Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Bavinger House Designed by Bruce Goff

I am linking my post to Outdoor Wednesday...with a twist.  The Bavinger House by Bruce Goff takes 'bringing the outside in' to a new level...and it was built in the 1950's.  I hope that you enjoy it.  Thank you to "A Southern Daydreamer" for hosting this delightful meme.

Daddy was a new member of the faculty in the Oklahoma University School of Architecture in 1950.  The head of the architecture department was Bruce Goff, Frank Lloyd Wright's famous protege.  Goff designed The Bavinger House, built outside of Norman, Oklahoma.  The house was physically built, mostly on the weekends, by Goff, Bavinger, and a number of faculty and students from the university, including my daddy, from 1950, to 1955.  I remember weekends spent driving out to the house to take lunch to daddy and to see the project in process.  Gene and Nancy Bavinger were family friends. The Bavinger's older son, Bill, was a year younger than I.  Bill was one of my sister's best friends, and we spent many great times at the Bavinger House as children and teenagers.  The house is now recognized as one of the fifteen most important architectural designs in the United States.  It has recently been opened to the public for visits by Bob Bavinger, Nancy and Gene's younger son.  I stopped by to revisit some old memories, and I couldn't resist taking some photos.  I only had my iPhone, so I hope that the images translate adequately.  I thought that you might enjoy a short tour.    

The view as one approaches the house is pretty amazing.  The roof line starts at ground level and spirals to a peak.  It always made me think of a stone tower surrounded by a sweeping sail.  The main  entrance is to the right of the lowest roof level and down some steps.  The materials are mostly native stones and melted down 'junk glass.'  It always reminded me of the green glass in old Coke bottles.  I can still picture my daddy and others carrying those stones and glass pieces and placing them to create this incredible structure.

After descending the entry steps, the first thing one discovers is this stunningly beautiful patio area.  Can you see the suspension bridge laid through the trees in the upper left of the picture?

The suspension bridge is accessed from within an upper level of the home.  As children we used to scamper across the bridge, which hangs above a deep ravine, to visit the Wilson House, on the other side.  The bridge is actually quite narrow, and I don't think that I would venture out on it now.

Can you see the top of the giant bronze pot just to the right of the patio trees? It's an outdoor fireplace, found on a lower level of the patio.  The table and chairs are original to the home, as are the sculptures.  

This view looks back toward the front door.  This interior wall is built below ground.  Remember the beginning of the roof, almost at ground level?  That's the location of this area.  The junk glass is beautiful as it reflects the sunlight.  There used to be a profusion of gorgeous orchids growing out of the walls.  Bob Bavinger hopes to replant them at some point.  Pretty amazing, right?
The Bavinger House was heated with these stoves; remember that the house was built in the countryside, and there was a minimum of utility service available in 1950.  Behind the stove, notice the recessed area beyond the rock.  There used to be a 'creek' that ran through the house.  It was dammed up at some point.  The large suspended 'saucer' that you see is the living room.  Above the living room, you can see a bit of another 'saucer' that was the Bavinger's master bedroom.  The drapery panels that you can observe could be drawn for privacy.  The large round tubular structure that you see is a closet for the master bedroom.  It's an interesting concept.  Inside the tube, the hanging apparatus is actually a 'lazy susan.'  The closet rack rotates, and provides quite a bit of storage.

From the living room pod, one can see the Master Bedroom pod and above that Bill Bavinger's bedroom.  Follow the stairs higher, and you would reach Gene Bavinger's studio.  In later years, the studio became Bill's bedroom, to make room for younger brother, Bob.  Gene built a new studio in another building on the property.

The interior of the living room pod was in essence a 'sunken living room.  The seating was a built-in part of the pod.  Looking beyond the pod, you can see the huge round table that makes up the dining room.  It has built in seating, and it also rotates.  Originally the dining table had a glass top, but I really like the wood.

Here's a close-up of the 'lazy susan' dining table.  Can you see the giant 'shopping bag' sitting next to the stove?  Nancy Bavinger was a clay artist, and she designed a variety of clay 'shopping bags.' They can be seen displayed throughout the home.

A pair of Nancy's shopping bags, tucked in a niche.

More of Nancy's bags, sitting adjacent to the kitchen, which is incredibly small by today's standards.

More bags, and here you can catch a glimpse of the pond and another stove.

The window at the top of the tower was Gene's studio and housed the exit to the suspension bridge.  Quite a house!  If you're traveling through Norman, Oklahoma, I think that you'd enjoy a tour of the house.  Bob Bavinger is dedicated to restoring his childhood home to it original condition, and the tours assist in that effort.  It is open 7 days each week.  Stop on by!  

I am linking to Outdoor Wednesday. Stop by an visit other blogspots to feast on some wonderful outdoor impressions.

I am linking my post to Razmataz's Architectural Photo Elements Challenge.  Check out her blog!
Entertaining Women
Entertaining Women

Hello, I'm Cherry Kay I was 40 before I realized that I am an artist. I love to paint, work in clay, rubber stamping, design tablescapes, entertain, and share ideas. I'm an interior designer credentials, but lots of experience.


