CFP - The American School of Architecture: Building on the Plains

Carl Siegel's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
March 13, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Architecture and Architectural History, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Local History, Urban Design and Planning, Urban History / Studies

The University of Oklahoma College of Architecture

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma will host an exhibition on the American School of Architecture in the spring of 2019. We invite scholarly contributions to the exhibition catalog. Please submit an abstract of 400-500 words and a C.V. to Stephanie Pilat at spilat@ou.edu by Monday, March 13th, 2017. Decisions will be made by Monday, April 3rd. Final papers of 4,000 – 8,000 words will be due by August 1st, 2017. Papers from accepted abstracts will undergo peer-review before publication.

“A new school, probably the only indigenous one in the United States” is how the architect Donald MacDonald once characterized the school of architecture that developed under the guidance of Bruce Goff and Herb Greene at the University of Oklahoma in the 1950s and ‘60s. At the time, architecture schools in the United States followed a curriculum inspired by either the French Beaux Arts school or the German Bauhaus school. On one hand, the French model centered on studies of classical principles of design and entailed meticulous copying of the great classical architecture of Greece and Rome. On the other hand, schools such as the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Harvard Graduate School of Design adapted the Bauhaus curriculum model—known for embracing industry and abstraction in art, architecture and design—to the American context. Only the curricular experiment started by Goff at the University of Oklahoma stood apart from these two trends: it was an original and authentically American approach to architecture and pedagogy.

Under the leadership of Bruce Goff (1904-82), Herb Greene (b. 1929), Mendel Glickman (1895-1967), and many others, OU faculty developed a curriculum that emphasized individual creativity, organic forms, and experimentation. As MacDonald described, there emerged “a truly American ethic, which is being formulated without the usual influence of the European or Asian architectural forms and methodologies common on the East and West coasts of the United States.” Indeed, the faculty rejected the rote copying of historical styles as well as the abstract minimalist approach popular elsewhere. Students were taught to look to sources beyond the accepted canon of western architecture and to find inspiration in everyday objects, the natural landscape, and non-western cultures such as the designs of Native American tribes of Oklahoma and the Western plains. This rejection of existing pedagogical models in favor of experimentation reflected Goff’s own training. He was never formally educated in architecture; rather he learned architecture by doing it, having started in practice at the age of 12. As Frank Gehry describes, “Bruce Goff suffered the shadow of Uncle Frank [Lloyd Wright], but pushed the frontier forward and extended Wright’s legacy. He was an American. Like Wright he was the model iconoclast, the paradigm of America. He was of the American conscience, the antidote to Gropius’s pontifical European presence; one of the roads to an American architecture…” This radical approach to design drew students to Oklahoma from as far away as Japan and South America and later spread the American School influence to their practices in California, Hawaii, Japan, and beyond.

We invite papers on all aspects of the American School and its legacy including: the work of individual architects (see list below); the curriculum and pedagogical approach; related developments in other artistic disciplines such as painting, sculpture and decorative arts; and the ways in which the American School has influenced contemporary architects such as Frank Gehry and Michael Reynolds. Interested scholars may request access to the research teams’ bibliography, archival guide and materials including interviews with architects of the American School.

Architects may include:
Edward R. Aotani
Violeta Autumn
John Davis
Arthur Dyson
Robert L. Faust
Harvey Ferrero
Bruce Goff
Herb Greene
James A. Gresham
Varouj Z. Hairabedian
Arn Henderson
Blaine Imel
Takeo Ito
Michael P. Johnson
Arthur Kohara
Takenobu Mohri
G.K. “Mickey” Muennig
William Murphy
Shizuo Oka
Robert K. Overstreet
Bart Prince
W. Arley Rinehart
Rex Slack
William R. Stover

Contact Info: 

For more information contact: Stephanie Pilat, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma at: spilat@ou.edu