Thursday, April 16, 2009

Video: Goff in the Desert

We heard about this video and thought it might be a fun way to learn more about the various buildings designed by the late Bruce Goff. We were delighted to learn Goff in the Desert is available on Netflix, and promptly added it to our queue.

Goff gained notoriety over the years as an inspired and eccentric architect. A good deal of his work is located here in Oklahoma and the neighboring states of Missouri, Texas, and his native home of Kansas. Ironically, the greatest appreciation for his work seems to be far from where it happens to be located. This DVD is a good example.

Produced in 2003 by German filmmaker, Heinz Emigholz, the disk is more a reference work than documentary. To consider Goff in der W├╝ste (the film's German title) a movie would be like comparing a catalog to a novel. I mention this not as a complaint, but more a forewarning for those that might be expecting something more... um, narrative.

Okay, enough about what it's not.

What you do have here is a chronological look at the buildings and homes that Bruce Goff designed (or at least assisted in designing, as in the case of Boston Avenue Methodist). Emigholz traveled the US in 2002 and chronicled each structure inside and out with video and stills in classic German fashion- ie; nearly every shot is tilted. It's mostly exterior shots, and we often get to see inside the weirdness.

Audio is merely the ambient sound at the time of the filming, unless you enable the director's commentary- which we highly recommend. I particularly enjoyed the narrative that accompanies the segment on the ruins of Shin'enKan in Bartlesville. A fire destroyed the unique home in 1996 and conspiracy theories were swirling even before the smoke had cleared. Emigholz notes the circumstances preceding the fire, which was later determined to be arson.

Conclusion: Rent it from Netflix or buy it from Amazon.com to play quietly in the background at your next modern cocktail party. This is great "video wallpaper" for archigeeks and a perfect introduction to the wild and wacky world of Bruce Goff's unique brand of architecture. It's also an excellent reference work to accompany your next road trip through Middle America.



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Wow... that's not very modern!

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Postscript.