Do not try to remember.Bruce Goff, a self-trained architect and long-time mentee of Frank Lloyd Wright, instilled this idea in his students at the University of Oklahoma (OU) during his tenure as chairman there from 1947 to 1955. Instead of copying the popular Beaux Arts and Bauhaus styles of the recent past, Goff wanted architects in training to express their own creativity and views of the world through designs that avoided architectural stereotypes and instead presented a radical future. This era of educational exploration and disruption became known as the American School of architecture. Historian and OU Visiting Associate Professor Dr. Luca Guido is the curator behind the exhibition, Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell. Now on view in OU’s Bizzell Memorial Library, it details the widespread influence of Goff’s personal teaching style and the program he built, which attracted students to the American Midwest from as far as Japan and South America. The exhibit features large-scale drawings by alumni, as well as uncovered models and writings from Goff’s students and colleagues like Herb Greene, Elizabeth Bauer Mock, Bart Prince, Mendel Glickman, and Jim Gardner, and Bob Bowlby, among others. Built from the school’s expansive American School archives, the show unveils former students' work that’s been so pristinely preserved and restored, it all looks like it was completed yesterday. Goff, who seemed to have encouraged serious attention to presentation, penmanship, and shading, left behind what Guido considers a “gold mine” of materials. Every framed assignment on view is a piece of art in and of itself—a testament to the architectural educator’s guidance. “Bruce Goff introduced a new architectural pedagogy,” Guido said, “and the School of Architecture at OU endeavored to develop the creative skills of the students as individuals rather than followers of any particular trend. The drawings represent the evidence of an extraordinary and, at the same time, little known page of the history of American contemporary architecture.” That history is one that OU is now trying more heavily to build upon. As one of just two architecture schools in Oklahoma, OU lures students from across the state, nearby Texas, and around the globe to the small town of Norman. It was considered a world-class institution during Goff’s years and still seeks to live up to that legacy today. Since becoming head of the school three years ago, Dean Hans E. Butzer has worked to re-elevate its status. “Our discussions over the past few years prove a symmetry between those defining aspects of the American School and the overarching strategic priorities of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture,” he said. “The work of the American School of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s may be described as contextual, resourceful, and experimental. Today, we have set the goal of graduating entrepreneurial students who design resilient cities, towns, and landscapes through the lens of social equity and environmental sustainability.” This idea is evident in the success of last year’s graduating class. As of fall 2018, one hundred percent of architecture students secured a full-time position within six months of graduation, according to Butzer. Only two, the faculty jokes, didn’t get hired. They instead went on to begin master’s degrees at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. When asked why OU graduates are so attractive to firms across the country, Butzer noted the work ethic and creative problem-solving skills they learned as students. Teaching students to speak up, stand out, and work hard can be traced back to Goff’s presence at the school and his own career as an eccentric architect who always put the client first and aimed to “go the extra mile,” according to Guido. His modus operandi was to first connect deeply with the client, ensuring the end result was strictly their vision. His objective was to never design a building he personally wanted to live in. Some of Goff’s most famous structures, the Ledbetter House in Norman, the ill-fated Bavinger House that was demolished in 2016, as well as the Bachman House in Chicago, took on forms reminiscent of Wright’s residential work—low-lying residential homes with surprisingly large interiors, cantilevered carports, and large windows—but they all displayed a curious amount of flamboyancy that was signature to Goff himself. The architecture of his early years, such as the historic Tulsa Club and the Art Deco-designed Boston Avenue Methodist Church, are celebrated landmarks in Tulsa and reveal Goff’s visual personality. Goff was also a champion of sustainable and site-specific construction; he often utilized local materials for his projects. Fittingly, Goff rejected the idea of having a personal style of architecture. Some of Goff’s mid-century work and the sketches of his students from this time seem to be inspired by Atomic Age tropes. Viewing them now, they’re so futuristic they probably seemed structurally unbuildable at the time, but the geometries that came out of the American School were forward-thinking and technically-advanced. During Goff’s leadership, architectural courses fell within OU’s College of Engineering where students were taught how to complete construction drawings and to specify materials. But in Goff’s classes, it was all about creativity. “Bruce Goff didn’t believe in critiques,” said Guido. “He wanted them completely free to propose what they wanted. The assignments were structured around abstract themes that allowed the students to express themselves in the best possible way because for Goff, there would be no little Corbusier's, no little Mies's, and even no little Goff's. He didn’t want his students to become followers of someone. He wanted them to abandon all memory of what came before them.” Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell is on view through July 29 and will turn into a comprehensive traveling exhibition this year with a stop at Texas A&M University in the fall. The OU Libraries also has plans to secure the preservation of the archives by making them part of the school's Western History Collection and digitizing select images for online research.
