BRUCE GOFF- "A Creative Mind"- Road Trip Part One

I was heading to Norman, Oklahoma to see the Bruce Goff- A Creative Mind Exhibition, more about that later, and was running about an hour early for the Friends of Kebyar (see reception at an exquisite Bruce Goff designed home in Oklahoma City. I decided to go west to Edmond, OK , about 12-15 miles and check out the Hopewell Baptist Church...built in 1948 with help from experienced welders from nearby oil fields. I had heard a non-profit group had formed to save and protect the church and I wanted to see what condition it was in...

As you can see the "Oil-Rig" architecture has seen better days.
A recent hail storm (up to softball sized) left its mark as it did throughout the area.

I know it doesn't look like much now , but it has great possibilities and represents Goff's work utilizing found items. The sanctuary had lighting made by Goff from tin pie pans.
Below: Classic Bruce Goff detailing in the spire and skylight...

From Edmond, I proceeded to Oklahoma City and the Pollack-Warriner House (1957 & 1980). The owners have owned the house for many years and definately are at one with the house...

View toward entry through gate...I love the interplay of smooth against rough, solid and void, light and shadow and on and on...this house is a metaphor for creativity...the house is a square plan with the dramatic hip roofs defining the space within. The fiberglass roof on the upper deck over the garage/studio is a visual delight and a local landmark. Typically, water plays a role in Goff's design... I can't help but think of the Fred Jones Art Museum where the Bruce Goff Exhibition is, designed by Hugh Newell Jacobson, his "villages"...similarities in concept...?

Below: Entry to the left

The dark green and off-white marble tile looks great in person and reflects the square plan and diamond elements...

Above: The kitchen is sizeable and extremely functional with beautiful hardwood cabinets stained ebony...

Below: My good friend David Milstead, Architect and Director on the Board of Friends of Kebyar, sporting one his great t-shirt designs. He was elated from spending the night in the Bavinger House the night before. You'll see the Bavinger House up close in a future post.

Above: Gate design is very cool and used for tables and benches in the yard.

Below: Early dusk effort to photograph indirect lighting and uplights in the blue glass cullets.

The evening reception was held at the Warriner's "No Name"Art Gallery in downtown Oklahoma City with great food, wine and was great seeing old friends Tony Thompson, Eddie Jones and David Milstead among others and meeting/making new aquaintences. Below, Herb Greene listens and watches an internet presentation from India on preserving Nari Gandhi's work. He was an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright and took his influence back to India to realize some fantastic organic residences and buildings.

Elpidio Rocha- Environmental Designer/ Urban Planner

Elpidio Rocha, an architectural theorist designer, educator and a pioneer in the development of of interdisciplinary art/design process. That's a mouthful, that's what they say on ADOBE L.A. regarding his teaching and design background. I can say this, Elpidio is passionate about the influence of Chicano art, design and architecture. I spoke with him last year and he had fond memories of his work here in Kansas City. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, he worked for various departments in Kansas City and Jackson County government, designing parks and recreational facilities, he would say "social" facilities.
The above and below photo are from the AIA Guidebook for Kansas City Architecture. They show a boathouse shelter at Lake Jacomo...with a stone foundation elevating a viewing platform, and a cool shade canopy...the support struts are reminiscient of Bruce Goff and Albert Yanda. I've been wanting to, but haven't been to photograph this and see if it is still there.

The current photos below show Rocha's design for a park sheltor that was asthetically pleasing, functional and could be built for a consistant/uniform cost. I think this is a great design for a sheltor...clean "view" line, thin roof line, stone structural support with cooking area integrated and large (at least 20X20). Designed and built at a time when "thin-shell" construction was in the vogue. (see Manuel Morris) It was apparantly successful as a sheltor design, you can see these structures in many KC and Jackson County parks...these photos were taken at the Water Tower Park located at 75th and Holmes in KCMO.

