The Poetic Architect: An Imaginative Journey of Bruce Goff's Bavinger House

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Virginia Tech


During the 1920s, the Midwestern American architect Bruce Goff advanced a unique design approach that would govern his career: "Good architecture for everyone." Following the First World War, this period is considered the end of the Victorian and Edwardian era and "American innocence," and the beginning of the modern era—the 20th century. Goff challenged the predominant views of progressive modernism, the belief that science and technology were to be the "grand solution" to society's weaknesses. In contrast to his contemporaries who employed design methods of standardized building forms, mass production, and technology, which would later lead to societal alienation, Goff viewed his clients as individuals possessing a mind, a body, and a spirit living in a world together with other human beings. He believed that each person is endowed with five or more senses that "always" respond to Nature and its beauty. This dissertation will show that such an experiential and existential attitude is found in Goff's drawings, writings, lectures, and interviews and expressed in a clear commitment to the Bavingers (as clients), to their chosen site, and the architectural experiences designed for the Bavinger House. Informed by Gaston Bachelard's, poetic imagination, three journeys to and through the Bavinger House, reconstructed by generating drawings and bringing together a manifold of experiential methodologies to argue the claim that the Bavinger House is the preeminent paradigmatic example of Goff's work. The goal is to establish that Goff was indeed, a poetic architect who employed an imaginative organicism in his work.



Absolute, Cognitive, Existential, Experiential, Imagination, Memory, Mystical, Perceptual, and Poetic