By: Ernest E. Burden, Assoc. AIA

ForEword by: Nelson Brackin, Architect

Bruce Goff's

Design Vocabulary:


Who is Bruce Goff?


The alpha­bet he used was unlimited, the grammar was creatively defined, and the language knew no bounds what'­s-so-ever. This was Bruce Goff’s design vocabulary at work. It may present a mystery to some, a sense of strangeness to others, yet a welcoming to those seeking a profound dedication to the art of architecture.

We all owe a debt to this daring organic architect and master of a true and honest synthesis of music, art and architecture. He said: "After I was appointed head of the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, I exposed the students to everything I could, old and new architecture, no matter what. I wasn't trying to say this is what I believe, and this is what you should do. I wanted students to realize that all architecture is related in the way that basic ideas were used, for instance geometric forms or free-flowing forms. they could take it from there and think about any architectural form and do their own thing."   

Photo: Gary McCowan   


Bruce Goff was totally guided by his own individualistic theory about design, and it was totally inclusive. He produced a continuously brilliant display of floor plans sections and elevations, resulting in unique spaces.  He felt that each project should be approached as a blank sheet and as something that has never been done before. Each design would be representative of the needs and desires of a client. Formal design theories and principals were few, but the unusual uses of materials were without end.  He had few prejudices and said that "any idea carried to its extreme would include the opposite." 

Photo: Philip Welch


Bruce Goff had been producing compositions ever since his early days in Tulsa, OK., as he was starting his career as an architect. They have always been an integral part of his life. They were done as studies in form and color. They were done as relaxation as well. Whatever the reason, an enormous number of compositions exist, outnumbering his buildings. Numerous ones grace the pages of this book, as chapter openers and several portfolio-type pages. His interest in art extended beyond paper and paint. Many of his homes employed artwork he incorporated into the design, in the form of murals and other ornamental touches. In the Price Studio Tower addition, it reached its zenith as he designed and executed colorful glass designs for the windows and doors. Goff commented, "the artists said I should stick to architecture, and the architects said I should stick to art." Whichever one he did, it WAS art. 

 Photo: Nelson Brackin  

Composer and Music Lover

To fully get the benefit of Goff’s design vocabulary, an awareness of the structure and forms of musical elements was absolutely necessary. It was obvious to me, after hearing a few sessions of music that he played throughout the entire year, that he loved modern music, and he loved to play it at full volume. That allowed us to concentrate on the sounds alone. It was a surprise to learn that Goff was both a composer and an architect. He performed publicly as a pianist in his youth. Goff composed his own works, and created pieces for a player piano by cutting patterns in paper rolls.  At age 30 and with little professional training in music or architecture he felt that he had to

make a choice; thankfully, he chose the latter.

Photo: Nelson Brackin   

Bruce Goff's Design


The layout pages shown here are typical throughout the entire e-book.  With over 1,000 full-color photographs, each chapter is heavily illustrated. In the 350 - 11"x 81/2" pages, all projects are presented in the exact order is which Goff produced them.

Order Now

Architecture School LIBRARIES


PDF E-book

You will receive an email confirmation with a link to the file (45 MB) stored in DROPBOX for downloading onto your viewing device;

Desktop, Laptop, Tablet or even your phone.

This is your personal copy of the E-Book.

The PDF is encrypted, so you will be given the appropriate passcode to open the file for downloading and for viewing.

Order Now

A/E Firms Special Offer Expires JUNE 8


PDF E-book

You will receive an email confirmation with a link to the file (45 MB) stored in DROPBOX for downloading onto your viewing device;

Desktop, Laptop, Tablet or even your phone.

This is your personal copy of the E-Book.

The PDF is encrypted, so you will be given the appropriate passcode to open the file for downloading and for viewing.


"Just a note to tell you I think your e-book is very splendid. So comprehensive and inclusive. I think the best publication put together about Bruce Goff's life and work. The images are stunning. I hope the word gets out, all over the world, about your work here. There should be a new compassionate and substantive understanding of Bruce Goff's life and work and the accomplishments of his many students and apprentices as a result of your wonderful work.

Tom Hart, Architect, Friend and Associate Architect with Bruce Goff  1966-1982

Ernest Burden's new e-book delves deep into the world and work of Bruce Goff and unpacks his many sources of inspiration. The book presents many little-known projects and buildings by Goff as evidence of his approach to the act of creation.  Burden brings together the vast knowledge and experiences of the Friends of Kebyar members and publications, scholarly accounts, and personal recollections. It includes rarely seen photographs not only of Goff’s artwork and buildings but also, and importantly, of the incredible work of his students. As one of Goff’s students, Burden shares his firsthand account of what it was like to study architecture at the OU in the 1950's and even gives us a tour of his own projects as examples. Transcripts of Goff’s lectures interspersed throughout the text bring Goff’s voice to life and give us a front-row seat to the radical educational experience he shaped."

