Bruce Goff – Child Prodigy

17 Oct

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.

brucegoffheadstone.JPGAfter stints in Chicago and Berkeley, Goff accepted a teaching position with the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma in 1942. By 1943, despite a lack of credentials, he was chairman 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 out into truly uncharted territory. 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 precedents and he has few heirs other than his former assistant, the New Mexico architect Bart Prince. Among his contemporaries these were the years of tight functionalistic floorplans, flat roofs, and no ornament; now, even fifty years later, Goff’s idiosyncratic floorplans, his 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, still have the power to shock and challenge conventional distinctions between order and disorder.

Some notable buildings designed by Goff are the Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma, the Ruth VanSickle Ford House in Aurora, Illinois, the Colmorgan House in Glenview, Illinois, and the Pavilion for Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Regrettably, his most ambitious built work, the Joe D. Price House and Studio in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was destroyed by arson in 1996. Goff also designed the Searing house in Praire Village, Kansas.

Goff died in Tyler, Texas in 1982. His cremated remains are interred in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois, with a marker designed by protegee Bart Prince that incorporates a glass cullet fragment salvaged from the ruins of the Joe D. Price House and Studio.

Article and photo from wikipedia

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15 Responses to “Bruce Goff – Child Prodigy”

  1. lloyd fadem 02. Nov, 2007 at 8:42 pm #

    i was in a Bruce Goff home to day in Bartlesville and it was designed and built in 1962 it was not that big but very unusual
    From what i was told he designed a lot of homes in BVille in the 60s

  2. cole 03. Nov, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    That’s great! I am planning to make the trip to Bartlesville soon to see the Price tower and current exhibit. Does anyone have any tips on finding the other architectural sites around town? I’m going to take some pics while I’m at it to add to the site.

  3. Rex Ball,FAIA, AICP 15. Jan, 2008 at 5:20 am #

    I have a list of Goff designed houses in Bartlesville as does Scott Ambler, AIA. We have submitted them as a Field Trip for the National Trust in October, ‘08.

  4. Rex Ball,FAIA, AICP 15. Jan, 2008 at 5:22 am #

    The Richard Neutra styled house by Goff was sold last year by Richard Townsend former Exec. Dir. of the Price Tower.

  5. cole 15. Jan, 2008 at 9:05 am #

    Rex, would it be possible to see the list of Goff homes? I’d like to make the trip to document for this photo archive.

  6. Synthetrix 17. Jan, 2008 at 7:27 pm #

    I love the work of Bruce Goff.

  7. Gwen Engelbert 12. Feb, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    The owner of the Bruce Goff Home in Dewey, Oklahoma has recently passed away. For any information regarding this home please contact us at 918-532-4650, 918-532-5533, or 918-914-9165. Thank you.

  8. Paul Uttinger 01. Mar, 2008 at 12:13 am #

    The Bartlesville houses are:

    - Collins, 3400 SE Wildwood Court

    - Jones, 3411 SE Wildwood Court

    - White, 1525 SW Whiteway Court (near to North Road and Vista Drive) bird’s eye view of White residence looking west

    - Motsenbocker, 2416 SE Circle Drive bird’s eye view of Motsenbocker residence looking north

    - Akright (alterations), 2412 SE Circle Drive

    - Bennett, 2841 Silver Lake Road

    - Fitchette, 1900 SE Saturn Court

    - Price (ruins), southwest of Washington Boulevard and Price Road bird’s eye view of Price Studio and residence ruins looking east

    The Dewey house is:

    - Comer, 1316 N Creek

    Also in Bartlesville:

    - Play Tower, in Sooner Park southeast of Tuxedo Boulevard and Madison Boulevard bird’s eye view of Play Tower looking east

    - Redeemer Luthern Church Education Building, 3700 SE Woodland Road

  9. Paul Uttinger 01. Mar, 2008 at 12:31 am #

    Grant Gustafson designed Bruce Goff’s grave marker. The wikipedia article has been edited to include this correction.

  10. Gwen Engelbert 25. Jun, 2008 at 5:42 pm #

    We have decided to put the house in Dewey on the market in the next couple of months. If you are interested or know someone who is, please contact us by email:

  11. Anna Love 16. Dec, 2008 at 10:21 pm #

    A non-profit has been created to help with the restoration of the Bavinger House in Norman, OK. Check out the website if you are interested.

  12. Blake 24. Dec, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    My Aunt owns the goff house in okc. I remember growing up there running around as a kid. Now i truly appreciate the house and its history.

  13. Allen Lea 29. Jul, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    You are invited to join the Facebook Group “The Architecture of Bruce Goff”
    Check it out.

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