Philip Johnson

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Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson.2002.FILARDO.jpg
Philip Johnson at age 95 in his office in the Seagram Building, Manhattan with his model of a 30' by 60' sculpture created for a Qatari collector. (2002)
Born Philip Cortelyou Johnson
(1906-07-08)July 8, 1906
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died January 25, 2005(2005-01-25) (aged 98)
New Canaan, Connecticut, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard Graduate School of Design
Occupation Architect
Awards Pritzker Prize (1979)
AIA Gold Medal (1978)
Buildings Glass House, Seagram Building, 550 Madison Avenue, IDS Tower, PPG Place, Crystal Cathedral

Philip Cortelyou Johnson (July 8, 1906 – January 25, 2005) was an American architect, best known for his works of Modern architecture, including the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, and his works of postmodern architecture, particularly 550 Madison Avenue (Formerly the ATT&T Building and then the Sony Building), designed with John Burgee. In 1978 he was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and in 1979 the first Pritzker Architecture Prize.[1]

Early life and the Museum of Modern Art Exhibition[edit]

Johnson was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 8, 1906, the son of a prosperous Cleveland lawyer, Homer H. Johnson. He was descended from the Jansen family of New Amsterdam, and included among his ancestors the Huguenot Jacques Cortelyou, who laid out the first town plan of New Amsterdam for Peter Stuyvesant. He attended the Hackley School, in Tarrytown, New York, and then studied as an undergraduate at Harvard University where he focused on learning Greek, philology, history and philosophy, particularly the work of the Pre-Socratic philosophers. Upon completing his studies in 1927, he made a series of trips to Europe, visiting the landmarks of classical and Gothic architecture, and joined Henry Russell Hitchcock, a prominent architectural historian, who was introducing Americans to the work of Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and other modernists. In 1928 he met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was at the time designing the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The meeting formed the basis for a lifelong relationship of both collaboration and competition [2] [3]

In 1930, Johnson joined the architecture department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. There he arranged for American visits by Gropius and Le Corbusier, and negotiated the first American commission for Mies van der Rohe. In 1932, working with Hitchcock and Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, he organized the first exhibition on Modern architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. The show and their simultaneously published book "International Style: Modern Architecture Since 1922" played an important part in introducing modern architecture to the American public. When the rise of the Nazis in Germany forced the modernists Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe to leave Germany, Johnson helped arrange for them to come to work in the United States. [4]

In 1936, in the depths of the Great Depression, he left the Museum of Modern Art for a brief venture into journalism and politics. For a time he supported the extreme populist Governor of Louisiana Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin, and traveled to Berlin as a correspondent for Coughlin's radically populist and often anti-Semitic newspaper Social Justice. In the newspaper, Johnson expressed, as the New York Times later reported, "more than passing admiration for Hitler" [5] Johnson observed the Nuremberg Rallies in Germany and, sponsored by the German government, covered the invasion of Poland in 1939. Many years later he told his biographer, Franz Shultze, “You simply could not fail to be caught up in the excitement of it, by the marching songs, by the crescendo and climax of the whole thing, as Hitler came on at last to harangue the crowd,” and told of being thrilled at the sight of “all those blond boys in black leather” marching past the Führer. In his 1994 biography of Johnson, Schultze wrote: " In politics he proved to be a model of futility. He was never much of a political threat to anyone, still less an effective doer of either political food or political evil."[6]

In 1941, at the age of 35, Johnson abandoned politics and journalism and enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he studied with Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius. In 1941, Johnson designed and actually built his first building, a house still existing at 9 Ash Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The house, strongly influenced by Mies van der Rohe, has a wall around the lot which merges with the structure. After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Johnson enlisted in the Army. He was investigated by the FBI for his contacts with the German government and his support for Coughlin, who opposed American intervention in the war, but he was cleared for service and entered the army. He spent his army service during the war in the United States.[7][8]

The Modernist Period (1949-79)[edit]

In 1946, after he completed his military service, Johnson returned to the Museum of Modern Art as a curator and writer. At the same time, he began working to establish his architectural practice. He built a small house, in th style of Mies, in Saaponack, Long Island in 1946. This was followed by one of this most famous buildings, which he built for himself; the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, completed in 1949, which has become a landmark of modern architecture.[7]

