Home of the Faraway Heart

Bruce Goff's Prairie Postmodernism

Bruce Goff established a home and studio in Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1955. He had been close to the Price family for years, particularly Joe Price, an avid collector of Edo-period art who became a patron of Goff’s eccentric and imaginative architecture. In 1956, Price commissioned Goff to build him “an escape from the pressures of society…a world emphasizing ultimate comfort both mentally and physically…without the barriers of preconceived notions, customs and habits.” The result, Shin’en Kan (meaning “home of the faraway heart” in Japanese and named after the Edo artist Ito Jakuchu’s studio), became one of Goff’s most fully-realized (and lavish) expressions of his idiosyncratic style. 

Exterior of Shin’en Kan (The Price House), 1956.  Bruce Goff, architect. Archival Image Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Built on an open, triangular floor plan, the home was centered around a sunken hexagonal seating area with plush white carpet (visitors were instructed to take their shoes off at the door). Thin strips of iridescent plastic hung from the ceiling—which was covered in white goose feathers—walls were coated with gold-anodized aluminum and supports were constructed from craggy stones and turquoise glass cullets. Price’s collection of Japanese screens and monumental scrolls decorated the luxe space.

A view looking out onto a Japanese garden at Shin’en Kan. Archival Image Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Interior view of the kitchen at Shin’en Kan. Archival Image Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago

The present lots are original architectural elements from Shin’en Kan; the design of the windows and doors echoes the shape of the central living space, the windows casting shadowy mosaics of hexagons and triangles inside the home. A confounding and entrancing mix of bachelor-pad-grotto, escapist ski-lodge and Japanese spa, Shin’en Kan is one of Goff’s most significant works—so close to his heart that his gravestone features a cullet of glass from the building. Sadly, Shin’en Kan was destroyed by arson in 1996. Its importance endures now only through a small number of furnishings and elements salvaged from the home. 

Architecture should express the nature of the individual and not be a matter of fashion.

Bruce Goff

Bruce Goff 1904–1982

Bruce Goff is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most iconoclastic architects. He was an early enactor of the Prairie School style but quickly developed a bombastic flair, unbound in its creativity—“designs for the continuous present” as he called them. Goff created outside the confines of history, taste and propriety to create some of the first truly postmodern structures.

Born in Alton, Kansas in 1904, Goff grew up in Denver and Tulsa. He showed artistic talent early on, drawing elaborate castles and cathedrals. At twelve years old, he was apprenticed to the Tulsa architectural firm Rush, Endacott and Rush. By the time he was a teenager, he was designing homes; his first “mature” project, at just twenty-two-years-old, was the towering Boston Avenue Methodist Church in 1926 in Tulsa. A few years previous, he began a correspondence with his idol, Frank Lloyd Wright, who dissuaded Goff from pursuing a formal education and instead encouraged him to develop a unique voice outside of the stifling atmosphere of academia.

Auction Results Bruce Goff