Oklahoma Contemporary

Outré West

Outré West: The American School of Architecture from Oklahoma to California

Aug. 22, 2024-Jan. 27, 2025
Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery

Opening celebration and Curator Panel | Aug. 22
5 p.m. | Gallery doors open
5:30 p.m. | Reception
6:30 p.m. | Curator Panel

Reserve tickets here

A tower-like structure with a protruding spiral rising from the top

Bruce Goff, Bavinger House

Outré West: The American School of Architecture from Oklahoma to California considers the works of a group of architects who were educated and mentored in Oklahoma in the 1950s and 1960s, and later developed groundbreaking design practices in California. Projects like the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the fantastical Pavilion for Japanese Art on the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles demonstrate their imaginative approach to design. Through archival drawings, photographs, and ephemera, Outré West explores how these architects translated their American School education into practices that continue to enrich California’s built environment to this day.

The American School of Architecture emerged from the University of Oklahoma in the postwar period and became known for emphasizing individual creativity and experimentation. Under the guidance of professors like Bruce Goff (1904-82) and Herb Greene (b. 1929), these students were inspired by everyday objects, the natural landscape, and the designs of Native American tribes. While other schools in the United States were heavily influenced by the European Bauhaus and Beaux Arts models, the otherworldly archival drawings featured in Outré West show how students of the American School in Oklahoma transcended the accepted canons of Western architecture.

A colorful sketch of a house's interior

John Marsh Davis, Home for a family of two and their guests

As their careers took off, many American School alumni migrated to California, where they found a cultural openness and booming post-war economy, as well as dramatic landscapes—the ideal testing grounds for their unconventional approaches to design. Outré West considers the ways in which both Oklahoma and California have attracted ambitious, creative visionaries. Since the 1800s, both places have drawn migrants and transplants from near and far searching for opportunities unfettered by institutional norms and traditions.

American School architects including Violeta Autumn (1930-2012), John Marsh Davis (1931-2019), Arthur Dyson (b. 1940), Donald MacDonald (b. 1935), and Mickey Muennig (1935-2021) realized hundreds of distinctively built works in California. From museums that exemplify organic architecture and breathtaking multimillion-dollar residences dotting the coast to affordable and prefabricated homes designed to address the housing crisis, these collected works reveal bold—and often stubborn—design talents galvanized in Oklahoma, whose ideas were exported to the West Coast.

A person with long hair sits on an elevated platform suspended below open beams

Mickey Muennig, Interior View of Studio Sleeping Platform

Outré West: The American School of Architecture from Oklahoma to California brings together large-scale photographs, architectural models, and press clippings to showcase these architects and their extraordinary artistic innovations. Bruce Goff characterized the American School as one where faculty strove “to develop at least one school [of architecture] where a creative individual [could] find his sense of direction and grow.” Establishing this teaching approach that encouraged creative diversity and intellectual independence, Goff asserted, “We preach no dogma.” This exhibition illustrates an inspiring story of how the outré—or the iconoclastic—American School education, founded and cultivated in Oklahoma, produced an unexpected kinship between the Oklahoma and California contexts and forged a lasting impact on the architectural imaginary of the American West.


Learn more about the architects



Guest Curators

A blonde woman with shoulder length hair and red glasses stands in an archway

Angela M. Person, PhD, is an associate professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma (OU). She is a cultural geographer and educator whose work explores the intersections of design, community identities, and sustainability. She has published three scholarly books which explore Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture, affect and heritage environments, and cultural institution facility management. Her award-winning work has been generously supported by the Smithsonian Institution, National Building Museum, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Graham Foundation, and recognized by the Journal of Architectural Education, Society of Architectural Historians, College Art Association, and Center for Architecture.


A woman with chin-length brown hair and dangling earrings smiles at the viewer

Stephanie Z. Pilat, PhD, is a professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma. She is a designer and architectural historian whose teaching and research examines points of intersection between politics and architecture. At OU, Pilat co-leads a team of faculty, students and staff working to bring the legacy of the American School of Architecture to light. Pilat has been named as one of the “30 most admired educators” in the nation by DesignIntelligence magazine. Her research has been generously supported by a Fulbright Fellowship, a Rome Prize from the American Academy, a Wolfsonian-FIU fellowship, an American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts.