  1. What an incredible house. Thanks for the great history lesson! The photographs are truly amazing and just wonderful.

    I am happy I found your blog!


  2. This was a wonderful tour! It must have such amazing memories for you. We live in a town full of mid-century modern, including The Glass House! I am hoping to do a post on in if I can ever get tickets--you need special ones if you are bringing a camera. This house you are showing is beautiful and so neat. Can you imaging entertaining in that pod, with a creek running through the house? Kitchens were smaller back then but there is so much of an outdoor feeling! I don't think I could live there but it is fascinating to see! Thank you! Linda

  3. Wow, when we looked at these on your laptop, I had no idea you took them with your iphone! Great pics!! I can't wait to go on an adventure to Norman and take the tour in person with you for my tour guide. What an unusual and amazing home. Wow. Thanks for the virtual tour of this architectural feat, and a look into your dad's life and your childhood. And, it's still in such great shape. Truly remarkable. Love,C

  4. Hey, I might be your 1,000th visitor! (well, it's probably a whole lot more than that - but since you started your hit counter) Woo hoo! xoxoc

  5. Wow! This house is inmcredible. It's like the house of the future, pretty amazing. I love the turquoise glass....Christine

  6. I would definitely visit if I were in that area, and I allowed, I would venture across the suspension bridge. It's my favorite part.

    This place is amazing! I can't believe it was built so long ago. It has the feel of the type of "extreme" home you might see being built today. What an adventure to visit. I can't imagine growing up there. I think it's just wonderful that the son is restoring it.

    Great iphone pictures btw!

  7. I am amazed at what talented people can create.
    What a great tour-

    I am so happy to know I have a kindred spirit !

    White Spray Paint

  8. What an interesting house. I love the suspension bridge. Thanks for showing us and thanks for visiting me.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this incredible home. Thank you.


  10. That is crazy! What a house. Very cool!

  11. Wow, I think I scrolled through your post at least four times just to see this again and again. Thats one of the most interesting homes I have ever seen. How wonderful that you have such a personal connection to both the family and the house. And your iphone takes great pictures! Ann

  12. That is utterly amazing...very Jetson.
    Bravo for Goff for thinking of a different way to live.

  13. Far ahead of their time this man was. I've been reading and looking up and down, up and down - interesting!

    For a moment I thought there was a snake on the hand bridge.

  14. That is an amazing and unique home. Thanks for sharing.

  15. How did I not know about this house!!!! My husband and I both attended OU. This is amazing. What a way to live. I know a Goff family living here in Brentwood, TN. They have boys the same age as my older two and are huge OU fans. I wonder..........! I'll let you know what I discover. How privileged are you to be there as this was being constructed!!! Very exciting! Next time I go back to OK, I will definitely check this out. Thank you!

  16. This place blew me away. I just love it. I remember a show on HGTV years ago, that featured houses such as this. Thanks for the tour! Kit

  17. I never knew about this house. Thank you than you for joining the photo challenge and showing us. I am blown away and would love to see this. It is incredible. I love the bridge and the glass bits. How incredible were these designers and their insights into making the home part of the land. They were ahead of their time. I so enjoyed this post.

  18. My colleague and I were wondering if we would be able to get in touch with before this coming Tuesday to ask you some more details about this amazing house.

    We are doing a case study about the Bavinger House and are very excited to learn more.

    Thank you, and hope to hear from you soon,

    Hernan and Danielle


  19. Thank you for this post! Bill Bavinger, the son mentioned above, was my professor and good friend at Rice University's Architecture School from 1978-1981. His nonconformist personality and enormous creativity certainly do justice to the unconventional design of this house and the strong creative genes of his parents. I was saddened to hear that Bill passed away at an early age. But this house remains and I will definitely make it a point to visit it as a tribute to my friend and mentor.
    Lin Giralt
    Rice M.Arch, 1982

  20. Thank you for your photos and memories, Sadly the Eugene Bavinger house was destroyed in mid June, 2011.
    The cause seems to be a combination of shoddy roof repairs and a violent microburst storm that dropped the entire suspended roof into the first floor/basement dwelling area. The massive steel support pole that the entire building hangs from is bent to a 50* angle and the structure looks irreparable. A tragic loss to the world of modern/organic architecture.

    Zachary Matthews
    Tulsa, OK

  21. Zachary, there seem to be conflicting stories about the destruction of the Bavinger House. The Norman Transcript had a follow-up story that said that police went out to the property and that it was still standing. I haven't been to Norman since the reports started surfacing. I'm not sure what is going on. If I learn anything, I'll publish a post about it. Cherry Kay

  22. This house is most incredible...Most people will have no idea how incredible this house is...And how important it is to architectural history. I think I am commenting too late to save the house, but if not, I would implore people to do whatever they can to help the Bavingers save this incredible piece of architecture!

  23. I was fortunate to have visited the Bavingers in the 70s, when I attended OU. I was often invited to eat dinner there; they had the small chickens outside for us that became our meal. I also remember seeing them wind up plastic fish and put them inside, in their fishpond. I remember seeing the beautiful stones, and watched them water their plants which extended out on the sides of the rocks in their living space. They were always very cordial to me (20 at the time). Nice memories. I hope the house is saved so more can enjoy it.


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