, Claude Debussy, Japanese ukiyo-e prints, and seashells, Goff’s mature work had no precedent and he has few heirs other than his former assistant, New Mexico architect Bart Prince, and former student, Herb Greene. His contemporaries primarily followed tight functional floor plans with flat roofs and no ornament. Goff’s idiosyncratic floorplans, attention to spatial effect, and use of recycled and/or unconventional materials such as gilded zebrawood, cellophane strips, cake pans, glass cullet, Quonset Hut ribs, ashtrays, and white turkey feathers, challenge conventional distinctions between order and disorder. The Bavinger House was awarded the Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1987, and Boston Avenue Methodist Church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999.

Selected works by Bruce Goff
Goff was active from about 1926 until his death, with several of his projects completed by associates after his death. A number of his works were considered for listing on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
1926: Boston Avenue Methodist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma
1938: Turzak House, Chicago, Illinois
1947: Ledbetter House, Norman, Oklahoma
1950: Bavinger House, Norman, Oklahoma (featured above)
1955: John Frank House, Sapulpa, Oklahoma
1978: Pavilion for Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

Today, Goff’s contributions to the history of 20th-century architecture are widely praised. His extant archive—including architectural drawings, paintings, musical compositions, photographs, project files, and personal and professional papers—is held by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Some Drawings by Goff:

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Goff died in Tyler, Smith County, TX on August 4, 1982 (TX Death Records). His cremated remains are interred in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois, with a marker designed by Grant Gustafson (one of Goff’s students) that incorporates a glass cullet fragment salvaged from the ruins of the Joe D. Price House and Studio.

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We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Sincerely,
Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
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e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
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