“A new school, probably the only indigenous one in the United States” is how architect Donald MacDonald characterized the radical School of Architecture that developed at the University of Oklahoma (OU) after WWII. At the time, most architecture schools in the the United States either followed the classical tradition of the French Beaux Arts model or the German Bauhaus model, centered on abstraction and materiality. The University of Oklahoma School of Architecture stood apart from these two trends and created an authentically American approach to design.
Under the leadership of Bruce Goff (1904-82), Herb Greene (b. 1929), Mendel Glickman (1895-1967), Elizabeth Bauer Mock (1911-98), and others, OU faculty developed a curriculum that emphasized individual creativity and experimentation. Students were taught to look to sources beyond the accepted canon of Western architecture and to find inspiration in everyday objects, the natural landscape, and non-Western cultures such as the designs of Native American tribes. The results of this pedagogical experiment—the fantastic environments imagined on paper and through built works—are characterized by experimental forms, attention to context, and material resourcefulness. The architects of the American School have long been characterized as renegades, iconoclasts, and apostates.