Two of the most creative architects ever to embrace the round form, Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff, were both born on June 8—Wright in 1867, and Goff in 1904.
For Wright, the circular form symbolized freedom, an escape from the traditional residential box. As he explained in 1952, “a box is a containment. I tried to abolish the box.” Wright designed at least 14 round and semi-circular houses, as well as, most famously, the spiraling Guggenheim Museum in NYC. Not all of his round house designs were built; sadly, some of his most beautiful and innovative efforts never made it beyond the planning stage.
Wright’s 1938 project for Ralph Jester, meant for a suburban housing community in Palos Verdes, California, was his first attempt at a circular residence –
Another unbuilt round house was the Ludd M. Spivey house, which Wright designed during the same period.
Wright once named Bruce Goff, a self-educated architect based in Oklahoma, as one of the only US architects he considered creative. The term creative is a massive understatement when applied to the iconoclastic Goff, whose wildly original designs took unusual building materials and put them into extremely unconventional shapes.
Goff explained his thinking to a university audience in 1953: “What I would like to see is the clock striking thirteen around here,” he said. “I would like to see something strange, and new, and different … not to be strange, just as a name, because that will never work. What you do if you do something that we are talking about here—having an idea of your own—will naturally seem strange.”
Unsurprisingly, some of Goff’s round designs were never built: the 1954 Garvey house is one of them. But perhaps even more surprising is that some of his most radical concepts were eventually rendered in bricks and mortar—or at least in coal, hemp rope, and blobs of slag glass.
The tragedy of Goff’s Bavinger house, in Norman, Oklahoma, deserves its own post, which I hope to write soon.