The Glass House[edit]

Main article: Glass House

The Glass House (1949) that he designed as his own residence in New Canaan, Connecticut was influenced by the Farnsworth House, built shortly before it by Mies van der Rohe, an influence which Johnson never denied. [4] Johnson had curated an exhibit of Mies van der Rohe's at the Museum of Modern Art in 1947, featuring a model of the glass Farnsworth House.[9]

The house is a 56 foot by 32 foot glass rectangle, sited at the edge of a crest on Johnson's estate overlooking a pond. The building's sides are glass and charcoal-painted steel; the floor, of brick, is not flush with the ground but sits 10 inches above. The interior is an open space divided by low walnut cabinets; a brick cylinder contains the bathroom and is the only object to reach floor to ceiling.[10] The New York Times described it in 2005 as "one of the 20th century's greatest residential structures. "Like all of Johnson's early work, it was inspired by Mies, but its pure symmetry, dark colors and closeness to the earth marked it as a personal statement; calm and ordered rather than sleek and brittle." [11]

Johnson continued to add to the Glass House estate during each period of his career. He added a small pavilion with columns by the lake in 1963, an art gallery set into a hillside in 1965, a postmodern sculpture gallery with a glass roof in 1970; a castle-like library with a rounded tower in 1980; a concrete block tower dedicated to his friend Lincoln Kirstein, the founder of the New York City Ballet; a chain-link "ghost house" dedicate to Frank Gehry.[11]

After completing the Glass House, he completed two more houses in New Canaan in a style similar to that of Mies; the Hodgson House (1951) and the Wiley House (1953). In 1953 he also created an architectural sculpture garden for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[12]

The Seagram Building[edit]

Main article: Seagram Building

Johnson joined Mies van der Rohe as the New York associate architect for the 39-story Seagram Building (1956). Johnson was pivotal in steering the commission towards Mies by working with Phyllis Lambert, the daughter of the CEO of Seagram. The commission resulted in the iconic bronze-and-glass tower on Park Avenue. The structure was designed by Mies while the lobby and other internal aspects were designed by Johnson[13] including the Four Seasons and Brasserie restaurants[14]

Following the Seagram Building He built several smaller projects in a more personal, expressive style, with ornament touches and features far from the sobriety of the modernist style; the Synagogue of Port Chester New York, with a plaster vaulted ceiling and narrow colored windows (1954–56); the Art Gallery of the University of Nebraska with an array of symmetrical arcs (1963); (the Roofless Church in New Harmony, Indiana with a mushroom-shaped roof covered with wood shingles (1960). In 1960 he also built a severely modernist monastery building for in the expansion of St. Anselm's Abbey in Washington, D.C.. [15]

In the same period, based on his renown from the Seagram's Building, he won commissions to coordinate the master plan of Lincoln Center, New York City's new arts center, and to design that complex's New York State Theater, built in a massive and unadorned modernist style. He also undertook his first foreign commission, the modernist art museum in Bielefeld, Germany, with a modernist facade clad in dark red stone, and a modernist colonnade of slender pillars. (1968).

In 1967 Johnson entered a new phase of his career, founding a partnership with architect John Burgee. Johnson and Burgee won commissions for a series of new skyscrapers. including the IDS Center in Minneapolis (1973), and the two matching towers, facing each other like bookends, of Pennzoil Place in Houston, Texas. The two towers of Pennzoil Place have sloping roofs covering the top seven floors and are trapezoidal in form, created to leave two large triangual aras on the site, which are occupied with glass-covered lobbies designed like greenhouses. This idea was widely copied in skyscrapers in other cities. [15] [16]

Postmodern Period (1980-1990)[edit]

550 Madison Avenue (Former AT&T Building) (1978-1984))[edit]

Main article: 550 Madison Avenue

In 1980, Johnson completed a new building in a startling new style; The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, a soaring glass neo-Gothic megachurch for the Reverend Robert H. Schuller. It became a Southern California landmark. In 2012 it was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange became the cathedral for Orange County.