For a look at Elpidio Rocha's and Dale Eldred's award winning 1962 "Imaginery"park design for 27th and Madison, KCMO go to

Elpidio Rocha-Environmental Designer/Urban Planner- The Center City Urban Renewal Project in Kansas City, Kansas

This was the 1960s' urban renewal project that altered the way urban planners/designers and cities looked at change in their urban core. This wintertime birds-eye view of reflective columns set in a water feature shows the concept in downtown Kansas City, Ks on Minnesota Ave. The columns were the work of Dale Eldred, noted artist and educator, who enjoyed working with light and monumental objects...the layout is all Elpidio Rocha. This was a controversial project...the store owners were extremely concerned with losing parking in front of the shops and stores. The concept was almost like trying to change and beautify a main street in a western town where it's always been done like that...tie your horses up on the rail outside the store.
Can you imagine selling this idea to the decision makers... It was an extensive project that bottlenecked and slowed automobile traffic and welcomed pedestrians with water courses, seating areas and places of repose in a main street environment.

In 2003, our friend Dr. Jacob A. Wagner, Professor in the UMKC-Architecture and Urban Planning Department (who worked with Rocha and who provided these photos) wrote, "The Politics of Urban Design: In contrast to other urban renewal projects that erased the presence of minority and workingclass residents, the design of the Center City Plaza in downtown Kansas City, Kansas was an attempt to provide a democratic space for a diverse citizenry. Initiated by local officials, the project was intended to alter the "image" of the downtown. Environmental planner Elpidio Rocha was hired to design a pedestrian mall that included abstract sculptural forms. In the context of deindustrialization and suburbanization, however, urban renewal did not halt downtown decline and local political interests dismantled the pedestrian mall, setting the stage for a new round of redevelopment."

Happy New Year from All Your Friends at KCMODERN!

I took these photos over the Christmas Holiday as the snows started to build up and drifts began to grow. This particular area on the roof of our mid-century modern ranch is a drainage point for two gables and prone to wind drifts during snow and heavy wind. I wanted to share what I thought was a lovely snow veil cantilevered from the roof.

The icicles grow...somehow a metaphor for the year as it goes by...
We wish you a Happy, Healthy and Abundant New Year!
...We were talking the other day about upcoming events for 2010 ( check back soon for announcements on our late winter events) when we reflected on 2009 and the fun we had...Here is a short list of our efforts:
In February, there was "Memphis in Missouri, " an open event at the home of our friend Rod, showcasing his collection of Ettore Sottass designed furniture and decorative accents, along with other great 80's artists and designers.
In March we hosted a modern tour for the architectural students from Iowa State University and our friend and professor of architecture, Dan Naegele.
KCModern co-hosted an April tour of architecturally important houses, Louis Curtiss, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Jones and Emmons, Clarence Kivett, Bruce Goff, Edward Tanner and Barry Byrne, (see previous posts) for the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy Spring Meetings, including reception dinners at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Bott and Sondern-Adler houses.
In April, we planned and recorded an audio/visual oral history of Ted Seligson, architect FAIA/educator, preservationist and wonderful man.
In June we partied with our first "Martini Modern" at the wonderful home in KCMO designed by William S. Beckett. Part of the proceeds from the event was for the benefit of the Historic Kansas City Foundation.
In August we began our co-sponsored film events with the AIGA.
September was the David B. Runnells House Tour and reception at the "All-Climate Home" with our special guest Jill (Runnells) Grose.
November was our "Showcasing Green" Event at the Studio 804 designed house in KCKS.
At this time we are in the process of seeking not-for-profit status.
This will help us in our quest for continued research and advocacy for modern architecture and preservation of our modern assets...
As we build our calender of events, please let us know what you would be interested in... and look forward to a fun filled and educational KCModern 2010... We wish you the very best the New Year has to offer!