Stephanie Z. Pilat, Ph.D., FAAR '07, Associate AIA,

Dir., Division of Architecture, University of Oklahoma

"Ernest, this is a monumental work of love, professionalism and erudition. Bravo, congratulations, thank you."

Rick Meghiddo, Meghiddo Architects

"Bruce Goff was one of the finest architectural talents and educators of our time. Long overlooked by main-stream critics, he has finally received an insightful tribute to his visionary and inspiring designs and philosophy.  This book pays proper due to one of the most visionary architectural thinkers and designers in history."

Fred A. Stitt, Director,
San Francisco Institute of Architecture 

"Ernest Burden analyzes Bruce Goff's work from a peculiar and interesting point of view: that is, one of a pupil. In this sense, Burden's book tells us more about Goff as a teacher, architect and artist. Far from the cold academic style that characterizes too many scholarly publications, Burden explains not only the architectural principles learned from Goff, but conveys the passion and aspirations shared by every creative mind in architecture."

Luca Guido, Visiting Associate Professor
University of Oklahoma 

"Ernest Burden's new e-book is amazing! The stories of BG’s youth is something I’ve not heard before. I’m still in awe of not just Bruce Goff’s designs but also his impact on so many people and there’s a true love for him over half a century later. The book layout is clean with crisp images and an easy to read format. 

Zachary T. Hicks, Alumna
University of Oklahoma 

Author: Architect, Bruce Goff's Student

Some of the text in this book is taken directly from tape-recorded interviews conducted with Goff by friend and instructor, the late Phillip Welch, author of the book Goff on Goff.  Other quotes are taken from those made to me or my classmates, many of which have already found their way into fine articles and books.  Classmate Paul Nicolaides interviewed Goff extensively and also interviewed his mother, Maude Rose Furbeck Goff Waful, to uncover significant and often revealing details about his upbringing. Architectural historian and author, the late Dennis Sharp, corroborated many of the stories around how Bruce Goff transitioned from composer to become an architect. Other text, particularly in the chapter “Pushing the Boundaries of Architectural Form,” came directly from my personal lecture notes, the results of attending the fourth-year design class that Goff taught at Oklahoma University and supplemented by additional notes from fellow student, Bill Haney. 

Previous Published Books:

While developing innovative visual techniques for presenting planning projects,  I assembled the information I had learned into a best selling reference book, Architectural Delineation: A Photographic Approach to Presentation, which was published by McGraw-Hill in 1970. This was the first of nearly a dozen titles on design and presentation, including Entourage: A Tracing File for Architects and Interior Designers, plus a series of illustrated dictionaries: one on architecture, one on building design and construction, and one on architectural preservation. I also authored Visionary Architecture: Unbuilt works of the Imagination, all published by McGraw-Hill.  I then received a Master’s degree in Architecture and Architectural Preservation for those works.

WHY an Ebook?
Immediacy - no waiting for printing/binding/shipping.
Economy - Priced much less than a print version.
Usability - Read on your desktop, laptop, tablet or your phone.
Scaleable - You can enlarge it to view photos or illustrations.
Searchable - No need for an index.
Portable - Easier to transport than a 350-page full-size book.

Projectable - Perfect for classroom teaching.

Table of Contents

PRELUDE: Design Theories
OVERTURE: Music/Architecture Analogies
PART ONE: The Formative Years, 1904-1946
Chapter 1:  Early Influences

The World of Bruce Goff * Castles and Cathedrals * Nature Became a Religion * Apprenticed At A Young Age * Discovery of Frank Lloyd Wright * Graves House * The Very Early Work * documentation of Early Work * The Search Continues * Advice From the Masters * A World of Varied Influences * Art Nouveau was Goff’s Favorite * Two Japanese Artists * Adah Robinson Studio * Two Experimental Designs Tulsa Building * An Art Deco Icon Emerges * Hansen House * Consolidated Cut Stone Office Building * Day Building  * Page WarehouseGuaranty Laundry * Christ the King Church * First Introduction to Music A Brief Marriage * Genet Furniture Building Riverside Music Studio * Olinka Hrdy’s Murals * Olinka Hrdy Interview About Her Artwork * Chicago War Memorial Competition * Midwest Equitable Meter Company Warehouse * Phi Beta Delta Fraternity House * Convention Hall Renovation * Olinka Hrdy Interviewed About Her Stage Curtain * Goff Becomes Partner * Goff’s Marriage Ends

