Philip Johnson 1906 – 2005 An influential American architect "Philip
Cortelyou Johnson (July 8, 1906 – January 25, 2005) was an influential
American architect. The first director of the architecture department
at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) in 1946, and later a trustee, he
was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1978 and
the first Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979. He was a student at the
Harvard Graduate School of Design."
his long career Johnson was more influential for his criticism and
intellectual guidance of the profession than the buildings directly
credited to him. Financially independent as a result of his father's
gift of Alcoa stock, he both founded and funded his directorship at
MOMA. As co-author (with Henry- Russell Hitchcock Jr.) of the MOMA
exhibition catalog "The International
Style: Architecture Since 1922" (1932), Johnson is credited with
recognizing and popularizing European modernism, and with introducing
Mies van der Rohe to America. As mentor of the New York Five,
power-broker, socialite, and MOMA trustee, Johnson put himself in an
ideal position to promote his stance that architecture is an aesthetic
pursuit equal to other fine arts, with little responsibility to clients
or users. It has been said that he was weak at sketching and drawing,
but regardless Phillip Johnson had a very skilled graphic and design
sense. The most recognizable figure in American architecture for
decades, part icon, part oracle, part stand-up comic, Johnson was a
reliable source of wit and provocation."
"Involvement with Fascism" "One
controversial aspect of Johnson's career was his active promotion of
fascism for eight years beginning in 1932. Johnson walked away from the
success of his MOMA exhibition and, in a move described by the
contemporary newspapers as 'surreal', attempted to join forces with
Louisiana governor Huey Long. After Long's 1935 assassination, Johnson
wrote a series of plainly anti-Semitic articles for the Detroit
broadcaster Father Coughlin, ran for public office in Ohio, and tried
to start an American fascist party himself. He traveled to Nuremberg
for Adolf Hitler's 1938 rally, and to Poland after Germany invaded it
in 1939, where he wrote:"
German green uniforms made the place look gay and happy. [...] There
were not many Jews to be seen. We saw Warsaw burn and Modlin being
bombed. It was a stirring spectacle."
an FBI investigation and the pending involvement of the United States
in World War II, Johnson abandoned his support of Nazis in mid-1940,
and returned to Harvard. Years later he renounced fascism and designed
a synagogue with no fee as a form of apology. A focus on the aesthetic
to the exclusion of all other concerns became a characteristic of his
philosophy; in a 1973 interview, he said:"
only thing I really regret about dictatorships isn't the dictatorship,
because I recognize that in Julius's time and in Justinian's time and
Caesar's time they had to have dictators. I mean I'm not interested in
politics at all. I don't see any sense to it. About Hitler—if he'd only
been a good architect!"
most famous work is the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, a
transparent open-plan frame structure initially designed as his own
home for his Harvard master's thesis in 1949, and in which he resided
until his death. The Glass House is remarkably similar to Mies'
Farnsworth House. The New Canaan estate continued to grow and now
boasts a number of unique designs, including a building made out of
chain-link fencing, a sculpture gallery with a glass ceiling, a house
of brick mirroring his glass house, and a building with no
conventionally shaped walls (having only two corners)."
produced most of his work in collaboration. As the New Canaan estate
demonstrates, his work is not conspicuous for its stylistic consistency
or practicality. From 1967 to 1991 Johnson collaborated with John
Burgee, his most productive period."
AT&T Building in Manhattan, now the Sony Building, was completed in
1984 and was immediately controversial for its outrageous pink granite
neo- Georgian pediment (Chippendale top). This was provocation on a
grand scale. At the time, crowning a Manhattan skyscraper with an
outsized chair-top defied every precept of the modernist aesthetic:
ornament had been effectively outlawed among serious architects for
years. In retrospect other critics have seen the AT&T Building as
the first Postmodernist statement, necessary in the context of
modernism's aesthetic cul-de-sac."
Johnson's other notable works include:
John de Menil House, Houston (1950)
Four Seasons Restaurant in Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building, New York City (1959),
New York State Theater (home of the New York
City Opera and New York City Ballet) at Lincoln Center (with Richard
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library of New York University (1967-1972)
the IDS Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1972)
South Texas Art Museum in Corpus Christi, Texas (1972)
Boston Public Library (1973)
Williams Tower, Houston, (1983)
the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase College,
Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas, Texas,
the main campus mall at the University of Saint Thomas in Houston, Texas
the RepublicBank building in Houston, Texas
the Cleveland Playhouse in Cleveland, Ohio
the Museum of Art at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York.
191 Peachtree Tower, Atlanta, Georgia
One Atlantic Center (formerly called the IBM Tower). Atlanta, Georgia
Puerta de Europa, Madrid, Spain
Fort Worth Water Gardens
PPG Place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (with John Burgee; 1984)
Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas
page was last modified 22:58, 19 January 2006. All text is available
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Philip Johnson article at Great Buildings Online. Retrieved Sep. 27, 2003.
Philip Johnson bio on the Pritzker Architecture Prize website. Retrieved Sep. 27, 2003.
Philip Johnson on NewsHour (1996). Retrieved Sep. 27, 2003.
Mark Stevens, "Form Follows Fascism," New York Times (Jan. 31, 2005).
Heyer, Paul, ed. (1966). Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America, p. 279. New York: Walker and Company.
"Philip Johnson: Dean of American
Architects," Academy of Achievement (Feb. 28, 1992). (Biography,
interview, audio, and photographs.)
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