Bruce Goff, Architect- Thanksgiving In Bartlesville, OK

I'm late in getting this post up...Over Thanksgiving my family went to see relatives in Bartlesville, OK. As I always do, I had to cruise around and check on some amazing architecture there. We stopped in at the Price Tower to see the Contemporary Art Show, we were told the restaurant is now closed but the bar is still open at certain times. It's a great building, you should stop in if you are near. I then drove over to Christ Redeemer Church (located adjacent to Hwy 75). This originally was a church complex designed by Bruce Goff, unfortunately the church was never built but the ancillary service/ youth building was in 1961...these photos show how it looks now.

The pieces of blue-green glass are "culled" glass broken out of large vats from a nearby glass manufacturer( Bruce Goff often used "found" items or elements in his architecture). The glass is used in similar fashion as Shin-en 'kan, the Joe Price house destroyed by arson ten years ago, I love the bold corner embellishments. Note the entryway supports that resemble arrows.

Below: The glass cullet is used as sidelights to the door, letting in dramatic light by day and glowing at night from light within...

I had to get a photo of the afternoon light on this wall...the steel framed diamond windows, Oklahoma Limestone and random placement of the glass cullet give this building a refined discipline...I would have loved to see the faces of the church's building committee when BG presented his design.

The building was locked for the holiday, I'll try to locate some photos I have of the interior and post those in the future. I didn't include photos of the chapel, it is more subdued and less exciting, somewhat mismatched, but I'm sure it was more affordable than the design by Goff.

Bruce Goff-Architect- Save the "Space Rocket"!

This photo was taken shortly after completion in 1964 by our friend, architect Robert Bowlby and featured in the Friends of Kebyar -Bruce Goff in Oklahoma Guide( if your doing a Bruce Goff Tour in Oklahoma you need this guidebook!)...note the bright colors and pendants(colorful aluminum bubbles) on steel tension cables.

I took these photos in August 2009. You can see the rust and neglect but you can also see that this structure needs maintenance to be a sculpture and perhaps an engineer's report on it's structural integrity with repairs to be a playground "toy" as originally conceived. My wife played on this as a kid and said it was an exhilarating experience.

We wanted to bring attention to a seriously cool landmark in Sooner Park, Bartlesville, Oklahoma and to salute those that have made noise and created a discussion by calling attention to the importance of this civic design by Bruce Goff as a gift to the city by the H.C. Price family. The child's toy; fun to look at, fun to be in was welded shut years the 1990's it seemed all but forgotten; not painted, not accessible and definately not a "fun" place that Mothers would be comfortable with their children playing on. There has been a lot of "chatter" regarding this treasure but no concrete group has stepped up as far as I know other than the Friends of Kebyar ( I would encourage anyone that supports saving this rare landmark to contact them and the Price Tower( to encourage preservation voices be heard on the importance of this work.

Ted Seligson-Architect FAIA- Telling the Story of KC's Mid-Century Architecture

KCModern just completed a Video-Oral History with Ted Seligson, Architect, and Professor of Architecture at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. We recorded a two and a half hour interview in the conservatory at Epperson House, UMKC. In the photo above, Tom James ( Creative Media Services) our videographer prepares Ted for the recording. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, Ted began work (1948) for Kivett, Myers and McCallum, soon becoming head of design for the firm. Below, for K&M he designed the Gerson Building in the Miesian manner and incorporated the tiles as influenced by Edward Durell Stone's 1958-59 award winning embassy in New Delhi, India.

Ted started his own office in 1962 at the New York Life building, later moving to the Power and Light building. Some examples of Seligson and Associates work: The two photos below show a custom "lifestyle" home he did in 1978-79, near Johnson Dr. and Foster in Merriam, KS. Difficult to photo and with numerous additions, it is hard to see his original concept featuring numerous curved "sky-windows" covering galleries, etc. He also designed the interiors.
This is a wonderful site with extensive natural landscaping overlooking a pond.
The tasteful and nicely scaled building below was built in 1978 for the Koch Equipment Company on a difficult site, (many of us have driven by 100's of times on I-35 Hwy) bordered by light industrial on one side and a highway on the other. Note: Ted's window arrangement and favorite doors at the time.
A much larger commission for the Seaboard Allied Milling Company building(1978-80) with wraparound ribbon windows, recessed first floor on the facade, all electric heating and cooling, an interior landscape of partitions with a central skylight
Ted noted the off-center entry canopy and stated the firm often tried to introduce irony and humor in the their architecture. There are those doors again...
The house below was built in 1994 on a large golf course lot in Hallbrook subdivision, Leawood, KS. Ted, in his "cheeky" way, said the owner was adamant about having white brick.

