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An Icon of Midcentury Organic Modern Architecture Is Destroyed

May 13, 2016

Bruce Goff

A spiraling 1955 house that was considered one of the icons of 20th-century organic modernism has been destroyed. And not just demolished but ripped out of the ground, as Bruce Goff’s Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma, had been built right into the state’s red earth. Its corkscrew shape, constructed over several years with artists Nancy and Eugene Bavinger and local University of Oklahoma (OU) students, contained floors lofted on cables above a stone ground embedded with a creek. The whole structure was almost hidden by a grove of blackjack trees.

On April 28, Caleb Slinkard reported for the Norman Transcript that “all that is left of the Bavinger House is an empty clearing.” According to Slinkard, the demolition was confirmed by Bill Scott, president of the Friends of Kebyar, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of organic architecture; Scott called the site where the house once stood “scorched earth.” Slinkard added that “multiple calls” to Bob Bavinger — the son of the house’s original owners and its owner at the time of demolition — “were not returned by press time.”

The news had been shared, three days earlier, in the Save Wright forum by Zachary Matthews, who posted an April 17 email from “The Bavinger Boys.” The text reads: “The Bavinger House receives the ‘It’s Gone” award.'” (This is seemingly a reference to the accolades the house received, such as the AIA Twenty-Five Year Award in 1987 and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.) A photograph shows a CAT excavator and not much else, the stone, glass, and metal remains of the house all hauled away.

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