Born in Kansas in 1904, Bruce Goff began exhibiting an artistic and architectural bent very early on, which spurred his father to arrange an apprenticeship with the Tulsa, Oklahoma firm of Rush, Endacott and Rush when Bruce was just 12 years old. By 15, Goff had designed his first house; at 21, his first church, downtown Tulsa’s Boston Avenue Methodist (completed in 1929, the Art Deco church is on the National Register of Historic Places.)
While still a teenager, Goff struck up a friendship with the formidable Frank Lloyd Wright, who came to view Goff as one of the “few truly creative American architects,” in the words of a 2018 feature in the New York Times’ T magazine. In a 1981 interview, Goff revealed that on three different occasions, Wright attempted to entice him into becoming his “right-hand man” at his Wisconsin studio/school/estate, Taliesin. Most young architects of that era would have leapt at the opportunity, but Goff declined, knowing that spending too much time around the all-powerful Wright would likely stifle his own unique sensibility — a trade-off he was unwilling to accept. Though admittedly influenced by Wright, Goff went on to develop and practice his own highly original interpretation of Organic Modernism.
Over the course of his lengthy career, Goff completed approximately 150 buildings. The majority of these were private residences, concentrated in the states of Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri, each uniquely tailored to the client’s personality and lifestyle. But Goff also put his own personal stamp on these houses with his imaginative integration of unusual building materials, such as Quonset hut ribs, navy surplus ropes and netting, scraps of salvaged industrial glass, and mosaic tile that the architect would apply by hand himself around doorways and fireplaces. Another defining Goff trademark was the use of dramatic geometric forms, eschewing the square in favor of triangles, hexagons, octagons, and spheres.
Unsurprisingly, the maverick architect’s designs were not greeted with universal acclaim in the Midwest of the midcentury, as evidenced by a 1948 Life magazine story about one of Goff’s homes that was entitled “Consternation and Bewilderment in Oklahoma.” In 1966, Goff’s proposed plan for the home of a young couple in Kansas, Paul and Jody Searing, inspired active hostility, with multiple developers refusing to allow its construction in the tract where the Searings had purchased a lot, on the grounds that the house would be “too dangerous for the neighborhood.”
Undeterred, the couple found a parcel of land being sold by an entity with no design approval committee — the local power company — where they were finally able to build the house of their choice. That distinctive dwelling is now on the market for the first time ever.
Located in Prairie Village, about 10 miles south of Kansas City, Kansas, the Searing residence is a tribute to the triangle, from its jazzy exterior steel railing to its angular floor plan. On its main level, a three-sided fireplace takes center stage, with the home’s living room, kitchen, bedroom, and baths laid out around it pinwheel-style. Goff also endowed the 1,200-square-foot space with floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides and accordion-folding walls on tracks so the house could be opened into one large room with big views in all directions if so desired.
Other notable attributes include beamed ceilings, decorative mosaic tile work, built-in bookshelves, and numerous teal accents. There’s also a garden room and workshop in the home’s 300-square-foot lower level.
On a tree-filled lot of just under half an acre, the one-of-a-kind property is listed with Katherine Lee of Bash & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty at an asking price of $975,000.