It was one thing to build a glass cathedral in California, and another to build a corporate headquarters skyscraper in the center of Manhattan, the showcase of modern architecture. Shortly after the Crystal Cathedral, working in collaboration with Burgee, he completed one of of his most famous buildings, the AT&T building (later named the Sony Building, and now 550 Madison Avenue. Built between 1978 and 1982, a skyscraper with an eight-story high arched entry and a split pediment at the top which resembled an enormous piece of 18th-century Chippendale furniture. It was not the first work of Postmodern architecture- Robert Venturi and Frank Gehry had already built smaller scale postmodern buildings, and Michael Graves had completed the Portland Building in Portland Oregon (1980–82) two years before the AT&T Building; and most of the building was in a traditional modernist style; but because of its Manhattan location and size it became the most famous example of postmodern architecture.[17]

At about the same time as the AT&T Building, Johnson and Burgee completed other remarkable postmodern skyscrapers; the Bank of America Center (Formerly Republic Bank Center) in Houston (1983) and the PPG Place, the headquarters of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass company (1979–84). Both buildings combined modern materials, construction and scale with suggestions of traditional architecture. The shape of the central of PPG Place suggested the neogothic tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, while the Bank of America Center appeared inspired, on a colossal scale, the stepped houses of Flemish Renaissance architecture.[17]

Later career and buildings (1991-2005)[edit]

In 1986 Johnson and Burgee had moved the offices of their firm into one of their new buildings, the Lipstick building, the popular name of the skyscraper they built 885 Third Avenue in New York, given its nickname because of its resemblance to the color and shape of a stick of lipstick. Burgee wanted to play a larger role in the firm,he negotiated a smaller part for Johnson, and in 1991, as the chief executive of the firm, pushed him out entirely. Without Johnson, the firm was forced by an arbitration decision into bankruptcy. Johnson, who had no liability in the affair, opened a smaller office in the Lipstick Building.[18]

In his solo practice, Johnson did not confine himself to a single style, and was comfortable mixing elements of modernism and postmodernism. For the Cleveland Play House, he built a romanesque brick structure; for the Architecture School at the University of Houston, he said that his model the French neoclassical architecture by the 18th century architect French Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. His skyscrapers on the 1980s were skillfully constructed and clad in granite and marble, and usually had some feature borrowed from historic architecture. In New York he designed the Museum of Television and Radio, (now the Paley Center for Media) (1991) and also designed several residential skyscrapers for Donald Trump, including Trump Place in Riverside South, Manhattan.[16]

In his later years he made continual additions to his estate in New Canaan surrounding his Glass House residence. The final addition he made was La Monstra (1995), a pavilion and visitor center to welcome visitors, done in a highly abstract postmodernist sculptural style. He gave it the name because he said it resembled a monster.[19]

He continued to build impressive postmodern skyscrapers around the United States, including One Detroit Center in Detroit Michigan (1991–93), a variation of the Flemish Renaissance style he had used earlier. He also constructed two leaning office buildings, the Gate of Europe at Plaza de Castilla in Madrid, Spain. These two twenty-story office buildings, each with a slope of fifteen degrees, were an advance notice of the popularity of tilting skyscrapers in the early 21st century. One of his last work, completed after his death, was the Urban Glass House, a condominium building completed in 2006. It was a quotation from his own earlier work, his famous 1949 Glass House residence..

Honors[edit]

In 1978 Johnson was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. In 1979 he became the first recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize the most prestigious international architectural award.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Johnson, at the age of ninety-eight, died in his sleep while at his Glass House retreat on January 25, 2005. He was survived by his partner of 45 years, David Whitney,[20][21][22][23] who died later that year at age 66.[24]

Johnson was gay, and has been called "the best-known openly gay architect in America."[25] He came out publicly in 1993.[25]

In his will Johnson left his residential compound to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is now open to the public.