A man with a mustache wearing a yellow jacket stands in front of a brick wall

Marco Piscitelli, RA, is a lecturer in architecture and interior design at the University of Oklahoma. He is a registered architect and educator whose teaching and research explores the entanglements between building technologies and ecologies. Previously, he practiced design at several award-winning firms in New York on projects ranging in scale from urban planning to furniture design. At OU, Piscitelli advises the local chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students. In 2023, he curated the archival exhibition Rust on a Razor Blade: Mickey Muennig in Big Sur, 1970-2000 which explored possibilities for organic architecture acting in unstable landscapes. Piscitelli’s research has been generously supported by the Graham Foundation and the Bruce Goff Chair of Creative Architecture.


Curatorial Team
Person, Pilat and Piscitelli are leading an interdisciplinary group of researchers to develop Outré West, including:


This exhibition is supported by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Allied Arts, Annie Bohanon, the Chickasaw Nation, Fitzsimmons Architects, E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation, Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture Program for Research Enhancement at the University of Oklahoma (OU), Bruce Goff Chair of Creative Architecture, Home Creations, HSE Architects, the Kanady Family, Peggy Kates, Edward and Barbara Krei, G. David Neff and Suzanne Peck, OU Humanities and Arts in Society, OU Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships, OU Division of Architecture Professional Advisory Board, H. Russell Pitman Professorship of Architecture, George Records, Lance and Cindy Ruffel, TAP Architecture, Velocigo, Visit OKC and Laura Warriner.


A special thanks to the University of Oklahoma Libraries, including personnel in Special Research Collections and Digital Collections and Digitization, who provided essential support in loaning or digitizing more than 100 works held in the American School Archives for the exhibition.


Images:

John Marsh Davis, Carmel Cliff Apartments, Student Project, 1952. Archival photograph of original drawings. Robert A. Bowlby Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Herb Greene, Prairie House, 1961. Archival photograph. Robert A. Bowlby Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Mickey Muennig, Psyllos House I, Construction Photograph, c. 1977. Mickey Muennig Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Donald MacDonald, City Sleeper, 1987. San Francisco, California. Donald MacDonald Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Arthur Dyson (Dyson Janzen Architects), Fresno Betsuin Buddhist Temple, 2022. Fresno, California. Courtesy of Jordan Loofs.

Bruce Goff, Bavinger House, constructed with University of Oklahoma students from 1950-1955. Archival photograph. Robert A. Bowlby Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

John Marsh Davis, Home for a family of two and their guests, student project, c. 1952. Archival photograph of original drawing. Robert A. Bowlby Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Interior View of the Sleeping Platform in the Muennig Studio, Big Sur, California, designed by Mickey Muennig, ca. 1971. Courtesy of the Mickey Muennig Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Bruce Goff, Camp Parks McGann Memorial Chapel, c. 1944. Dublin, California. Archival photograph. Robert A. Bowlby Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Bruce Goff with students at the University of Oklahoma, c. 1950. Archival photograph. American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Violeta Autumn, Chair Study, Sketch. Date unknown. American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Mickey Muennig, Personal Studio, c. 1971. Mickey Muennig Collection, American School Archive, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Mickey Muennig, Personal Studio, design c. 1971. Rendering of full-scale installation constructed for Outré West. Courtesy of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture, University of Oklahoma (2024).

John Marsh Davis, Barbour Residence, completed in 1965. Kentfield, California. Courtesy of Bruce Damonte Photography.

Donald MacDonald, east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, under construction, 2013. Image courtesy of James Daisa, CC BY 2.0 DEED.

Angela M. Person, PhD. Photo courtesy of Dr. Person.

Stephanie Z. Pilat, PhD. Photo courtesy of Dr. Pilat.

Marco Piscitelli. Photo courtesy of Mr. Piscitelli.

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