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!

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Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

FC3 ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN, LLC
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
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Licensed in CT, DE, FL, NJ, NY, PA, VA


ILMA of The Week

ILMA of the Week: Eugene Tsui

ILMA of the Week: Antoine Predock

ILMA of the Week: Peter Eisenman

ILMA of the Week: Bruce A. Goff

ILMA of the Week: Frank H. Furness

ILMA of the Week: Eero Saarinen

ILMA of the Week: I. M. Pei

ILMA of the Week: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

ILMA of the Week: Eric Owen Moss

ILMA of the Week: Oscar Niemeyer

ILMA of the Week: Frank L. Wright

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


Architect of the Week: Eugene Tsui

Eugene Tssui (also spelled Tsui, born September 14, 1954) is an American Architect. His built projects are known for their use of ecological principles and highly experimental “biologic” design, a term coined by Tssui himself in the 2010 issue of World Architecture Review. He has also proposed a number of massive, radical projects, such as a bridge over the Strait of Gibraltar and a 2-mile-high tower capable of housing 1 million residents.

The following article was first published by Nov. 30, 2015, 7 a.m. at Berkeleyside; Tom Dalzell’s blog: http://quirkyberkeley.com.

2727 Mathews Street. Photo: John StoreyThe “Fish House” at 2747 Mathews St. in Berkeley. Photo: John Storey

The “Fish House” at 2747 Mathews St. in Berkeley, designed by Emeryville’s Eugene Tssui, is the least-expected and probably the most-photographed architectural design in Berkeley.

2727 Mathews Street. Photo: John Storey2747 Mathews St. Photo: John Storey

2727 Mathews Street. Photo: John Storey
2747 Mathews St. Photo: John Storey

2727 Mathews Street. Photo: Joe Reifer
2747 Mathews St. Photo: Joe Reifer

The image above was photographed during the June 2008 full moon around midnight, with an exposure time of approximately 6 minutes. It takes the house’s other-wordly element into a whole new other world.

2727 Mathews Street. Photo: John Storey
2747 Mathews St. Photo: John Storey

Crumbled abalone shell is mixed in with the stucco-ish exterior, providing the sparkle.

2727 Mathews Street. Photo: John Storey
2747 Mathews St. Photo: John Storey

What look like flying buttresses — sort of — project from the rear of the house. They serve as slide escapes from the second story in the event of an evacuation.

Tssui designed the home for his parents, who lived in it from 1995 until last year. It is on Mathews Street, just west of San Pablo Park. But for it, Mathews Street is largely a street without quirk.

A color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a tardigrade found in moss samples. Photo: New York Times
A color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a tardigrade found in moss samples. Photo: New York Times

The house is designed based on the tardigrade, a segmented marine micro-animal. The tardigrade can  survive extreme cold and extreme hot, extreme pressure or a vacuum, radiation doses, and can go without food or water for more than ten years.

When Tssui’s parents moved to Berkeley, they were concerned about earthquakes and wanted him to design a house in which they would be safe no matter what the Richter Scale said. Tssui consulted zoology and learned that the tardigrade is the most indestructible creature on the planet. True to his belief in biomimicry, he created a house based on the architecture of the lowly tardigrade. He believes that the Mathews Street house is safe from fire, earthquake, flood and pest.

Several neighbors from the block of 1920s California bungalows strenuously objected to the house design; the design review process dragged out more than a year. Tssui credits then-mayor Loni Hancock with stepping in and putting an end to the debate in the name of freedom of thought and design.

The house’s proper name is Ojo del Sol or Tai Yang Yen – the Sun’s Eye. The name alludes to the south-facing 15-foot oculus window, a common feature of Byzantine and Neoclassical architecture. The oculus here serves to light and warm the house. Tssui now uses the name given the house by the public, the Fish House, tardigrade or not.

Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey
Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey

Tssui is a visionary architect. His degrees are from the University of Oregon and Cal, but he owes much of his architectural vision to three architects with whom he apprenticed: Victor Prus in Montreal, Bruce Goff in Tyler, Texas, and Frei Otto (tensile and membrane structures of glass and steel) in Germany. After Tssui’s first semester at Columbia’s School of Architecture, Dean of Architecture James Stewart Polshek suggested to Tssui that an apprenticeship might suit him better than Columbia. That was a good call.

Bavinger House, Norman, Oklahoma. Photo: Wikipedia
Bavinger House, Norman, Oklahoma. Photo: Wikipedia

Tssui apprenticed with Goff (previous ILMA of the Week: Bruce A. Goff), an extraordinarily creative and innovative architect from 1977 until 1982. Most of Goff’s built projects were in Oklahoma.

Like Goff, Tssui scorns rectilinear design. Tssui calls his design ethic-biologic, based on the architecture of living things. Biomimicry is another term that might describe Tssui’s approach, finding sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s patterns and strategies.

Watsu Center at Harbin Hot Springs, Middletown, California. Photo courtesy of Eugene Tssui.
Watsu Center at Harbin Hot Springs, Middletown, California. Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

Tssui’s built projects include several in the East Bay, as well as the Watsu Center in Middletown, recently damaged by the Valley Fire.

