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Bruce Alonzo Goff

a black-and-white photo shows Goff at a large drafting table, a cat lounges on a shelf above the table, and drawings of his works in an upper row line the room.
Bruce Goff in his office at Price Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, about 1960s. Bruce A. Goff Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Archives.
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Bruce Goff
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Date of death

Visionary American architect Bruce Goff embraced daring sculptural forms, eclectic and unconventional materials, and innovative spatial relationships to imagine new ideals for modern living. Over the course of a six-decade career that began at the age of 12 with an architectural apprenticeship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Goff designed over 500 projects and many built works in the Great Plains, Midwest, and western United States. Goff was influenced by principles of organic design championed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, along with the Expressionist forms of the European avant-garde, like German architect Erich Mendelsohn. Working largely for individual clients, Goff conjured adventurous and livable designs for single-family homes that challenged the conventional, builder-spec developments that dominated the suburban built environment in postwar America.

Goff moved to Chicago in 1934 where he founded a small private practice in the Rogers Park neighborhood and worked with sculptor Alfonso Iannelli and the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company while developing his creative interests in music and painting during the Great Depression. A number of important projects emerged from his Chicago studio, including the pioneering Ruth Ford House, in Aurora, Illinois, in 1947. 

After serving in the US Navy during WWII, stationed in Alaska and the Bay Area, Goff returned to Oklahoma to teach and practice, developing a vision for architecture that blended his unique approach to materials and decoration with an approach to design that is at once modern, futurist, and deeply rooted in the context of the south central United States. Goff served as the chairman of the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma in Norman from 1947 to 1955, founding what is now known as the “American School of Architecture,” and had strong influences on a generation of architects in Oklahoma and beyond.

In 1995, the Art Institute of Chicago mounted a major retrospective exhibition of his work, with an accompanying catalogue, The Architecture of Bruce Goff, 1904–1982: Design for the Continuous Present. The museum holds the comprehensive repository for Goff’s architectural drawings, paintings, and professional and personal papers, gifted through the Shin’enKan Foundation in 1990.

Watch the video, “Bruce Goff: Ford House.” 

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