Art Collection and archives[edit]

As an art collector Johnson's eclectic eye supported avant-garde movements and young artists often before they became widely known. His collection of American art was strong in Abstract expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, Neo-Dada, Color Field, Lyrical Abstraction, and Neo-Expressionism and he often donated important works from his collection to institutions like MoMA, and other important private museums and University collections like the Norton Simon Museum, the Sheldon Museum of Art and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University among many others. [26]

Johnson's publicly held archive, including architectural drawings, project records, and other papers up until 1964 are held by the Drawings and Archives Department of Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, the Getty, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Controversy over early political views[edit]

From 1932 to 1940, Johnson openly sympathized with the extreme populist movements of Huey Long, Governor of Louisiana, and Father Charles Coughlin. As a correspondent for Coughlin's newspaper Social Justice, he made several trips to Germany, sympathetically covering the huge Nazi rally at Nuremburg and the German invasion of Poland in 1939. The American correspondent William Shirer who also covered the German invasion of Poland, noted his enthusiasm for the Germans and called him "The American fascist." However, there is no other evidence that he was a fascist or member of the Nazi Party. He actively helped refugees from Germany, including Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to emigrate and become established in the United States. He later described his activities in Germany as "stupid." He was embarrassed, many years after the war, when Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, who admired Johnson's work, sent a copy of his own book as a gift to Johnson.[27][28] The FBI investigated him for his past contacts with the German government but he was not found to be a threat and he served honorably in the military.[28][29][30] Regarding this period in his life, he later said, "I have no excuse (for) such unbelievable stupidity... I don't know how you expiate guilt."[31] In 1956, donated his design for a building of worship to what is now one of the country's oldest Jewish congregations, Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel in Port Chester, New York. According to one source "all critics agree that his design of the Port Chester Synagogue can be considered as his attempt to ask for forgiveness" [32] for his admitted "stupidity". The building, which stands today, is a "crisp juxtaposition of geometric forms" [33]

Quotations[edit]

  • " I got everything from someone. Nobody can be original. As Mies van der Rohe said, "I don't want to be original. I want to be good."[34]
  • "Don't build a glass house if you're worried about saving money on heating." [35]
  • "Everybody should design their own home. I'm against architects designing homes. How do I know that you want to live in a picture-window Colonial? It's silly, but you might want to. Who am I to say?"[35]
  • "Architecture is the arrangement of space for excitement".[35]
  • "Storms in this house (The Glass House) are horrendous but thrilling. Glass shatters. Danger is one of the greatest things to use in architecture."[35]
  • "A room is only as good as you feel when you're in it".[35]
  • "Merely that a building works is not sufficient." [36]
  • "We still have a monumental architecture. To me, the drive for monumentality is as inbred as the desire for food and sex, regardless of how we denigrate it." [37]

In popular culture[edit]

He is mentioned in the song "Thru These Architect's Eyes" on the album Outside (1995) by David Bowie.

He appears in Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect, a 2003 documentary about Kahn's father, Louis Kahn.[38]

Philip Johnson's Glass House, along with Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, was the subject of Sarah Morris's 2010 film Points on a Line. Morris filmed at both sites over the course of several months, among other locations including The Four Seasons Restaurant, the Seagram Building, Mies van der Roheʼs controversial 860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, and Chicagoʼs Newberry Library.

References[edit]

