The Bavinger House was the last stop for the Oklahoma Modernism Architecture Tour. It was designed by Bruce Goff and built by Eugene Bavinger, a former art professor at the University of Oklahoma, between 1950 and 1955. The world renowned Bavinger House is considered to be one of the most significant designs of Bruce Goff. The house has won the Twenty-Five Year Award by the American Institute of Architects in 1987, and is listed on the National Historic Register, a National Landmark, and Oklahoma Historical Society.
The house sits in a rural area of Norman, a suburb of Oklahoma City. It takes a good 30 plus-minute scenic drive from Oklahoma City to get to the house. A short walk from the entrance of the property takes you to the house. Going up the gentle hill, we passed many trees and bamboo, almost like going through a forest. Then the house just appeared out of nowhere, right in front of you. From this point, the tower part of the house and a part of the roof that is level to the ground can be seen. The house is made of locally quarried ironstone. Eugene Bavinger dug many of these stone out with his hands.
Big chunks of blue-green glass cullet are found throughout the property, many embedded among the ironstone, giving an charming accent to the property. The house integrates into the surrounding nature very well. The untraditional, unique house and its surroundings give you an illusion of being in a different world – I was expecting a hobbit or Totoro to come out of the woods at any time…
The house’s unique structure features a logarithmic spiraling building with 200 tons of ironstone forming its wall. The roof, living areas, stairs, bridge, and closet are supported by a drill stem pipe in the center of the structure. There are five living areas: living room, master bedroom, playroom, bedroom and art studio. The first four living areas are gold carpeted bowls suspended from the ceiling. The house’s only bath room is located on the third level which also gives an access to the bridge connecting the house to the outdoors. The bridge is used as a counter-weight for the roof to keep the drill stem pipe from bending. Bob Bavinger, a son of Eugene Bavinger recalls jumping from the bridge to the pond below as a child. It would be really fun growing up in such a unique house! The interior space is very open and flows continuously. However, the entire interior space cannot be viewed from any one point in the house.
Many art, sculpture, and pottery can be found throughout the inside and outside of the house, many giving a whismical feel to the place. My favorite piece is the set of five sinks/railroad ties sculpture across the pond. It took me a while to figure out the top part was the sinks, because they looked like the faces of pigs and bears from the distance!
The house was home to Eugene Bavinger and his family for 48 years. The house has been vacant since 1989 and is in need of restoration. Bob Bavinger and his son are renovating the house, hoping to open the house up for tourism and education. They are hoping to cover some of the renovation cost through donations. You can donate with your time, materials, funds, equipment and by visiting their events.
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