Chapter 2:  Chicago Bound
Alphonso Iannelli and Goff’s Chicago Office * Cedar Pass Lodge * The First Teaching Job * Player Piano Compositions Composer’s Forum * An Enviable Music Collection * Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company Return to Chicago * Elin and Rant Houses * Turzak House * Cole House Colmorgan House * Unseth House * Spencer House * Bartman House * Interlude: The Navy Seebees * Camp Parks’ Buildings * Hostess House * Star Bar * Camp Parks Memorial Chapel

Chapter 3: Prelude to Indeterminacy
Search for Indeterminacy * Cheetham House * Gillis House * San Jule House * The Stran-SteelConnection * Giganti Garage Apartment * Kozak House * Leidig House

PART TWO:  Goff as Teacher,

Chapter 4: Goff’s Teaching Methodology

Enter Fred Langhorst * A Critical Foundation * Orchids From Oklahoma * Goff’s Call to OU * Who is Bruce Goff? * End of the Kamphoefner Era * The School’s Faculty at OU * Beaux-Arts Tradition – Gone * A New Era in Architectural Education * OU Gets Accreditation * Goff Acquires the Title ‘BG’* Oasis in the Cultural Desert * Architecture without a Style * Bob Faust’s Comments * A Visit With Frank Lloyd Wright Goff’s Humorous Anecdotes * More Aphorisms * An ‘A’ List of Visitors

Chapter 5:  Goff’s Work While OU Director: 1947 - 1955
Bachman House Remodel * Ford House * Ledbetter Lodge and House * Family Circle Project * Hopewell Baptist Church * Cox House * Crystal Chapel and Education Center

PART THREE:  Indeterminacy Achieved
Chapter 6  Bavinger House: Ode to Organics

Flying P-38s Influenced His Art * Return To His Roots * Bavinger the Artist * Music Connection * Bavinger the Builder * Spirals in Nature * A Continuous Flow of Space * Indeterminacy Achieved * Bavinger House Drawings * The Greenhouse Effect * Working with Bavinger * Roserock Specimens * Salvage Materials * Goff Describes the Space in More Detail * Bill Bavinger’s Reflections * Gene Bavinger’s Modern Work * An Architect’s View * Goff’s Reflection * It’s Also Green

Chapter 7:  More Indeterminate Structures

Angelino House * Magyness House * Blakely House * Wilson House * Corsaw House * Garvey Hse #1 Perez House * Joe Price Studio #1 * Enter Frank Lloyd Wright Price Studio Aftermath * Garvey House #2 Murdoch House * Cunningham House * McCullough House * Frank House * Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity Barnes House * Trinity Baptist Church

PART FOUR:  The Design Vocabulary – 1947-1955
Chapter 8:  Elements of Music and Structural Forms

Derivation of the Word Music * Metaphors on Music and Architecture * Acoustical Elements of Music Musical Structure * Goff’s Lecture on Rhythm * Goff’s Love for Music * A Synthesis * Continuous Present* Frank Lloyd Wright and Music * Absolute Music * Absolute Architecture


Chapter 9: Elements of Composition

FirstYear Design Studio  * Point, Line, Plane * Goff on Composition * FrankLloyd Wright on Composition * A Dose of Curiosity * Creating Compositions * Bruce Goff's  Compositions *  Drunken Boat Series


Chapter 10:  Putting Design Elements into Action

Goff’s Instructors * 2nd and 3rd-Year Design Projects Assignments * Howard Alan * Ernest Burden  * John Davis * Robert Faust * Jack Golden * Herb Greene* James Gresham * John Hurtig * Takeo Ito * James Parent * Goff Lectures on the Organic and Inorganic Approach * The Inorganic Approach * The Organic Principle * The Sixth Sense * Where Do Ideas Come From? * Experimenting and Improvising * Try to Forget * Conceptual Ideas * The Idea is Within Yourself * Spirit: The Breath of life  

Chapter 11:  Pushing the Boundaries of Architectural Form

Studio 273: Journey Into the Unknown * Design Assignments * Bruce Goff’s Design Vocabulary * Basic Definitions * Design Elements of the 273 Studio * Balance * Contrast * Counterpoint * Depth * Form-Resultant Form * Incident, Terminal, Climax * Modulation * Monumentality * Orchestration of Materials Ornament * Proportion * Reflection * Rhythm * Scale * Simplicity-Complexity * Site Relationship Theme, Variation, Development * Transparency, Translucency, Opacity * Unity