Ted has a unique place in Kansas City architectural history. He was young enough and enthusiastic enough to explore and question directly, many architects considered "Masters" today...such as Bruce Goff, Mies Van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright and he had direct interaction with noted architects: Helmut Jahn, Michael Graves, Steve Holl and Gunnar Birketts, to name a few. His skills were good enough to work for a prominent local modernist firm (K&M) at a young age, and he shared his first independant office with Bruce Goff... living and dying by the telephone, as so many architects have... In addition, he believes his preservation work has been very important, including his efforts to preserve Union Station in KCMO and the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, MO. All I can say is his anecdotes are priceless... He is truly a gentleman and a scholar... We extend a HUGE KCModern salute to Mr. Seligson and his life's work.

Hyde Residence Fireplace by Architect, Bruce Goff - Bonus Photo of the Week

Name: Hyde Residence
Architect: Bruce Goff
Year Designed: 1964
Builder: Michael Rothstein Construction
Year Built: 1965
Size: 3400 sq. ft. 5 bedroom 3 ½ bath
Location: Prairie Village, Kansas
Type: Residential
Style: Organic Modern
Status: Very Good
Photographer: Robert McLaughlin

The ten foot by ten foot central skylight over the brick hearth is penetrated by the fireplace chimney, which has a purple mirrored triangular wall behind. Strips of “cellophane rain” hang from the skylight, creating a magic play of light on carpet and walls. With a fire burning, you understand the concept of Earth, Fire and Water. Many people know the house from the use of green dime store ashtrays used as stained glass elements in the doors and railing.

Nicol Residence by Architect, Bruce Goff - Modern Photo(s) of the Week

Name: Nicol Residence
Architect: Bruce Goff
Year Designed: 1965
Builder: Michael Rothstein Construction
Year Built: Third Version 1965
Size: 2868 sq. ft. 4 bedroom 4 bath
Location: Kansas City, MO
Type: Residential
Style: Organic Modern
Status: Excellent Condition with an owner sensitive to the architecture
Photographer: Robert McLaughlin

Here is another classic Kansas City Modern home scheduled to be on the upcoming Out and About Wright: Kansas City Tour put on by the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy.

Elpidio Rocha, Architect - "What's the Story on that House?"

If you are driving south on I-35 out of downtown Kansas City, MO and look down to the right, you'll see an older neighborhood. Standing out in the area of older "shotgun" houses is a distinctive house design that from the highway looks like a Bruce Goff "Houseboat".

I spoke with John B., the owner, who asked his childhood acquaintance, Elpidio Rocha to design him a home he could build, which he did in 1967. This house is a direct result of the lectures Bruce Goff did in 1965 at the Kansas City Art Institute. Rocha said," I pulled the best I could for the budget, out of my Bruce Goff "Catalog of houses". Of course there is no catalog, but Rocha, listened to Goff, and the result is a tight little house with character and a "spirit" of fun. The family enjoys the distiction of owning a unique home and today the house remains in good shape.
This is a difficult house to photograph. These are photos of the front deck and "shadow makers".

This is a view from the alley behind the house. The entry is on the left of the house, now enclosed. The Kitchen is on the rear of the house, seen here and steps out to the terrace.

Closeup of "diamond" bay and lower level windows with triangular ends. Note the angled siding. Bedrooms were on the lower level, with ample light.
This is from the living area looking down toward the entry, note the "lozenge" shaped door...definitely "Goffian"...
This shows the wood tongue and groove ceiling and central beam. The door on the left gives access to the front deck.

