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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.