Posts tagged with "Oklahoma":
In order to protect First Christian Church, a Change.org petition started by Okie Mod Squad has been circulating that urges city council members to officially landmark the building, a designation that would require future development on the site to go through a public approvals process. Rostochil noted in a February post that thought the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, this “in no way protects it from being demolished.” The move only now qualifies it for tax credits to repurpose or restore the structure. The efforts of the “Save the Egg” protestors have resulted in a city council meeting happening on Tuesday, according to News 4, where local lawmakers will discuss whether or not the church can potentially be declared a landmark. If identified as such by the Historic Preservation Commission, then the new buyer would not be able to make significant changes to its original design without prior approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission. The protections would include the entirety of the Edgemere Park property, not just the iconic, egg-shaped main sanctuary. Conner and Pojezny designed three additional structures on the church’s campus, including a four-story education building and a small fine arts complex known as the Jewel Box Theatre, the city’s oldest, continuously-operating community playhouse. It took the architects three separate tries over several years to come up with the current design for the $2.1 million development, which the church’s renowned minister, Bill Alexander, wanted to be a “Church for Tomorrow.” In an old newspaper clipping cited on Okcmod.com, the design team said they aimed to take a “decided departure from conventional church construction” by building an “honest architecture” that would make it forever contemporary. For residents in Oklahoma City, not only does First Christian Church reflect the history and character of the region’s modern architectural landscape, but it also serves as a place of spiritual solace and refuge in tough times. In October of 1995, families gathered there after a terrorist struck a downtown federal building, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others. The bombing remains one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history and to many locals, First Christian Church stands as a memorial to community healing.
As a reminder... we’d love to have your support at the next City Council meeting where Councilman Ed Shadid will make the motion to begin the process of declaring First Christian Church a landmark! It's at 8:30 a.m. on March 12th at City Hall, 200 N. Walker #FirstChristianChurch pic.twitter.com/wyCbkK64PF— AIA Central Oklahoma (@AIACOC) March 7, 2019
When I was in architecture school, I, like most of my contemporaries, doodled my way through lectures. In fact, I still do the same in meetings today. And as my pen inflicts the pages of whatever unfortunate sketchbook I have selected, I find myself more often than not being drawn to vandalizing the ring-binder hole punches in the margin.
Never once did a doodle around this area of any page of mine result in the design of a building. Perhaps that is why I am not an architect. A look at Rand Elliott’s Full Moon residential complex in Oklahoma suggests I missed a trick.
Elliott and his firm, Elliott + Associates Architects (EAA) have found a quite unique way to appease fire regulations and maximize a restrictive site to accommodate ten housing units. The 37-by-140-foot site at 322 North West 12th Street in Oklahoma City was, as Elliott described, “leftover” and “ignored” space.
The architect chose the site for this particular reason. “I think Oklahoma is lacking living spaces that have a wonderful personality to them,” he said, adding that discarded sites are often in great locations and have potential. “I set about to try to design something that would be distinctive, a landmark, and a real attraction to a certain group of people who want to live around creative and artistic people,” he explained.
In his assessment of the area, Elliott found that the percentage of window space available was limited. Having a series of small windows, he said, “seemed like a waste of time,” so instead he opted for an idea using an oculus 42 feet in diameter, embedded into a 60-foot-high sprayed-white concrete structure.
The oculus is oriented so that it frames views eastward, onto a 1920s modernist brick neighbor, and westward, where residents can look out at the dramatic sunrises and sunsets typical in Oklahoma. It also shelters a small garden area below.
EEA worked extensively with the city’s fire marshal’s office on the project. The unorthodox design required special attention due to the fire marshal having never encountered a proposal like this. Some design elements, such as the bridge spanning the upper level to provide more than one exit point, were born out of these discussions.
