Bruce Goffs Bavinger House

.. y thing to keep happening, to keep things vital and alive. So if we stop to think about it, even if we start a composition, or building, or piece of music, or whatever we are doing, you might say, we are tuning in instead of starting, because it has taken us all our lives, and many other people’s lives before us, to be part of a continuing thing, before we are able to continue through into this composition. So we really don’t start it when we start the composition; we don’t really begin then, we begin again and again, as Gertrude Stein says. We have to think of it as something continuous and something growing; something becoming, always becoming.

Goff believed that the sense of surprise and mystery was essential to the continuous present. Thus, he attempted to produce a sense of surprise and mystery in Bavinger house so that the building seemed more interesting and led to a greater level of satisfaction for the occupants. One was initially surprised by what seemed unusual, and then became aware of qualities which were not easily comprehended and which produced a sense of mystery. Goff said: It is natural that a work of art surprises us, partly because it is rare..Surprise engages our attention, whether it pleases or repulses us; but this is not enough. Something is needed to sustain our interest, if the work is to be meaningful to us. We call this quality ‘mystery’ which enables the work of art to hold our interest.

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If it has this and is necessarily the creation of genius, it is personal and impersonal, timely and timeless. Goff believed that our present culture was partly characterized by its very changeability, and he reasoned that unusual and unexpected effects in architecture could express this fact. Qualities of mystery and surprise generated by the unusual and unexpected effects thus became tied to the concept of change. As Goff wrote in 1953: Instead of being agitated by this eternal change, we should rejoice in it, knowing that after the surprise or shock of the unfamiliar has been assimilated and digested, there will always remain the quality of Mystery in our genuine Modern Art so that it too may become Classical and Modern for all time. In 1962, he expanded this statement: Change is part of a scheme of time thought of as the continuous present and, no matter how excellent established things may seem to be, creative artists are always restless and forever seeking new expressions… Change brings with it the unexpected and it is this quality of surprise which engages our attention in a work of art; but since we cannot continue to be surprised by the same thing, the quality of mystery becomes necessary to sustain our interest. Mystery, however, defies analysis no matter how well we come to know a work possessing it; such a work, like Nature, never gives up its secrets.

Bavinger House demonstrated the flexibility of architectural change as life-style change. Goff attempted to think of his clients as continuing the design of the building; the actual life that went on in it complemented the design. Its form had resulted from this growing process and it was in perfect harmony with its environments and the lives within. This architectural growth, carefully disciplined by Goff, was truly organic. In describing Bavinger house, he said: The Bavinger have their house which is neither old or new so far as architectural fashion is concerned, but which is timeless. They continue to be of continuing with neither beginning nor ending.

The house, unlike other house, will probably never be complete because it is intended to keep growing, in a state of flux, with its occupants and I hope it will continue to be inspiring and beautiful to them. The Architect did not start with a preconceived notion of the shape or form of the house. It resulted thus as a discipline of all organic elements found and growing in freedom. The Architect was the medium; He wishes to express his appreciation to the clients and all others who have helped to make, what could has been only a dream, a reality. Bavinger house represented Goffs idea that continuous space could be symbolic of continuous life. As with Wright’s concept of organic architecture, specific architectural manifestations could be elusive and unpredictable. Goff said: The Bavinger house, earth-bound as it is, is a primitive example of the continuity of space-for-living, is not a back-to-nature concept of living space, It is a living with nature today and every day (in) space, again as part of our continuous present.

Innovative ideas in form, in material, and in ornamentation: Bavinger house demonstrated Goffs innovative ideas in form, in material and in ornamentation. In his pursuit of organic architecture, Goff felt that form should be come naturally, not come from particular style. Therefore, he found box, prevailing in International Style, was restrictive. Goff said that, We are not satisfied anymore with a box, no matter how the box looks. Bavinger house showed how Goff made a stand against an overwhelmingly orthogonal, rectilinear architecture and incorporated circles, spirals and asymmetrical fan-shaped into its form. It was evident that Goff rejected the right angle and avoided traditional historical forms.

Goffs advocacy of unusual and even free form shapes was in opposition to the beliefs of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright consistently employed the basic square, triangular, and circular modules in design. Goff even expanded the Wrights concept of space and form as one. Goff said: Geometry, I think, doesn’t mean necessarily to stick to the rigid forms that we usually associate with geometry. I think that we can conceive of space and of forms as one: I hear Mr. Wright quoting from Lao-tze, The reality of the building is the space within it, but I don’t think that is entirely true.

