Bruce Goff wasn’t even out of high school before he designed his first building. The former head of the OU architecture school was apprenticed to a Tulsa architectural firm when he started showing his creative side.
He was never formally trained in architecture and that may be why his work — completed and just envisioned on paper — stood out in the 1950s and 1960s. Goff came to OU after World War II and became chairman of the architecture school from 1947 until he was pressured out in 1955. After leaving Norman, he was in private practice in Bartlesville, then Kansas City, Mo., and Tyler, Texas, where he died in 1982.
He designed more than 400 projects with only about 100 of them actually built. His use of native materials, angled glass and innovative design concepts made him a name internationally.
His creative genius will be celebrated beginning Saturday at an OU symposium and opening for Goff’s work at the Fred Jones Museum of Art on the OU campus. It’ll remain there until Jan. 2, 2011 and then move to the Price Tower Arts Center in Bartlesville through May, 2011.
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Many of the works were merely concepts on paper and were brought to life through drawings, paintings and three-dimensional virtual reality tours. OU alumnus Brian Eyerman brought together a design team to create a visual tour of 12 Goff structures.
The architecture school designed and built a “pod” that enables up to 12 visitors to experience the tours. It’s a blend of high tech and high touch. The exhibit’s signature piece, the Cystal Chapel, was designed to be built in Norman as a multi-denominational place of worship. Others are a version of the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Viva Hotel in Las Vegas and a residence in Illinois.
But several Goff-designed homes dot the Norman area and are within a mile of the museum’s exhibit. They are private homes and are not open to the public. Two are on Timberdell Road, 909 and 911, one nearby at 1210 Woodland and at 1715 S. Pickard.
A few blocks north, the Ledbetter-Taylor House at 701 W. Brooks, was one of Goff’s first designs when he came to Norman in 1946. The form of the glass enclosure on the front of the house was designed to minimize the reflection of the Beta Theta Pi House to the south.
Goff’s Bavinger House, on 60th Avenue NE, always held local attention. It won international architecture awards for its uniqueness. It had a live stream running through it and had “pods” suspended from the spiral wall. The home’s owners and founders, artists Gene and Nancy Bavinger, opened it for tours once a year on Mother’s Day. A son is attempting to restore the property and has re-opened it with admission fees dedicated to the work.
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Although the Bavinger House was built, many of the featured works never saw dirt turned or have been destroyed. That’s where OU architecture alumnus Brian Eyerman comes in. His Skyline Ink Animation Studios of Oklahoma City “virtually” built what Goff designed. They donated more than 2,500 hours of production time to the project.
His team worked with the Goff archives in Chicago to select appropriate projects. Fortunately, Eyerman knew about Goff and his work from his time at OU. They narrowed the list from 24 to 12, put the drawings into the computer-aided drafting and began to digitize it all. The finished product will last six to eight minutes and is set to music.
“You don’t really know if it will work until you model it. You find out how many holes there were and go from there,” Eyerman said.
The company specializes in animation. Most of its clients are architects, builders and developers. The Goff project was large enough to keep Eyerman awake at night. They’re nearly through with the work after many all-nighters, just like in architecture school.
“I was starting to lose sleep over it six months ago but not now. This is definitely one of the most exciting projects that we’ve ever been involved in,” Eyerman said. “It has certainly involved the most research.”
Andy Rieger 366-3543 firstname.lastname@example.org