Screened as part of NZIFF 2003

Goff in the Desert 2003

Goff in der Wüste

Directed by Heinz Emigholz

Germany In English
110 minutes 35mm

Director, Photography, Editor


Irene von Alberti
Frieder Schlaich


Berlin 2003


Heinz Emigholz’s captivating film is simply a catalogue of short shots (filmed photographs if you will) presenting the work of the exceptionally inventive American architect Bruce Goff, who was apprenticed at age 12 but never formally educated as an architect. His work, mostly churches and private homes, displays a speculative creativity that set it apart from most 20th-century architecture. The Episcopal Church in Tulsa built in the 1920s (designed when Goff himself would have been barely 20 years old) is a towering Art Deco icon with massive electrode-like spires, whereas the Hopewell Baptist Church in Edmond resembles a strange futuristic concrete teepee challenging the landscape. The amazing homes he’s designed include several studded with magnificent blue crystals and one built under an enormous forested dome that has to be seen to be believed. It’s wonderful to be able to see these structures that would otherwise take weeks of travel to behold. If the film allows any insight into the man behind the art, it is through the accumulated weight of marvellous imagery. Emigholz’s filmed photographs brilliantly expose details we would miss just looking at the buildings, making these fascinating artefacts even more intriguing. — Michael McDonnell 

The film shows 62 buildings – from small petrol stations to representative museums – designed by the American architect Bruce Goff (1904-1982). As such, it is the first comprehensive filmic catalogue of nearly all his surviving creations. Bruce Goff is the great unknown of an original American form of architecture. His constructions and designs run contrary to the ideals of the by contrast well-known International Style movement. Bruce Goff’s work sparked legendary controversies during his lifetime. Nearly all his buildings stood like a shock in the landscape, paving the way for new, as yet unimaginable avenues in architecture. Heinz Emigholz’s filmic photographs are an openminded look at the spaces Bruce Goff created. Shooting took place on 40 days in April and May 2002 during a 9,200-mile journey across the United States. — Production notes 

"Just like Rudolph Schindler, Bruce Goff was deliberately marginalised and sidelined simply because he wasn’t an ideologist with global aspirations, but felt dutybound to the sites and particular shapes of his constructions. The film now has the strength to put something centre-stage in such a way that it can’t be talked away again." — Heinz Emigholz