Chapter 12:  Unity and Order

Aftermath, 273 Studio: Goff Lectures on Unity and Order * Order and Style * Discipline in Freedom * Structure and Order * Johnson Wax Building * Larkin Building * Where Did it Originate? * Unity Temple * Two Different Kinds of Order * More than Just Clear Parts * Don’t Try to Remember * Understand the Aesthetic Sense * Architecture With a Capital ‘A’ * 5th-Year Thesis Projects * An Architect’s Office Working Drawings 

PART FIVE:  The Legacy Continues Post OU
Chapter 13:  Bartlesville Office

Joe Price Studio #2 * Joe Price’s Input * Dewlan Aperture * Space Center Institute* Bass House * Cienter Development * McCullough House * Watkins House * Circle Center Tower Apartments * National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum * Bartman House #2 * Don FitzStudio * Don van Dall House

Comer House Pollack House House * Motsenbacher House * Durst-Gee House * Jones House #1 * Rudd House#1 * Freeman House * Stull House * Gutman House * Thought and Planning * A Pure triangle * Open fireplace * Utilities centralized * Construction Drawings * Adams House * Allen House #2 * Akrigtht House Remodel * Adams #3 Collins House#1 * Gelbman House Redeemer Lutheran Church and Education Building * Floral Hills Memorial Park * Rodin House * Gryder House * Giacomo Motor Lodge * Black BearMotor Lodge * Viva Hotel * Barby House #1 * Bennet House * Milton House Sooner Park Play Tower


Chapter 14:  Kansas City Office

Briar Associates Prototypes * Dace House* Nicol House * Hyde House * Duncan House * Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity House * Searing House * Price House and Clubhouse * Plunket House #1 * Price Home and Museum Addition * Mercedes Benz Agency * Abraham House * Youngstrom House * First National Bank Addition * Goff Travels Abroad

Chapter 15:  Tyler Texas Office

Glen Harder House * Plunket House #2 * Jacob Harder House * Jones House #2 * Stevenson House Goff’s Kebijar * Wakil House * Lake villages Main Entrance, Pool and Bathhouse * Warriner Addition Mineola Community Center * Plunkett House #3 * Barby House 32 * Taylor House Addition * Price studio Tower Addition * David DeLong’s View * John Bass House * Prost House * Blair Addition to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Design * Japanese Gallery: Metropolitan Museum of Art * Freestanding Pavilion * Japanese Pavilion at LACMA * Goff Worked Alone * Bart Prince’s Challenges * Volumetric Freedom * Al Strukus House Circular Layout * Goff’s Last Smile

Chapter 16:  Ornament: Consistency in Principle
Bruce Goff’s Use of Ornamentation * An Ornamental Heaven * Ad Hoc Material Used by Goff  * Sketch, Goff's Grave Marker for Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, IL, Grant Gustafson, designer, 2000 

Chapter 17: Living In a Goff House

Goff’s Relationship with His Clients * A Goff/Client survey Corsaw House (now owned by Susan Caldwell)   Nicol House (Now owned by Rod Parks) A Client’s Tale of Two Houses  *  The First House  *  The Second House When a Building Makes You Who You are: Leo Berk’s Art and the Ford House About the House

PART SIX: Bruce Goff Remembered

Chapter 18:  Genius, Madness, Greed, Arson

Lost Structures  *  Shin’enKan Torched

Bavinger House Razed  *  Scorched Earth  *  ‘Gone’ Award

Chapter  19:  Memorial Dedication

Final Resting Place * A Who's Who of Architecture * The Proposal * Memorial Service * The Urn * The Market * Eulogy by Joe Price * Comments of Those Remembering Bruce Goff

EPILOGUE Bruce Goff Professorship  *Bruce Goff Memorialized at OU *Friends of Kebyar  *FOK Purpose and Objectives   FOK Celebrations *FOK Journals  *  The Bruce Goff Archives at the Art Institute of Chicago, Ryerson & Burnham Libraries Oklahoma Historical Society  Price Tower Art Center, Bruce Goff Collection * The American School Archives at Christopher C. Gibbs, School of Architecture, University of Oklahoma Britni Harris: Documentary Goff  * Skyline Ink library of Video Animations, Bruce Goff Unbuilt Works

Encore: Chronological Listing of Bruce Goff’s Projects and Completed Works