Bruce Goff, Expressionist


The Bavinger House designed by Bruce Goff
The Bavinger House designed in the mid-1950s by Bruce Goff. Photo (c)Jones2jy via Wikimedia Commons, released to public domain by author

Bruce Goff designed expressive buildings from throw-away materials such as cake pans, steel pipe, rope, cellophane, and ash trays.

Born: June 8, 1904 in Alton, Kansas

Died: August 4, 1982 in Tyler, Texas


Bruce Goff did not receive a formal education in architecture. At age 12, he apprenticed with Rush, Endacott and Rush of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Goff became a partner in the firm in 1930, and later became a professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma.

During the early 1950s, Professor Goff chaired the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture.

Famous Buildings:

Bruce Goff designed about 500 projects in his lifetime, but only about 140 of them were built. Many were private homes in isolated regions of the mid-western United States. His helix-like vertical design for the Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma won him the AIA's prestigious Twenty-five Year Award in 1987.

Expressive and original, Goff's buildings were often constructed with unusual, throw-away materials. For example, the idiosyncratic Duncan/Etzkorn-Bruce Goff Castle Dwelling that Bruce Goff designed for sociology professor Hugh Duncan is a disorderly collection of rocks with a cave-like interiors.

Important Ideas:

  • Organic Architecture
  • Arts & Crafts

Inspired By:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Louis Sullivan
  • Antoni Gaudí

About Bruce Goff:

Bruce Goff was a friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, and, like Wright, Goff based his works on the principles of Organic Architecture.

However, Goff developed his own approach to organic design, creating complex, idiosyncratic buildings that critics often found shocking.

Many fellow architects were suspicious and critical of the individualistic and unschooled Bruce Goff. In 1955, Goff left the ultra-conservative University of Oklahoma and withdrew from active practice amidst a sex scandal and charges of homosexuality.

Today, Bruce Goff is widely praised for his highly creative, original contributions to 20th century architecture. The Bruce Goff Archive is at the Art Institute of Chicago.