As for the housing units, Elliott explained, each one interacts with the oculus and, instead of each one being a “cookie cutter,” every unit has a unique floor plan. According to the architect, every unit offers an 180-degree view, each with a different perspective.
Work started on Full Moon roughly a year ago, and Elliott expects construction to start in the next few months, with the view to have people moving in in a year. Last year, EEA celebrated its 40th anniversary. “The best work that we’re doing is right now,” Elliott said. “They say architects produce their best work as they mature, and that’s what I’m feeling.”
In October 2014, photos surfaced of John Johansen’s Mummers Theater, or rather, the theater reduced to a pile of scrap metal and rubble—the humbled remains of bold architecture traded in for corporate towers courtesy Robert A.M. Stern.
In 2010, before its demolition, the 1970 theater was vacant and severely damaged by flooding. Finding funding for historic preservation, especially for structurally compromised buildings, can be challenging.
And, if two Oklahoma state senators, Mike Mazzei and Rob Standridge, had their way—luckily the bill died on the Senate floor—more buildings could have lost funding sources for preservation and go the way of Mummers Theater.
This past February, the two Republican lawmakers introduced Senate bill 977, a sweeping proposal to close the state’s budget deficit by nixing a slew of tax credits for two years, including those intended for historic preservation.
Oklahoma’s Own News on 6 reported that the bill could affect Tulsa buildings like 400 South Boston, a planned hotel conversion; the TransOK building at Sixth and Main, a 30-unit residential building; and the Palace Theater, a residential conversion in process. The largest project to be affected is in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City: The $30 million renovation of the city-owned First National Center, a 33-story, almost one-million-square-foot 1931 art deco building at Broadway and Park Avenue.
On January 7, 2016, Oklahoma City awarded Lewisville, Texas–based NE Development the contract to preserve First National and convert it to the mixed-use trifecta of residential, retail, and hotel. Senate bill 977 was introduced the following day, complicating the project’s timeline and casting momentary doubt on its financial feasibility.
The issue with rehabbing big buildings like First National Center, said Luke Harry, president of asset management at NE Development, is that “you have to figure out ways to normalize the costs, not to make it cheap, but to make it regular. I could build a 30-story tower for half the price of rehabbing First National.”
The aim of federal, state, and new market tax credits, tax increment financing, and similar incentive programs, said Harry, is to mitigate the risk of investing in often-costly rehabs. “Nobody’s making money off of the tax credit, they’re making money off what you can do five, seven years down the road, once everything starts to stabilize.”
To many developers and preservationists, the cuts seem like a cheap shot. Harry explained that in order to receive a tax credit, his work—plans, rehabilitation, and completed construction—is checked at those three key points before the state issues any tax credits. “Everyone assumes the developers gets these credits. They don’t really understand that the money never gets close to [the developers]. We actually take a small loan out on the money. It’s not like when we have $20 million in tax credits, we’re walking around with $20 million in our pockets.”
NE Development will not close on the building until after May 27, 2016, the day the legislative session concludes for the year. Right now, the bill is in legislative purgatory. It’s been stripped of its title, and a title-less bill cannot be made into law. Roxanne Blystone, Senator Mazzei’s executive assistant, said that the bill was amended to reinstate historic preservation tax credits. The sponsors of the bill could resuscitate the bill during the next session, although this is not likely to happen.
While the near-certain death of the bill is good news for the historic preservation tax program, its mere presence has delayed the timeline of large projects like First National and all but killed smaller projects, especially in rural Oklahoma, observed Harry. Anticipating a delay like this, NE Development had two extensions related to preservation credits in its contract, “Mostly because it’s a longer process. We’re comfortable with our ability to get the credits, we’re just uncomfortable with whether they’re going to be there,” Harry noted, ruefully. Melvena Heisch, deputy state historic preservation officer at the Oklahoma Historical Society, said that she doesn’t know if the bill has affected any projects yet, but the agency was “quite concerned” about that possibility early on.
If the threat of cuts to historic preservation has real-world ramifications in Oklahoma, the bill also raises questions around civic priorities and the future of preservation in the state. Harry suggested an intervention as simple as a lunch-and-learn for legislators to address misperceptions about the tax credits and give a clear explanation of how they work. “I think everybody would understand [the credits] because they’re just not tricky, they’re very transparent. Historic tax credits work really well. Without that money, beautiful historic buildings rot in place.”