Elpidio Rocha, Professor of Architecture at the Kansas City Art Institute, after hearing Goff's last lecture, quit architecture. When we spoke he said he was so impacted by what Goff said, he stated, " I don't have the right education or influences to be the kind of architect I want to be...Goff was light years ahead of Wright".

He went on to work for the KC Parks Dept., designing parks and shelters that we still see today. He was one of the "Fathers" of urban renewal, designing "pocket parks" in urban areas. Interestingly, He and Dale Eldred, noted sculptor and artist, collaberated on a park across the street from this house. It was removed during a highway expansion. His most noteworthy, and ultimately controversial design was for an urban park in downtown KC,KS. Today, he lives in California. (Click on images to enlarge) Elpidio Rocha, to be continued...

Bartlesville Christmas-Wright and Goff: Then and Now

There are great buildings in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. You can drive around and see some very interesting architecture. I can't mention architecture in this town without mentioning the Price Tower, Frank Lloyd Wright's "Prairie Skyscraper", very artistic and great scale...They now have a hotel and restaurant on the top floors and a very cool museum on the first two floors.
Nearby is the Bartlesville Community Center designed by Taliesin Architects, notably Wes Peters, Wright's son-in-law.Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff is ever present in the town, whether it's work by them or architects influenced by them at the University of Oklahoma or other schools nearby.
I had heard Goff's Motsenbocker house had sold recently and went by to check it out... Very interesting house and the rear of the house, on the second floor which is ground level, it has a pool... now real estate beige, the original was redwood stain and a turquoise trim with beautiful masonry...
Just north of Bartlesville is a town called Dewey. That is where Goff's Comer house is located, it is in nearly vintage condition. These two homes were designed one after the other...Comer and Motsenbacker, in 1957, which is interesting to compare how Goff reacted to different programs, budgets and sites.Two doors down the street from the Motsenbocker house is a David Runnels(architect from Kansas City) designed house that was remodeled by Bruce Goff in 1959. From the front, it's all Goff in this extensive remodel, from clear glass ashtrays in the doors and wood panels to strong geometric elements in the overall fabric of the design. (click on images to enlarge)

THEN & NOW -- Bartlesville Christmas

It seems like yesterday, when again we were going to enjoy the beauty of a Bruce Goff jewel over our Christmas holiday in 1997. Waiting for a call to go over to Shin'enKan, the most "fantastic" piece of architecture built, we received a call that it was on fire and "it was bad." As you can see, it certainly was. We got as close as we could to take pictures of the fire and the aftermath. It was a very sad experience for my family. I think they all understood something very important had been lost. At least we were fortunate to have had a "relationship" with this work of art.
Needless to say and to make a long story short, the Price family sought out the best architects of the time. Bruce Goff was hired by Joe Price to design his home, and subsequent additions, ultimately becoming his Opus... Harold Price Sr., his father, had hired Cliff May to design the family home at Starview Farms, and at Goff's insistence hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design an office building, the Price Tower. Harold Jr. hired Wright to design his home, essentially creating an architectural theme park. The May designed house was in bad condition and razed by developers. The only remaining house is the Wright designed house called "Hillside".
The loss of Shin'enKan, by arson, was a major loss for students and enthusiasts of architecture throughout the world.
I visited the site, over the holidays, which had been cleared and the foundations filled in. Nothing had been built there, though the area has been subdivided and the affluent are building traditional houses nearby.

It was a melancholy moment, sad, but with wonderful memories...

Is this an undocumented Bruce Goff design?

While driving across town snacking on greasy burgers from Town Topic and shooting vintage roadside attractions and signage for the upcoming Charles Phoenix retro slideshow, we spotted a really odd house off of I-35, near the Southwest Trafficway exit. After some back alley encounters with neighbors and a few really funny looks form the locals, we snapped a few pics. So the question is, who is the Architect of this house? Bruce Goff? A student of Bruce Goff? Or just "In the Style of Bruce Goff?" Let us know if anyone knows the story behind this house.

(Edited on 2.9.09)
For the answer on these questions please go here.