I think that is certainly an integral part of it, but there is more to it than just the space within: there is the space without it, and there is the design itself–the material and the structure of the design itself. I believe that geometry is naturally involved in all of these thinking processes. The void and the volume, the negative and the positive, all the parts that go to make up the complete design should be in this. Although his desire for free form often led to complicated solutions, he accepted and even sought such complication, believing it could enhance the individual character of the building. Goff said: Simplicity is considered by some a virtue; but it may only disguise the absence of anything of importance. Complexity is sometimes considered confusing; when in reality this is only a matter of first appearance..with understanding, that which seems ‘complex’ may become simple, and that which seems ‘simple’ may become complex.

In order to create an effect for Bavinger house, Goff employed certain flexibility in regard to materials. Bavinger house demonstrated Goffs ability to use common materials in an uncommon way. In Wrights concept, organic architecture involved a respect for the properties of the materials that materials were not forced into shapes against their inherent nature. Goff accepted this concept and expanded it to the idea that we should not use materials for materials sake, we should use materials in ways that they would look fresh. He concluded that each material had possibilities of use peculiar to its own nature.

Goff said: We want a brick to be a brick and a board to be a board and a cement block to be a block and all that stuff. Sure we do, but that isn’t enough. It has to be a lot more than that if it is going to be architecture, because we would expect that in just a good building. That would be part of being a good building, but the truth would be more than that, wouldn’t it! The honest use of the material might stop with that: you could use brick honestly, or you could force it to a way that it wouldn’t be an honest use of brick. To arrive at truth through honesty, then, I think you would have to have a little more than that.

You would have to have something that would transcend the nature of the materials. It would have to have the nature of the material, but it would have to go way beyond it as it does in the finest architecture. Ornamentation was generally accepted as a desirable component of architecture from earliest civilization until the end of the First World War. Diverse forces made the building of the 20th century devoid of ornament. Primary among these forces what Reyner Banham had called the first machine age.

In architecture, functionalism prevailed that all that was not essential was eliminated. Another force against ornament was the socio-political ideal of mass housing. Ornamentation was thought to represent bourgeois taste and certainly did not fit in with the style appropriate to industrial processes. The demise of ornamentation was also influenced by several major architects of the early 20th century. Prominent among these was Adolf Loos whose article Ornament and Crime argued against continuing with decorative styles. There he wrote: the path of culture is the path away from ornamentation toward the elimination of ornament, and later when it finally became my lot to build a houseK.

I looked at the old buildings, and saw how they emancipated themselves from ornamentation. His philosophy reinforced William Morriss statement of 1882 that the decorative arts have got to dieK. before they can be born again , Loos undoubtedly contributed to the International StyleXlack of ornament. Despite these diverse forces in architecture, Goff had developed an unsurpassed desire to apply ornamentation into his design. When he designed Bavinger house, he inclined to regard a whole building as an ornament rather to think of spots or ornament. Bavinger house, contrasted with the typical simplicity of twentieth century buildings. Goff seemed to agree Louis Sullivans idea that integral ornament should be the efflorescence of Structure and to disagree Mies van der Rohes maxim less is more .

Goff persisted in his view of ornament as a personal statement, a mark of individuality, a garment designed by the architect to reflect the character of his client and the designers own unique experience. Conclusion: Bruce Goff stood as one of the most individualistic figures of 20th century American architecture. That heroic position might be identified in the abstract of his inventive one-off architecture. His built work translated fantasy into form and defied scholarly pigeonholing. In his belief in an organic architecture, however, he retained close ties with his mentor, Frank Lloyd Wright, and with the Prairie School architects generally. During a career that spanned more than 60 years Bruce Goff designed nearly 500 buildings, and no two looked exactly alike. Many were startling in their originality, with extraordinary spatial effects, amplified by unexpected uses of materials and structure.

All reflected a fundamental belief in the right to individual expression, a belief that Goff carried even further than Frank Lloyd Wright. The very personal nature of Goff’s designs for his clients and Goff’s continued use of innovative forms and materials for his buildings did not easily lend itself to stylistic imitation by other architects. Each of Goff’s designs was an individual entity with it’s own style and character. The independent, unpredictable, and highly personal qualities that permeated his work appealed to his clients, for in his buildings their own individualism seemed better defined. Goffs life, his work and his interactions fitted neatly within the round span of the twentieth century. The architecture of Goff might best summarize the many divergent influences of the century while simultaneously being least involved in the critical issues of the time. His creative intelligence had pushed certain architectural explorations well beyond those of any of his predecessors or contemporaries.

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