Shin’enKan revisited — Part II

Roseanne McKee
This phoenix statue was a focal point in the Shin’enKan garden. The blue green stones shown around the statue are artifacts from the home’s interior walls. Roseanne McKee/Journal-Capital

This week we continue a tour of Shin’enKan based on a videotaped interview with Mary Winn Dills the curator and caretaker of the structure by the host of a program called “Focus on Art” hosted by Barbara Cohenour.

Shin’enKan, the home of Joe Price of the H.C. Price Company and designed by Bruce Goff, was destroyed by fire Dec. 26, 1996, giving this video even more historic value.

The bachelor kitchen was located around the corner from the master bedroom. When Price married, Dills said, a larger kitchen was built. Cohenour noted that the kitchen contained bevelled, three-dimensional windows. The video showed them to be triangles of clear, hexagon-shaped glass.

The rest of the home had a more Asian flare in honor of Price’s wife, who was from Japan.

The dining room had rice paper sliding doors and was designed to look out over the outdoor gardens, Dills said. The tour continued in the outdoor garden.

Throughout the house triangles were used which formed larger hexagons.

Cohenour asked, “Was the triangle a theme for putting together this house?”

“Yes, the whole home was done on a triangle basis and this particular pattern was designed for this home, and it goes outside and all throughout the home,” Dills said.

Cohenour also remarked on the variety of materials used in the house, noticing aluminum.

Dills agreed and then pointed out some pressed bark on the exterior, which she said was from an Arcadia tree in Africa.

Next, Dills showed Cohenour a hidden door, behind which was a museum, part of the original home structure, containing Price’s collection of Japanese art from the Edo period (1615-1868) which she said was “second only to the emperor of Japan’s own collection.”

The museum also had tokonoma paintings by Bruce Goff, Dills said. Per the Oxford Dictionary, tokonoma is “a recess or alcove, typically a few inches above floor level, for displaying flowers, pictures, and ornaments” in a Japanese home.

There were built-in seating areas in the museum and a humidifying pool.

The pool was needed because all of the Japanese art, done on rice paper, had to stay moist, Dills said.

Below the pool, and visible through it, was a room below containing a Japanese bath with mosaic tile.

The tour continued on the lower level where the bath was located.

“You’ll notice faucets near the floor … in Japan they washed their feet first, showered off and then got in the bathtub,” Dills said.

“As you sit in the pool, you can look back up into the museum room,” Cohenour said.

The design on the walls of the bath were mosaic tiles that took over a year to lay. The gold and silver-colored tiles were real gold and platinum plated, Dills explained.

Next they toured the second floor, where the children’s bedrooms were located.

“There were four inches of foam-rubber padding in the floors of these rooms because the Price’s [two] daughters slept on futons on the floor,” Dills said. “Each room has a door out to the [second-floor] deck.”

Cohenour noticed a repetition of the roofline and the natural terrain as viewed from the deck.

“This is one of the most beautifully sited buildings in the state of Oklahoma,” Cohenour said. “The relationship between the natural setting and the building is exquisite.”