June 08: Gofftastic

2016/06/08 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1904  Bruce Goff was born.

One of architecture’s last great boy-wizards, Goff (d. 1982) was virtually unschooled, apparently brought up as Rousseau would have had it, nary a T-square in sight. So naturally gifted as a designer, he became a partner in a firm at an age that most hopeful architects today are just getting out of grad school (and spending their days pulling espresso shots to pay off their student loans, while the lucky ones draw up plumbing fixture schedules in dark cubicles of giant firms).  Back in those simpler days, the twenty-something Goff was conjuring downright operatic Deco buildings like this.

After leaving the firm Goff found his way into teaching during the 1940s, when no one was building anything anyway.  He returned to practice in the 1950s  to create some of the most extraordinary, evocative, flamboyant, creative and wild houses of the decade.  Or maybe the century.  Or maybe forever.  They have a certain organic quality in common, and share Goff’s willingness to experiment with a vast palette of materials–but that’s all they share.  Otherwise they are each as unique as animals in a zoo: a really crazy, exotic, carnival of a zoo.  It’s as if Goff took it upon himself to use up all the curves and organic substances that Mies, et al., had eschewed.  That old chestnut “less is more” must have made him laugh as hard as the sight of a right angle made him grimace.  His head was full of shells, sea horses, haystacks and supernovas.

See the Ford House up there?  It’s a tube with wood shingle roof and a blue glass steeple-skylight on curving steel structure that owes its shape more to the inspiration of a donut than a factory–and yes we mean for you to consider its relationship to the contemporary Farnsworth house that stands less than twenty miles away, and take a mo to digest.  Ford’s lower wall is coal (you read that right, COAL) fenestrated (?) with blobs of slag glass.  It’s typical in Goff’s oeuvre only because it is such an atypical building (review more of his work here).  Who’s more wondernuts than Goff?  Nobody, that’s who: nobody.

Image: the Ruth Ford House, Aurora Illinois (Clio’s)

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