Notes and Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b Goldberger, Paul (May 23, 1979). "Philip Johnson Awarded $100.000 Pritzker Prize: Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  2. ^ New York Times obituary, "Philip Johnson, Architecture's Restless Intellect, dies at 98", by Paul Goldberger, January 27, 2005
  3. ^ Saint, Andrew (January 29, 2005). "Philip Johnson — Flamboyant Postmodern Architect Whose Career Was Marred by a Flirtation with Nazism". The Guardian. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Taschen 2016, p. 314.
  5. ^ New York Times obituary, January 27, 2005
  6. ^ *Schulze, Franz. Philip Johnson: Life and Work, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. Cited in New York Times obituary, January 27, 2005
  7. ^ a b New York Times Obituary, January 27, 2005
  8. ^ "PHILIP JOHNSON". IDS Ccenter. Ids-center.com. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  9. ^ Friedman, Alice T., Women and the Making of the Modern House, p 130, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press (2006), ISBN 978-0-300-11789-9, retrieved via Google Books on August 8, 2010
  10. ^ Alfirevic Djordje, Simonovic-Alfirevic Sanja. Interpretations of Space Within Space Concept in Contemporary Open-Plan Architecture / Primena koncepta prostor u prostoru u savremenoj arhitekturi otvorenog plana. Arhitektura i urbanizam (Belgrade), No.42 (2016), pp. 24–40.
  11. ^ a b New York Times obituary of Johnson by Paul Goldberger, January 27, 2005
  12. ^ Taschen 2106, p. 314.
  13. ^ "Seagram Building: Profile". Entertainment. New York Magazine. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Four Seasons & Brasserie Restaurants, Seagram Building, NYC". NYIT Architectural History. YouTube. May 4, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Taschen 2016, pp. 315-317.
  16. ^ a b New York Times obituary, January 27, 2005
  17. ^ a b Taschen 2016, pp. 314-317.
  18. ^ New York Times Obituary, january 27, 2005
  19. ^ New York Times Obituary, January 27, 2005
  20. ^ Pierce, Lisa, "Through the Looking Glass", August 1, 2010, pp 1, A4, The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut
  21. ^ Gutoff, Bija, "Philip Johnson: A Glass House Opens", at Apple website, no date given, retrieved August 8, 2010
  22. ^ Kennedy, Randy (June 14, 2005). "David Whitney, 66, Renowned Art Collector, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2009. 
  23. ^ Bourdon, David (May 1970). "What's Up in Art, The Castelli Clan". Life. Accessed June 9, 2010.
  24. ^ Glass House history chapter 1
  25. ^ a b George Haggerty, ed. (2000). Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia. 2. Taylor & Francis. p. 498. ISBN 9780815318804. 
  26. ^ Goldberger, Paul (January 27, 2005). "Philip Johnson Is Dead at 98; Architecture's Restless Intellect." New York Times, p. A1. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  27. ^ Stern, Robert A. M. (May 2005). "Philip Johnson: An Essay by Robert A.M. Stern". Architectural Record. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  28. ^ a b Wortman, Marc (April 4, 2016). "Famed Architect Philip Johnson's Hidden Nazi Past". Vanity Fair. New York, NY. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 
  29. ^ Varnelis, Kazys, Cornell University (November 1994). "We Cannot Not Know History: Philip Johnson's Politics and Cynical Survival". Journal of Architectural Education. Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Inc. 49 (2): 82–. doi:10.2307/1425400. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  30. ^ Varnelis, Kazys, Cornell University (November 1994). "We Cannot Not Know History: Philip Johnson's Politics and Cynical Survival". Journal of Architectural Education. Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Inc. 49 (2): 82–. doi:10.2307/1425400. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  31. ^ Varnelis, Kazys (November 1994). "We Cannot Know History — Philip Johnson's Politics and Cynical Survival". Journal of Architectural Education. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  32. ^ Geva, Anat. "An Architect Asks For Forgiveness: Philip Johnson's Port Chester Synagogue" (PDF). Symposium of Architecture, Culture and Spirituality. ACS Forum. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  33. ^ Stolzman, Henry. Synagogue Architecture in America: Faith, Spirit & Identity. 
  34. ^ Philip Johnson: What I've Learned,"Esquire magazine, originally published February 1999
  35. ^ a b c d e "Esquire magazine, February 1999
  36. ^ From1954 lecture at Harvard University, titled "The Seven Crutches of Modern Architecture," cited in the New York Times obituary. January 2005.
  37. ^ cited in New York Times obituary, January 2005
  38. ^ "Film and Architecture 'My Architect'". Retrieved June 24, 2015. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Schulze, Franz. Philip Johnson: Life and Work, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  • Bony, Anne (2012). L'Architecture Moderne (in French). Larousse. ISBN 978-2-03-587641-6. 
  • Taschen, Aurelia and Balthazar (2016). L'Architecture Moderne de A à Z (in French). Bibliotheca Universalis. ISBN 978-3-8365-5630-9. 
  • Prina, Francesca; Demaratini, Demartini (2006). Petite encyclopédie de l'architecture (in French). Solar. ISBN 2-263-04096-X. 
  • Hopkins, Owen (2014). Les styles en architecture- guide visuel (in French). Dunod. ISBN 978-2-10-070689-1. 
  • De Bure, Gilles (2015). Architecture contemporaine- le guide (in French). Flammarion. ISBN 978-2-08-134385-6. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]