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Indepth Arts News:

"The Memory of Bruce Goff’s Shin’en Kan"
2006-01-27 until 2006-04-16
Price Tower Art Center
Bartlesville, OK, USA United States of America

Ten years ago Bartlesville lost to fire a great building at the heart of its architectural treasures: Bruce Goff’s masterpiece known as Shin’en Kan. Price Tower Arts Center is celebrating this remarkable structure in the exhibition Remembering Bruce Goff’s Shin’en Kan January 27 through April 16, 2006.   Evocative of science fiction and futuristic designs, Goff always looked for previously unused shapes, colors and materials. Price Tower Arts Center, which possesses the largest Bruce Goff collection after the Art Institute of Chicago, owns numerous drawings, photographs, and film which document Shin’en Kan, many of which are on view in the exhibition. Also included are building fragments, furniture, decorative elements and paint–ings which once adorned the building.

Bruce Goff (b. Alton, Kansas 1904; d. Tyler, Texas 1982) was one of the most creative American architects of the twentieth century. Over his career, he realized over hundred structures built in over fifteen states. In the 1950’s with Goff as the head of the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture, the school was recognized for having one of the nation’s most innovative, avant-garde architectural practices. Goff’s daring spirit came by approaching any situation as a “continuous present.” As Goff would put it: “No matter how many buildings you have built, if you think of each one as a new experience…you find that you are always doing something strange and new and different. Sometimes you look at it and wonder, did that come out of me?” Shin’en Kan was Goff’s largest and most luxurious house, experimenting with materials such as onyx and gold leaf. Clear plasticcellophane strips hung from the skylight streamed down like rain, dime-store glass ashtrays were affixed to the windows for a kaleidoscopic effect, walls were made from pieces of coal and the ceiling was covered in feathers. Portions of the floors were sloped and upholstered as substitutes for furniture, challenging conventional thinking.

Gates for Bruce Goff’s Shin’en Kan
Photo by David Sides

Shin’en Kan is Chinese for “The House of the Far Away Heart” or “The House for Losing Your Heart.” The complex was initially designed for Joe D. Price as a bachelor residence in 1956 and expanded twice for a growing family and collection of Japanese art (1966 and 1974). The project was eventually transformed into a museum of Japanese art which came to be built at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, completed after Goff’s death. Shin’en Kan incorporated all of Goff’s design distinctiveness: influences by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Antoni Gaudí, and the arts of East Asia. These are reflected in the open floor plans, continuous floating ceilings, serpentine rustic masonry and prominent crystalline elements.

Shin’en Kan stood as a unique work unto itself. David G. Delong, the foremost scholar on the architect’s work, explained that “It is seemingly without specific precedent and may be the most original design of Goff’s career.”

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