American School architects, including “Prairie House” architect Herb Greene, as well as prominent architectural historian Christopher Mead, recently headlined the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture’s “The American School Symposium” on Monday, April 15, at 1:30 p.m. on the OU Norman campus. To watch the event, view the video linked below.
The symposium began with a public lecture by Dr. Christopher Mead, Emeritus Regents’ Professor at the University of New Mexico, who spoke about the work of Bart Prince within the context of an American tradition, including the work of Thomas Jefferson, Bruce Goff (BG) and Frank Lloyd Wright. Mead has published widely on European and American architecture and urbanism, including books on the American architects Robert Venturi, Bart Prince, and Antoine Predock, and the French architects Charles Garnier and Victor Baltard.
Following Mead’s lecture, a panel discussion, moderated by Mead, featured American School alumni and architects, including:
- Herb Greene. Greene studied architecture at the University of Oklahoma with Bruce Goff, one of the nation’s most original and creative architects and an important architectural educator. Greene did many presentation drawings for Goff which are now in the Art Institute or Chicago. Greene also worked for John Lautner who was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original apprentices. Greene’s Oklahoma “Prairie House” caused an international sensation when it was published in color in Life and Look magazines, The London Time Journals, and journals throughout Europe and Japan.
- Ernest (“Ernie“) Burden. Burden received the Faculty Senior Design Award while studying at OU under BG for five years. In the mid ’50s, he was a finalist for the Prix de Rome in architecture. His architectural and land planning projects transformed into nationwide workshops on client presentations and to writing books, including Architectural Delineation, Visionary Architecture, and three illustrated dictionaries: Architecture, Building Design and Construction, and Architectural Preservation. He is currently self-publishing an e-book entitled Bruce Goff’s Design Vocabulary: A Synthesis of Music, Art and Architecture.
- Nelson Brackin. Brackin first learned of Bruce Goff in 1972 from his Auburn University professor, Robert Faust. As a result, Brackin apprenticed with Goff in the mid-70s for 3 1/2 years. Brackin worked on several projects with Goff including the Price house and Warriner house. In 1983, Brackin was a founding member of the Friends of Kebyar, serving as its second president from 2000 to 2014.
- Arthur (“Art”) Dyson. Dyson has practiced architecture and environmental design in Fresno, California, for over 40 years. During this time he has designed over 700 buildings, including several library facilities. His experience began while working with the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959 on the Marin County Civic Center, a 300,000 square foot government office complex in San Rafael, California; and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Dyson worked with Bruce Goff when Goff was practicing from his Bartlesville, Oklahoma, studio.
The American School is a contemporary approach to architecture that was developed under the guidance of Bruce Goff and Herb Greene at the University of Oklahoma during the 1950s and ‘60s. At the time, architecture schools in the United States followed a curriculum often inspired by either the French Beaux Arts school or the German Bauhaus school. On one hand, the French model centered on studies of classical principles of design and entailed meticulous copying of the great classical architecture of Greece and Rome. On the other hand, schools such as the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Harvard Graduate School of Design adapted the Bauhaus curriculum model—known for embracing industry and abstraction in art, architecture and design—to the American context. During this time, the curricular experiment started by Goff at the University of Oklahoma stood apart from these two trends: it offered an original and authentically American approach to architecture and pedagogy.
Since 2016, The American School project at the University of Oklahoma Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture has celebrated OU’s rich legacy through a series of exhibitions, symposia, lectures, and more. Among these events include The American School exhibition, part of the European Cultural Centre’s 2018 Venice Biennale collateral event, and the Renegades at Bizzell exhibition, on display at Bizzell Library on the Norman campus through July 29, 2019.
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Featured image, from left: Nelson Brackin, Arthur Dyson, Herb Greene and Ernie Burden.