Bruce Goff (June 8, 1904 – August 4, 1982) was a prolific self-taught American architect with a very distinct design style which evolved constantly. Goff’s style which can be described as eclectic came into the spotlight in the 1940s. Goff experimented with several architectural styles including the Prairie Style architecture of his correspondents Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan which then evolved into a highly original design approach. The inspiration for his work came from places as varied as Claude Debussy, Antonio Gaudi, Balinese music, Japanese ukiyo-e prints, etc. Here are some of his projects which demonstrate his evolution and versatility as an architect.

Below is the list of 15 Projects by Bruce Goff:

1. Adah Robinson house, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Adah Robinson’s home is one of Goff’s earliest works, built in 1924. Designed in the art deco style of that time, this house was designed by Goff along with Joseph A. Koberling, Jr. The house was built using hollow tiles, terrazzo floors, and leaded glass windows. The living room was designed to have double height and a running gallery. A unique feature of the living room was the conversation pit near the fireplace. The house was purchased by retired architect Thomas Thixton in 1974 who has since then restored and expanded it. 

Front view from the West @www.historictulsa.blogspot.com
View from the South @www.historictulsa.blogspot.com
Front Entrance @www.historictulsa.blogspot.com

2. Boston Avenue Methodist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Boston Avenue Methodist Church is one of the earliest examples of Bruce Goff’s work, done officially by the architecture firm where he was an apprentice and in collaboration with Adah Robinson who was his art teacher. Robinson reportedly came up with the initial concepts for the church which were then shaped into the building by Goff. The church is designed in the art deco style and contains a semi-circular auditorium, a tower, and another wing with classrooms. The tall lines of the tower reflect gothic architecture’s imposing quality while the motifs are art deco. A special feature of the exterior is the terracotta sculptures by sculptor Robert Garrison from Denver. 

Boston Avenue Methodist Church, front view @en.wikipedia.org
Tower Detail @upload.wikimedia.org
Detail above the entryway @en.wikipedia.org

3. Riverside Studio, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Riverside Studio was initially built for a music teacher as a house with a studio wing. It is now known as Tulsa Spotlight Club or Spotlight Theatre. The building was designed facing the Arkansas river, digging into a sloping site. Several important features of the structure were the large, circular window in the front façade, a fountain also in the front designed by Italian sculptor Alfonso Iannelli. It had fireplaces made of green marble and black glass, wood veneer wall coverings made in Japanese style. Goff had also commissioned a set of nine murals from the artist OlinkaHrdy of Oklahoma. Afterwards, the building went through a change of ownership and has gone through remodelling. 

Riverside Studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Riverside Studio internal view @amusements-parks.com
Riverside Studio front window detail @www.tulsakids.com

4. Turzak House, Chicago, Illinois

The Turzak house was built by Bruce Goff between 1938 and 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. It stood in stark contrast to the more traditional style residences of the time. Some of the important features of the house, which was ahead of its time, were corner windows, overhanging balconies, and a carport.

The Turzak House @en.wikipedia.org
The Turzak House entrance @www.flickr.com
Turzak House – view from the street @twitter.com

5. Bachman House, Chicago, Illinois

This project was a remodel project done by Bruce Goff for recording engineer Myron Bachman. It was a house and studio. The window openings of the original house were modified. The external façade was modified by adding cladding of brick and corrugated aluminium which gives the house its distinct look.

Bachman House front view @en.wikipedia.org
Bachman House side view @webapps1.chicago.gov
Bachman House window detail @brucegoffchicago.blogspot.com

6. Ledbetter House, Norman, Oklahoma

The Ledbetter house was designed by Bruce Goff in 1947. The house is a rectangular split-level design with a flagstone masonry wall running throughout the back length. The front of the house is adorned with curtain glass. The special Goff touch can be seen in the juxtaposition between the rectangular house and the oval-shaped cantilevered carport and patio. The house is embellished in unconventional ways such as glass ashtrays inserted in the front door.  

Ledbetter House entrance @okcmod.com
Ledbetter House interior view @okcmod.com
Ledbetter House – Porch @okcmod.com
Ledbetter House Cantilever detail @okcmod.com

7. Bavinger House, Norman, Oklahoma

The Bavinger House was completed in 1955 for artists Nancy and Eugene Bavinger. It was built over five years with help of some of Eugene’s art students and volunteers etc. The structure was conceived as a spiral climbing around a central spine. It invoked a cave-like sense of space, as the locally quarried ‘ironstone’ was used along with pieces of blue cullet. The spiral of the roof was supported by cables to a central mast. Floor ‘pods’ radiated from the central core and rose gradually to the apex. 

Bavinger House elevation @ugenerayarchitect.blogspot.com
Bavinger House view @www.archdaily.com
Bavinger House – Central mast @www.archdaily.com
Bavinger House – Internal view @www.archdaily.com

8. Hopewell Baptist Church, Edmond, Oklahoma

The Hopewell Baptist Church was built from 1947 to 1951. Bruce Goff had been tasked with coming up with an extremely frugal design. The imaginative tepee shaped design used surplus aluminium sheets and pipes from local oil fields and rocks from a local quarry. The labour for the church building was carried out by the members of the church. The building remains iconic in its symbolism for the local community.

