The Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture is proud to have taken part in the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale as a part of the “Time Space Existence” collateral event hosted by the European Cultural Center (ECC).

The Venice Architecture Biennale has been the most important international exhibition venue for contemporary architecture for nearly 50 years. Occurring every other year, The Biennale draws hundreds of thousands of people to the city to survey the latest in design on view throughout sites, gardens, and palazzi across the city. It is estimated that the 2018 ECC exhibit in Palazzo Bembo will draw in over 300,000 visitors.  

The American School exhibition on display at Palazzo Bembo in Venice, Italy. 2018. Photo by Marcin Dabrowski. 

The Gibbs College of Architecture exhibition opened May 26, 2018, and celebrates the pioneering efforts of OU Architecture professors during the 1950s and 1960s, including Bruce Goff and Herb Greene, as well as their students.

Goff, Greene, and others at OU re-imagined the possibilities of the built environment, beginning fresh with each new project. To tell this story, the Venice exhibit on The American School is centered around the theme “Do Not Try To Remember,” a phrase often used in Goff’s teachings. As described in the exhibition catalog:  

While OU students developed a keen awareness of global architectural history under Goff’s leadership, when they arrived in the design studio, they were instructed: “Do not try to remember.” Do not begin with classical column capitals and proportional systems or modernist pilotis and grids. Do not begin by imitating the designs of your instructor. Do not arrive at the beginning with the end already in mind. Instead, begin fresh. Begin with the natural context: the slope of the land, the quality of the light, and the local materials. Be earnest when responding to the program. Sincerely listen to the needs and desires of the client. Most importantly, begin by trusting your own creative instincts. …  The results of this pedagogical experiment–the fantastic environments imagined on paper and through built works–are characterized by complex geometries, attention to context, and resourcefulness. 

Curated by Dean Hans E. Butzer, Luca Guido, and Michael Hoffner, the exhibit features a timeline of Bruce Goff’s life, as well as key events of The American School and the 20th century, alongside images of projects from The American School. A group of students participating in a special course helped with the design and production of the display. The installation was constructed and packaged in the Creating_Making Lab with the help of students, faculty and staff members.   

“The Venice exhibit is an important opportunity to present to an international audience the little-known history about a truly American way to intend architecture,” said The American School exhibition co-curator Luca Guido.

Daniel Kleypas, Master of Architecture student, reflected on The American School exhibition class experience, “It has been exciting to get an in-depth look into the rich history of the College and the influence of The American School.” Kleypas continued, “The variety of talented work by the students of Goff and others shows just how influential and important The American School pedagogy was.”  

The exhibit was constructed by both students and faculty in the Creating_Making Lab.

For more information on The American School project, visit our website

The American School exhibit will be up in Palazzo Bembo in Venice until November 25, 2018. For more information, contact Luca Guido (luca.guido@ou.edu) or Stephanie Pilat (spilat@ou.edu). 

Faculty, staff and students who worked on the American School in Venice project: 

Farzan Mahmoudzadeh, Behrooz Dehghan Parchini, Tayana Ghosh, Daniel J. Kleypas, Jamie M. Leake, John B. DeCuyper, Cody B. Poage, Alex J. Quinn, Magdalena A. Schaffernicht, Avery R. Smith, Kelsee B. Smith, Jillane C. Tatarian, Stephanie Z. Pilat, Angela M. Person, Erik Baker, Hans E. Butzer, Michael E. Hoffner, Luca Guido, Ken Marold, Stephanie M. Soash, Garrett R. Stowe, Klint Schor, Garrett Slezak, Lorenzo Perez, Billy Danna, Nickolas L. Harm, Samuel E. Callahan 

Special thanks to the American School partners who made this exhibition possible: 

Ross Group Charitable Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma; The OU Office of the ProvostSkyline InkThe University of Oklahoma LibrariesThe OU Office of the Vice President of ResearchAllford Hall Monaghan MorrisHornbeek Blatt ArchitectsW DesignHome Creations; OU Libraries Digitization Lab; The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art; The Division of Architecture Professional Advisory Board; Donald MacDonald; Fred and Kathleen Schmidt; David and Brenda Hornbeek; Herb Greene; Ted and Lindsay Reeds; Jaqueline Rose; Eddie Jones; and Roger Fincher