Of all the weirdos of 20th century American organic architecture, none was weirder — or more original for that matter — than Bruce Goff. A self-taught, precocious talent who got his first architectural internship at the age of 12 and designed his first building not long thereafter (under the oversight of his firm, Rush Endacott and Rush, of course), he had a restless sense of creativity that drove him ever onward into new realms of invention. At his height, he was known for his keen ability to craft enlivening interior spatial relationships and his love of unprecedented ornament and counterintuitive material choices, such as ashtrays, turkey feathers, and cellophane strips.
It must be said that Goff’s residences are more than just bizarre curiosities. They embody revolutions in notions of living, glimpses of a time not so very long ago when otherwise normal Americans were choosing to live in spaces that were aggressively futurist and utterly divorced from the moldy home ways of the old world. Goff, a homosexual to boot, did all of this, practiced these strange arts, while spending most of his life in eastern Oklahoma, in the vicinity of Tulsa and Bartlesville.
So when people ask me why I am looking so very much forward to traveling to Tulsa for the TxA 2019 Design Conference, which is appropriately entitled “Unexpected,” I have one word for them: Goff. How did such a talent develop and continue to thrive in such a place? Clearly, there’s more happening in Tulsa than the education of future Christian evangelists at Oral Roberts University.
There are at least three Goff building tours on the agenda. We’ll see the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, which is considered to be among the best Art Deco ecclesiastical projects in the U.S.; the Redeemer Lutheran Church Educational Building, which is a very oddly decorated shed indeed, encrusted with web-faced stone and glass cullet, punctuated by diamond-shaped windows, its entrance announced by two feathered steel spires; and the 50-ft-tall Playtower in Sooner Park in Bartlesville.
Beyond getting to know a little bit of Goff’s work up-close and personal, there are other worthwhile tours. We’ll see Frank Lloyd Wright’s only high rise, the Price Tower in Bartlesville; and we’ll see the Bartlesville Community Center, another outsider building designed by Wright protégé William Wesley Peters. It looks like a real hoot, and I didn’t even mention the keynoters! So sign up and join us in Tulsa this February for some weird fun!!