PaperCity Magazine

December 2018- Dallas

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Page 91 of 111

A Goff House in Houston: Durst-Gee House, 1958 (extant: Houston's only Bruce Goff building) Not long after I moved to Houston in the early 1970s, I encountered the Durst-Gee House during a bicycle tour of the Piney Point area of Memorial while looking for the W.L. Thaxton House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I would play a part in saving Thaxton, the only Wright house in Houston, acquired and restored by Allen and Betty Gaw in 1992 (Cite, Spring 1991). Cruising down a side street, I spotted an unusual house down a small cul-de-sac and decided to go for a look. It was a total surprise — like nothing I had ever seen before. I did not know who'd designed it. I discovered the house was by Bruce Goff, an architect of whom I first became aware during my university studies in the mid-1960s. Other than a handful of buildings taught in school, I was not versed in what I would discover to be Mr. Goff's vast oeuvre of more than 500 projects. I became better acquainted with the Durst-Gee House at the request of Stephen Fox — I was in charge of arranging a tour of it and of the Thaxton-Gaw House for a group of architectural historians meeting in Houston. I met homeowner Julia Gee while I was coordinating the tour, and she told me some wonderful anecdotes about Mr. Goff — or BG, as Julia called him. She showed me the mosaic glass tile finishes for the home's columns and around the doorframes that BG crafted in his own hand. I found out later that he did this for almost every project that he designed. The original owner of 323 Tynebrook Lane was the Robert Gordon Durst family (no relation to New York real-estate heir Robert Alan Durst, who lived in Houston for a while and is currently under arrest in California for murder). The Gee family is the third and current owner. The last addition, designed by Mr. Goff for them, was completed in 1981 and supervised by one of Goff's students. The iconic view of the house is the front wall as seen from Tynebrook Lane. One never forgets the three large round windows that project above the roof and are framed with concentric circles of brick. The circle motif repeats in various exterior and interior elements. The shape of the house changes dramatically as you walk around it. Every side is completely different, featuring varying geometry. Passing through the compressed front entry, you are immediately thrust into the front living area with its expansive, almost heroic scale. The flat ceiling engages the middle of the three large round windows, but the ceiling is cut into a semicircle around the window to funnel the light into the interior. The living area is open at a right angle to the semicircular dining room flanked by a dramatic circular brick fireplace where Goff personally installed the tile for the hearth. Bavinger House, Norman, Oklahoma, 1950-1955 (demolished 2016, after extensive storm damage) In October 2010, my best friend, the architect Edward Rogers, and I took a road trip to the University of Oklahoma in Norman to attend a weekend symposium, "Bruce Goff: A Creative Mind." It was co-sponsored by the Friends of Kebyar, an international network that advocates the promotion and preservation of Organic Architecture with an emphasis on the work and teachings of Bruce Alonzo Goff. The nonprofit organization publishes the Friends of Kebyar Journal, to which anyone can subscribe. There were several speakers, an exhibition of images and models, and a tour of some of Mr. Goff's significant houses and buildings in the Norman area. The Bavinger House was not on the tour, but a reservation could be made with Mr. Bavinger's younger son for a private tour, which we did. (Surprisingly, we were the only ones who signed up.) As we entered the compound, we were met by Bob Bavinger, who lived there, maintained the house, and gave guided tours. Bruce Goff Houston's sole Bruce Goff structure: the Memorial-area Durst-Gee House, 1958, addition 1978-1981. (continued from page 88)

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