The precious few times I’ve had the privilege to visit Bruce Goff-designed houses I’ve always left feeling enthralled by the experience, and reminded that the world is far more mysterious and wonderful than I had imagined.
So it is with great delight to relay the news that our friends at KCModern have organized an ambitious, multi-event Goff house tour extravaganza June 8-10. (See details below.) This is a rare opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. While not as well known as Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff’s organic architecture is no less celebrated among architecture enthusiasts, who sometimes travel great distances and scheme to great lengths just to get a glimpse inside his eccentric buildings. We in Lawrence are fortunate that these houses are nearby and accessible.
Goff designed three houses in Kansas City — each will be on display during the KCModern tour — and to visit any one of them is embark on a rich and revealing architectural journey.
Tom, Dennis and I had the privilege to do just that a couple of years ago when Rod Parks, owner of the Retro Inferno furniture store in downtown Kansas City, kindly invited us into the Nicol House, which he purchased in 2010. We haven’t seen the other two Goff houses scheduled on the tour, but the Nicol House alone offers enough satisfaction. It is food for the eyes of anyone who appreciates great architectural design, art, and furniture.
Like nearly all of Goff’s residential works, the Nicol House is a reflection of the client as much as it is about the architect. James Nicol was a successful banker who along with his wife, Betty, enjoyed entertaining, and the house’s extravagant teepee shape and totem-like entry doors (one door leads to the backyard pool) suggests that a family of high socioeconomic status resides there. Joe Price, who hired Goff to design houses and buildings for him, once told me that Bruce tried to place himself in the shoes of his client and design his house as if he were the client. This helps explain the fierce individuality of his houses, and why they are so endlessly fascinating to contemplate.
The Nicol House, which was completed in 1968, is geometrically shaped and features an octagonal floor plan that in the drawings looks like a honeycomb. (This motif is repeated throughout the design.) Once inside, you climb a circular staircase and enter a cavernous space where you are immediately drawn to a sunken conversation pit at the center. It is one of the most magical entries in modern architecture. Sitting there you are free to view the house and all of its fantastic qualities without ever having to move.
Yet, there is something wild about the house that compels you to explore it with childish abandon. Perhaps it’s the bold ’60s colors of the rooms? The triangular windows? The massive rear doors with octagonal windows that swivel 180 degrees? The areas of attraction and interest are endless. I can only imagine how much fun the Nicol kids had growing up in this house.
One of the reasons why the Nicol House resonates so strongly is because it taps into our primal knowledge about nature: earth, water, fire, stone and sky are in one form or another represented here. The indigenous character of the house would seem to reinforce this. But no matter how you interpret or deconstruct this work of art, at some point critical faculty is suspended in the presence of such creativity and intelligence, such fervent imagination — all the more poignant in the play-it-safe times we live in. Nearly 50 years after it was built, the Nicol House remains a fresh and vital example of Bruce Goff’s visionary architecture.
JUNE 8|9|10 2012
THE MAGIC OF GOFF LIGHT
Friday, June 8th, 7:30 to 10:00
An intimate reception featuring the signature Goff weekend cocktail and hors d’oevres. Watch the ever-changing light in the premiere Goff home of Rod Parks’ The Nicol House – 5305 Cherry – Kansas City – Missouri
$50.00 per person
CREATIVITY IN KANSAS CITY
Saturday, June 9th, 10:00 – Noon
A Conversation of Bruce Goff
A discussion and exhibition of Goff’s work in Kansas City, featuring original owners, colleagues and drawings
Katz Hall at UMKC
5005 Rockhill Road – Kansas City – Missouri
PAUL SEARING TRIBUTE TOUR
Saturday, June 9th, 1:00 – 4:00
Tour the 3 Goff houses
The Nicol House at 5305 Cherry – Kansas City, MO
The Hyde House at 5020 W. 67th Street – Prairie Village, KS
The Searing House – 7821 Fontana – Prairie Village, KS
$20.00 per person for the 3 houses
BUY ONLINE NOW OR AT SYMPOSIUM
NO TICKET SALES AT THE HOUSES
BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR
Sunday, June 10, 1:30
INVENTING THE MODERN WORLD
DECORATIVE ARTS AT THE WORLD’S FAIR 1851-1939
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street – Kansas City, MO
Enjoy Brunch at Rozzelle Court (reservations recommended)
Meet at the information desk at the Nelson at 1:30