72″ x 36″ x 24″
A letter from Irwin Goldman on the bench Commissioned for the University of Wisconsin, Department of Horticulture
The Goff Memorial Bench was commissioned by the UW department of Horticulture and the Goff Family to honor Emmet Goff, who was the first professor of horticulture of the University of Wisconsin. The bench was built from larch wood and trimmed from a large still living larch tree planted by Emmet Goff himself over 100 years ago. It is now placed in the DC Smith Greenhouse of the the UW department of Horticulture’s conservatory building on the UW Madison, WI Campus.
The project surrounding the Goff bench that Aaron Laux designed and built was one of the highlights of my time as Chair of the Department of Horticulture at UW-Madison. As we approached our 125th anniversary, I looked for ideas that would have meaning in commemorating the work of so any staff, faculty, and students over the years. Our first professor, Emmett Goff, had planted a unique larch in the area surrounding the Dean’s Residence, in what is now the Allen Centennial Gardens. The larch that Goff had planted was a geotropic larch that exhibited a horizontal growth pattern, and the tree was both an impressive and beautiful specimen for much of the 20th and early 21st century. Recently, a storm took down a portion of the tree, and that wood was saved and stored. When we asked you to take this precious wood and design something that would commemorate our department on its 125th anniversary, I didn’t imagine that the final produce would be so breathtakingly beautiful. I am deeply grateful to Aaron for his vision and artistic genius in making this wood into such a beautiful and functional bench.
The bench he made brings to mind a natural process. It has a plant-like growth habit surrounding it, and a sinuous feel to it. Unlike other benches, it isn’t rectilinear; it’s rounded and plant like and, well, alive. The back seems like it is still growing and twisting, and the bottom appears firmly rooted in the traditions of our field.
The nature of academic work, and learning in particular, is non-linear. We search for knowledge in fits and starts and we make breakthroughs now and then, but there are periods of stasis throughout that process where we wait for inspiration to return. The bench Aaron created will be a place for us to sit and reflect- on our work and where it is going, and give us a chance to pause and put things into perspective.
We were deeply impressed by what Aaron created, and we feel that he perfectly captured the spirit of our work and our department’s history. We will look forward to sharing this bench with our students and colleagues and sharing this story with our community in our next 125 years.