Architect Bruce Goff never designed to be published in magazines or to attract the bright lights, he never designed to be fashionable (he worked in Oklahoma, for Galt's sake!), and he never designed to fit the 'malatropisms' of the so-called intellectual elite, whom he shunned as if they carried plague -- which of course in a sense they did (and do). Bruce Goff spent his life designing and working simply to delight himself and his clients. And so he did. No two Goff buildings were ever even remotely the same.
I was introduced to him inadvertently by means of a wise-cracking insult by locally fashionable architect Ian Athfield, who had come up the hill to critique student work at Wellington's Victoria University. Seeing my own project he gave a snort of derision, muttered something about me and Bruce Goff which brought the house down, and moved on to look at something more post-modern from the student next door -- whereupon I left to find out about this chap I was supposed to be channeling, even if only in jest. What I discovered was that anyone channelling this guy was my kind of architect.
Goff was apprenticed to an architect at twelve, and by eighteen had designed his first church. Not bad going, even back in those laissez-faire days, especially for an atheist. He worked through the war years as an army engineer, delighting in using found materials and 'borrowed' structures to do things with them for which they were never intended, such as this simple chapel built on the cheap using Quonset Huts. In later years he was to use all manner of 'found objects' -- his favourite story of this was to tell of an ophthalmologist client who insisted that after looking at eyes all day he didn't want any circles in his house: Goff designed him an angular house, with a wall interspersed with small, thick diamond-shaped clear glass panels. These were square one-dollar Woolworth's glass ashtrays Goff had bought and set on-point in the house's entrance wall.
Goff's best work is this house pictured here, the Bavinger House. Built in 1955 for a young family in Norman Oklahoma, it brings together locally quarried 'ironrock,' mine tailings, coal rejects, glass cullets, airplane wire and a used oil-rig drilling pipe for the mast.
The result is astonishing. The outer wall -- and in fact there is only one wall performing many functions -- seems to grow out of the ground before moving out and around to surround and enclose a garden and an adjoining living area before spiralling in an up to form and fix the climactic vertical pylon from which the roof and floor 'pods' are hung. The 'pods' are hung off the wall as it ascends, providing withdrawing, bedroom and study space that can be closed off with curtaining (don't ask, some writers suggest something about goose feathers) but mostly remain open to the whole glorious space in which they hover.
A small jewel-like masterpiece. As this web description of the Bavinger house concludes:
Goff once wrote, “Beauty bursts forth when it must, because the Artist feels the drive within . . . and no amount of discouragement can stop him.” From America’s heartland, Goff transcended traditional ideals and proved to the world that architecture is an extension of nature, and the elements of sky, earth and water, its realm.Bruce Goff's Bavinger House: Definitely one of my own personal top five.
LINKS: Architecture v Architecture: Introduction - Not PC
Goff's Historic Houses - Oklahoma University Foundation