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 Wüste (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 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.

Not a Netflix member?
Wow... that's not very modern!

Mod Photog

Modern Architecture Photography Exhibition Comes to Oklahoma

Oklahoma Modernism Rediscovered
April 30 to June 7, 2009
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Famous architectural photographer, Julius Shulman, stopped by OKC's Untitled Artspace last September for a small exhibition and lecture. If you were unable to attend that event, don't despair- you'll have another chance April 30 through June 7, 2009. Those are the dates for Julius Shulman: Oklahoma Modernism Rediscovered, featuring photographs of some of Oklahoma's most unique mid-century buildings. Photographed by one of the world's most famous architectural photographers!

© J. Paul Getty TrustIf the name doesn't ring a bell, the style probably will (see Modernity and Metropolis from the Getty Archive). Shulman, now 99, is credited with creating the "look" associated with California modernism. His photographs of architectural icons designed by Neutra, Koenig and Lautner have become icons in their own right.

The exhibit in Oklahoma City will showcase his work here in the Sooner State in the early Sixties. His subjects include Founder's Bank (right), Bruce Goff's Bavinger House in Norman, the rotund State Capitol Bank and many more. Special events are also planned, including a book signing on opening night.

Bus Tour
A guided bus tour is also planned for May 2 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Magic Modern Bus TourVisitors will have a chance to see the architectural subjects Shulman photographed in the Sixties. At least five commercial properties and private residences are on the schedule and the lucky tourists get to see them up-close... inside and out! Cost for the bus tour is $45 for adults, $35 for OKCMOA members or $25 for students. A box lunch is included.

The bus tour departs from the southwest parking lot of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City. Seating is limited and is available on a first come, first served basis. Advance tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21. Purchase online through or call 405-278-8237 between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.

For more on the works and theory of Julius Shulman listen to this excellent 2005 interview from Day to Day.

TFA Virtual Tours Highlight Modernism

Architecture tours are a big deal at the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture. But the pandemic has put a damper on Second Saturdays, the popu...

Modern Choices