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R.I.P., The Bavinger House: 1955-2011


Gazette staff December 14th, 2011

One of the state’s most treasured examples of architecture is for sale … unfortunately, piece by piece. Norman’s iconic Bavinger House is being sold off by its very — irony alert! — conservancy.

Local architecture nerds decry the move as a travesty; the Bavinger House Conservancy sees it as “an opportunity for everyone to own a part of history,” per its website, “for this holiday season.”

It’s another strange chapter in the home’s storied history.

Designed by University of Oklahoma College of Architecture then-chairman Bruce Goff, the abstract stone structure — complete with living pods, circular staircase and tower spire — was built for OU art professor Eugene Bavinger and his wife, Nancy. So unique is, er, was the residence that in 2001, it earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

The couple lived in the home until 1997. According to okcBIZ magazine, before Nancy Bavinger died in 2007, she made her grandson Boz Bavinger promise to show the house to the public in its natural form. As head of the conservancy, he obliged, reopening its doors to the public in December 2008.

In 2010, Boz Bavinger told okcBIZ, “It’s been the focus of many architectural studies, birthplace of the sustainable movement and is often studied in the architecture major. … Most people are fascinated with how unique and incredible the house itself is. The house is an alternative way to look at life in a structure.”

But on June 20 this year, things took a really alternative turn. Bob Bavinger, the only surviving son of the home’s original occupants, told The Norman Transcript the house had been torn down: “It was the only solution that we had,” Bavinger reportedly said.

“We got backed into a corner.”

Except it wasn’t. While trying to confirm this on June 21, KWTV News 9 reporter Gan Matthews claimed he and his cameraman were greeted with gunfire at the property, according to news9.com. No one was charged.

The next day, the conservancy’s  website at thebavingerhouse.org posted: “Closed due to storm damage. Due to severe storm damage we will not be able to re-open.”

Which brings us to the website’s current state of dismantling for dollars. This news struck members of Okie Mod Squad, a local group dedicated to mid-century architecture and design, as sacrilegious. Members took to the group’s Facebook page with comments that included:

—“I hope no one buys a thing.”

—“Yuck. They want us to be vulturs.”

—“Tragic. Absolutely tragic.”

—“I’d rather see some of it in one of our own homes than in some haphazard garage sale.”

—“It’s not a haphazard garage sale now?”

 
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