Hopewell Baptist Church @en.wikipedia.org
Hopewell Baptist Church – Skylight @www.atlasobscura.com
Hopewell Baptist Church – Altar @www.atlasobscura.com

9. John Frank House, Sapulpa, Oklahoma

The John Frank House was designed by Goff to highlight the works of John and Grace Lee Frank who were potters by trade. The plan is circular with the driveway being on the centre on the front side. Essentially the house was one circular room around a common core that could be divided with partitions. The interior and exterior were covered in colourful ceramic tiles, designed by Frank, and Goff were made by Frank’s factory. 

John Frank House Entrance @en.wikipedia.org
John Frank House – Back @localwiki.org
John Frank House – Interior view @midcenturymodernfreak.tumblr.com

10. Glen Mitchell House, Dodge City, Kansas

The Glen Mitchell house was built in 1968 by Bruce Goff for Dr. Mitchell who was a dentist as well as a musician. This house was designed to have angular geometry. It also had a large sloping roof with wooden shingles. 

Glen Mitchell House, Dodge City, Kansas
Glen Mitchell House @en.wikipedia.org
Glen Mitchell House @en.wikipedia.org

11. Sam & Ruth Van Sickle Ford house, Aurora, Illinois

This house was built in 1949-50 for an art teacher and painter Ruth Van Sickle Ford and her husband Sam Ford. The house takes the form of a dome with Quonset hut ribs which are partially shingled. Two smaller domes contain bedrooms of the house. 

Sam and Ruth VanSickle Ford House @en.wikipedia.org
Sam & Ruth VanSickle Ford House – Floor Plan @www.artic.edu
Sam & Ruth VanSickle Ford House –Section @www.artic.edu
Sam & Ruth VanSickle Ford House – Interior view @hiddenarchitecture.net

12. Joe Price House and Studio, Bartlesville, Oklahoma

What began as a design for the home and studio of Joe Price eventually became a family retreat with its museum of Japanese art. Bruce Goff had multiple path breaking ideas such as the cellophane strips hanging from the skylight. Named Shin’en Kan, this was one of the most important works of Bruce Goff. 

Joe Price House @www.flickr.com
Joe Price House – Interior View @www.papercitymag.com
Joe Price House – Details @www.flickr.com
Joe Price House – Details @www.flickr.com

13. Durst-Gee House, Houston, Texas

Designed in 1958, the Durst-Gee house has an imposing façade with three circular windows breaking into the roofline. But as you view it from different angles the house geometry changes significantly. However, circles as a motif are repeated throughout. For this expansive house, Goff was commissioned to design additions as well. 

Durst-Gee House @www.houstoniamag.com
Durst-Gee House – Interior view @www.papercitymag.com
Durst-Gee House – Interior view @www.papercitymag.com
Durst-Gee House – Side view with additions @www.papercitymag.com

14. Al Struckus House, Los Angeles, California

The Al Struckus House was one of the last built structures of Architect Bruce Goff. Built for Al Struckus who was an engineer, art collector, and woodworker; the house took the form of a giant cylinder perched atop a hill. The most eye-catching feature of the façade is the giant eyeball like windows along the staircase well. A four-storeyed house with curved floors, the house also has smaller grid-patterned windows that enhance the space with light. 

Al Struckus House @www.laconservancy.org
Al Struckus House – Exterior Details @www.laconservancy.org
Al Struckus House – Interior view @www.nytimes.com

15. Pavilion for Japanese art, Los Angeles, California

The building designed by Goff is a 32,000 sq.ft. pavilion divided into two volumes with organic curving plans. The roof is prow-like while the base of the structure is grey-green stucco and stone. Atop the roof are unusual structures of tusk-like objects supported by cables which tie into six columns that rise through the structure. Fibreglass panels let in filtered sunlight ideal for viewing the various objects on display. 

Pavilion for Japanese Art @en.wikipedia.org
Pavilion for Japanese Art Entrance @en.wikipedia.org
Pavilion for Japanese Art – Interior Art @en.wikipedia.org

As is amply demonstrated through the variety of projects showcased in this article Bruce Goff was not only self-taught but he also had a very individual voice as an architect. It is difficult to sum up his vast amount of very diverse work into conventional categories. If one must, however, Goff could be viewed as an expressionist where he preferred to interpret the brief and the site and express those unique demands of each project through design. One also cannot forget his meticulous attention to detail and the way they are incorporated rather distinctly in each project, not merely as embellishment, but as an intrinsic part of each project. As a result, Bruce Goff is truly one of the most brilliant architectural minds of the 20th century.

Apoorva Deshpande
Author

Apoorva Deshpande is an architect practicing in Mumbai. Along with her interest in architecture, she is passionately interested in the literary world and hence always keen to explore spatiality through the medium of words. Her academic interests include urban housing, public spaces and urban ecology.

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