Ultima Tower design. Photo courtesy of Eugene Tssui.
Ultima Tower design. Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

Gibralter Bridge design. Photo courtesy of Eugene Tssui.
Gibraltar Bridge design. Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

Tssui thinks big, an unspoken advocate of the “go big or go home” school of thought. He has designed a submerged bridge with an island half way across to span the Straits of Gibraltar, as well as a two-mile-high tower to house 1,000,000 people. He has visited Tarifa, Spain and North Africa, talking up his bridge project, which draws on wave power and wind power.

There is nothing about Tssui’s upbringing in Minneapolis that would have predicted his trajectory. His parents were no-nonsense immigrants who left Mainland China as Mao’s revolution swept Communists into power. The outward and physical manifestation of his inner self in high school was to play the prankster — Dennis the Menace constantly in trouble. That he would become a polymath nonpareil would not have been obvious at the time.

Business Card

I have never before today used the term “polymath,” a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. The polymath draws upon complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. Eugene Tssui is a polymath.

I actually came across the word before I saw his business card. I believed that I had thought of something he hadn’t. Obviously I had not. The polymath beat me to it. I think Tssui makes most of the world’s polymaths look lazy and shallow, but there is no way to prove or disprove this.

Courtesy of Eugene Tssui.
Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

Courtesy of Eugene Tssui.
Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

Tssui believes in vigorous, challenging exercise. He studied Northern Praying Mantis, a style of Chinese martial arts. He is a boxer and gymnast of some renown. He eats every other day, and sparingly. What discipline! He sees it as a logical, if not obvious, way to maintain a healthy weight.

Courtesy of Eugene Tssui.
Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

He is a concert pianist and flamenco guitarist. Piano was the instrument of his childhood. He keeps it up, with Chopin at the top of his favorite composer list. He is intrigued by the mathematics of music, but more drawn by the emotion, which he sees as central to human meaning, be it in music, architecture, or any facet of life.

He composes, at times blending his life philosophy with his music, as in “Make What is Wrong, Right”, played “with insistent, battle march feeling” in the five-flats challenging key of D♭major: “We will not be lured by comfort or ease / To make right the acts we know are wrong / And when challenge sends it clarion call / We will act, we will stand, we will fight.”

Tssui began Flamenco dancing in Montreal in 1970, and by 1972 was the principal dancer of the Minneapolis Flamenco Dance Troupe. University of Oregon professor David Tamarin introduced Tssui to flamenco guitar in 1978. Tssui is drawn to flamenco because it exudes pain and suffering and sadness.

Eugene Tssui, wearing a ring given him by a Mongolian shaman. Photo: John Storey
Eugene Tssui, wearing a ring given him by a Mongolian shaman. Photo: John Storey

Photo courtesy: Eugene Tssui.
Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

Tssui has lived for long stretches in China. In recent years he has become fascinated with Mongolia. Mongolian culture and history inform Tssui in many ways, as do the life and writings of Genghis Kahn. His experiences with a Mongolian shaman have made him a more spiritual man, an aspect of life that he had not formerly explored.

He has lectured at Cal, served as a research scholar at Harvard, taught at Ohio University and North Carolina State University and Harbin University and Peking University and South China University of Technology. He speaks fluent Mandarin.

He [also] designs furniture.

Rolling buffet table designed by Eugene Tssui. Photo courtesy of Eugene Tssui.
Rolling buffet table designed by Eugene Tssui. Photo: courtesy Eugene Tssui

He [also] designs clothes.

Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey
Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey

Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey
Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey

Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey
Eugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey

Eugene Tssui. Photo: John StoreyEugene Tssui. Photo: John Storey

The style draws on indigenous Mongolian designs and is highly functional. The sequins on the purple suit shown above, and in the photo of Tssui in front of the Fish House, are small solar panels which can be used to charge a mobile phone.

What’s next for our hometown polymath?

Courtesy of Eugene TssuiCourtesy of Eugene Tssui

Courtesy of Eugene TssuiCourtesy of Eugene Tssui

Courtesy of Eugene TssuiCourtesy of Eugene Tssui

Courtesy of Eugene TssuiCourtesy of Eugene Tssui

He is designing a live/work space to be built in San Pablo. The biologic design is obvious, although the organism that is mimicked is less obvious. He is designing it such that the electricity used in the building will be generated by the user — bicycling or by arms; he will not install solar panels because he finds them toxic when constructed. He is designing it to be cooled and warmed by the earth, and it is aerodynamic for passive ventilation. And so on. Tssui describes himself as someone who asks questions that most people try to avoid. He takes the tough questions and looks for fascinating and universally applicable answers. It is, to say the very least, the product of a creative, answer-seeking polymath mind.

Check out a film on Netflix about Eugene Tsui by clicking here.

And don’t forget to check out Tom Dalzell’s blog: http://quirkyberkeley.com.

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


Exclusive ILMA Interview with Kurt Kalafsky, AIA @KurtKalafsky

Architect Q&A:

When and why did you decide to become an Architect? 

