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Renegades

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Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture


“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. 


Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture showcases the radical pedagogy and practices that emerged from Oklahoma in the mid-century. The exhibition includes over 150 drawings, documents and objects, many of which are drawn from the newly created American School Archive in the OU Libraries Western History Collection. Original drawings by students and architects of the American School highlight the creativity and originality of this work. Organized into three sections, the exhibition tells the story of dramatic change in architectural education. From Beaux-Arts to Bauhaus, the first section, highlights the evolution in American architecture schools at the time. The second section, Bruce Goff and the School of Architecture at OU, showcases the curriculum and student work produced at OU as well as the work of faculty at the time. Bruce Goff and His Legacy, the third section, highlights the built works of American School architects around the world. 

After seeing Renegades, you’ll understand why contemporary starchitect Frank O. Gehry called Bruce Goff “the model iconoclast, the paradigm of American."

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art would like to thank Skyline Ink of Oklahoma City for the virtual tours of several American School residences that are digitally rendered and included in this exhibition. 

Image Credits

Plate 24 (a., b, c, d). John Hurtig, Sketches: A Cathedral for the Religion of Architecture, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (Reproductions), 1956–57. Norman Froelich, John Hurtig, and James Gardner Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Jim Gardner, Symmetrical Forms in an Asymmetrical Arrangement, Fourth-Year Studio (Architecture 273) assignment, Bruce Goff, instructor, ca. 1955. Norman Froelich, John Hurtig, and James Gardner Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

University of Oklahoma School of Architecture (contact sheet), Norman, Oklahoma, ca. 1953. Bruce Goff Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Archives , The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital file # 199001_190117-007.

Robert Faust, United States Forest Service Fire Observatory, ca. 1952. Robert L. Faust Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

(From left to right) Philip Welch (in a white shirt), Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff, Palmer Boggs, Norman, Oklahoma, 1952. Bruce Goff Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Archives , The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital file # 199001_190117-001.