Revisiting Bruce Goff’s Architecture

2 May

bruce goff houseLike any other art, architecture must be experienced before one can write adequately about it. Bruce Goff designed many remarkable buildings but I will comment on one of two I have visited and why I think, his work needs to be revisited.

Bruce Goff – a child prodigy who started working in an architectural firm at the age of twelve was the Dean of the College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma in the 1950s. His creative spirit looms large in that school where his remarkable architectural renderings and those of his students hang on the walls around the College. Like Frank Lloyd Wright, he took pride in drawing and saw the art of drawing as part of the architecture that would take shape. Nowadays, I fear drawing is seen as a means to an end. Like the ancients who created myth, Goff saw drawing as a vehicle to articulate our humanity. The purpose of myth was not to give an historical account of heroes but rather to try to articulate the inexhaustible dealings and feelings of people. It is to Bruce Goff’s credit that he had the skill to translate his ‘dealings and feelings’ from drawings into architecture.

The Pollock House in Oklahoma City, reveals a mastery of color, light, space, illusion and materials. Like Gaudi and Wright, Bruce Goff had a profound respect for nature and local materials. Like Frank Gehry, he was a sponge that soaked Classical music and was inpired by Balinese artistic traditions and the Pollock Hosue reflects this. Spaces flow into other spaces. Mirrors deceptively create greater depth in the rooms. Like repetition in music which sustains a moment and creates a sort of infinity of that moment, the enlargement of the rooms by the mirrors challenge the certitude that three dimensional space is all exists.

The pool and the sound of water flowing recalls Feng Shui and an Eastern reverence for nature and stillness. His daring cantilevered roofs show a disdain for conventions and throw down a gauntlet at gravity.

He had a fascination with a blue-green color, of which some of his other buildings have bluish-green stones.

Neither he or his work should be forgotten and we must try to preserve his surviving structures.

Written by my friend, Architect Doyin Terriba – who studied at the University of Oklahoma. Photo provided by

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One Response to “Revisiting Bruce Goff’s Architecture”

  1. Thad Kusmierski 23. Jun, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

    Your comments are terribly superficial. I studied with BG at OU and his influence was totally profound and rich. He certainly was a great architect but I feel he was also a profound teacher that seems to be overlooked by many….. including by the way, his gravestone at the Chicago cemetary where is buries a few feet from Mies Van De Roh!!!!!!! Isn’t that ironical??????
    Take care……

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