When I was in HS I took some mechanical and architectural drawings classes (yes hand drafting) I really enjoyed it and the teacher encouraged me to pursue it further.

AZTEC Corp

Design and Photo provided by The Aztec Corporation/Aztec Architects LLC

What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream? 

Setting priorities and committing to a future profession is always challenging with all of the potential distractions on a college campus. I was working during all of my breaks and summer recesses and getting a lot of real office experience while attending Syracuse University. Syracuse was a very design focused school with very little thought put toward what we would actually be doing when we got out. After my third year I choose to transfer to NYIT Old Westbury. While still focusing on a high level of design, most of my professors were also practicing architects. I believe this balance of two very different types of education has helped me to become the Architect that I am today.

 Any memorable clients or project highlights? 

Every client and project is memorable it its own way, they are all unique with a different set of problems to solve. Ultimately that’s what an Architect is, a problem solver.

How do you balance design with your family life?

I value my family time very much. I get involved with my kid’s activities not just as a spectator but as a coach or a scout leader. I started coaching youth football while I was still in college and I was parents that just dropped their kids off and others that took a more active role. With very little exception, the kids that excelled were the ones whose parents showed an active interest in what their kids were doing. I learned a great deal about parenting dos and don’ts before I ever had children of my own.

Calatrava New York WTC Station

World Trade Center Transportation Hub by Santiago Calatrava Valls

How does your family support what you do?

They are my #1 fans and supporters. A little over 20 years ago my wife was pregnant with our first child, we just purchased our first home and I come home one day and tell her I want to quit my steady job and start my own firm with some friends. She was behind me one hundred percent and now we just celebrated the 20th Anniversary The Aztec Corporation and Aztec Architects LLC.
 
How do Architects measure success?

I can’t speak for all Architects, but I measure it by going to work every day and enjoying what I do. Constantly learning about the industry, business, how other businesses work, what makes people tick…

What matters most to you in design? 

Solving the clients problems and making their dreams a reality.

What are the challenges you face realizing your vision?

Getting to know who my client is and what their vision is. Understanding where they’ve been and where they what to go.

What do you hope to achieve over the next 20-30 years?

I don’t put any limits on my future, I guess I’m at a point where I enjoy working with younger people in our profession not only teaching them what I’ve learned but also learning from them.

Who is your favorite Architect? Why?

I have eclectic tastes in architecture, from Michelangelo to Frank Lloyd Wright to Bruce Goff to Richard Meier. I really enjoy architecture that brings nature into the design and reacts to the site and its surroundings regardless of who the designer is.

What is your favorite historic and modern project? Why?

I find the classic lines of St. Peter’s Basilica awe inspiring. The detail that went into it is truly amazing. I also love the Library of Congress in Washington DC, easily my favorite building in a city with so much great architecture. I’m also really enjoying watching the progress of Santiago Calatava’s new Transportation Center at the World Trade Center Site.

Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?

That’s going to be largely up to the next generation of architects to determine. We as a profession face many challenges and if we don’t stay at the forefront of today’s issues political, technology, business…. we will be left behind. We need to continue to show our communities the value that we bring to the table.

St. Peter's Basilica is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world"[3] and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom".

St. Peter’s Basilica is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world”[3] and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.

Who / what has been your greatest influence in design?

I believe that we are influenced by the totality of our life’s experiences. I don’t believe there is any one person, project or experience that has been life changing for me. I also think we need to keep an open mind to best serve our future clients.

How do you hope to inspire / mentor the next generation of Architects?

Keep them excited about learning; if we stop learning we will have no value.

What does Architecture mean to you? 

Architecture is both a process and a result. The process of defining the clients’ problem or vision and the process of solving that problem to get the end result that they are looking for.

If you could not be an Architect, what would you be? 

I would probably do something outdoors with nature, maybe a park ranger or something in the field of wildlife management.

What is your dream project?

The next one.

You can follow Kurt M Kalafsky on Twitter: @KurtKalafsky.

The oldest of the three United States Library of Congress buildings, the Thomas Jefferson Building was built between 1890 and 1897. It was originally known as the Library of Congress Building and is located on First Street SE, between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street in Washington, D.C. The Beaux-Arts style building is known for its classicizing facade and elaborately decorated interior. Its design and construction has a tortuous history; the building's main architect was Paul J. Pelz, initially in partnership with John L. Smithmeyer, and succeeded by Edward Pearce Casey during the last few years of construction.

The oldest of the three United States Library of Congress buildings, the Thomas Jefferson Building was built between 1890 and 1897. It was originally known as the Library of Congress Building and is located on First Street SE, between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street in Washington, D.C. The Beaux-Arts style building is known for its classicizing facade and elaborately decorated interior. Its design and construction has a tortuous history; the building’s main architect was Paul J. Pelz, initially in partnership with John L. Smithmeyer, and succeeded by Edward Pearce Casey during the last few years of construction.

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
P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
e-mail: fcunha@fc3arch.com
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
web: http://fc3arch.com
Licensed in CT, DC, DE, FL, MD NJ, NY, PA, VA