Philip Johnson

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Works Philip Johnson House, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1942 to 1943.
Johnson House, "The Glass House", at New Caanan, Connecticut, 1949.
John de Menil House, at Houston, Texas, 1950.
Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III Guest House, at New York, New York, 1950.
Hodgson House, at New Canaan, Connecticut, 1951.  (with Landis Gores)
Oneto House, at Irvington, New York, 1951.  (with Landis Gores)
Nuclear Reactor, at Rehovot, Israel, 1960 to 1964.
Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, at Fort Worth, Texas, 1961.
Museum for Pre-Columbian Art, Dumbarton Oaks, at Washington, D.C., 1963.
Kline Geology Laboratory, at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1965.  (with Richard Foster)
New York State Theater, Lincoln Center, at New York, New York, 1964.  (with Richard Foster)
Epidemiology and Public Healh Building, at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1965.
Kline Science Center, at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 1965.  (with Richard Foster)
Henry L. Moses Institute, Montefiore Hospital, at Bronx, New York, 1965.
Bielefeld Art Gallery, at Bielefeld, Germany, 1968.
John F. Kennedy Memorial, at Dallas, Texas, 1970.
Philip Johnson Sculpture Gallery, at New Canaan, Connecticut, 1970.
Albert and Vera List Art Building, at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 1972.
Tisch Hall, at New York University, New York, New York, 1972.  (with Richard Foster)
Andre and Bella Meyer Hall of Physics (facade), at New York University, New York, 1972.  (with Richard Foster)
Pennzoil Place, at Houston, Texas, 1976.  (Johnson-Burgee)
Garden Grove Church (the Crystal Cathedral), at Garden Grove, Los Angeles, California, 1978 to 1980.  (Johnson-Burgee)
AT&T Building (now Sony), at New York, New York, 1980 to 1984.  (Johnson-Burgee)
Museum of Television and Radio, at West 52nd Street, New York, New York.
1 Central Park West, New York, New York.  (with Alan Richie)

see also Johnson-Burgee

      map of works


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Philip Johnson

(b. Cleveland, Ohio, July 8, 1906; d. New Canaan, Connecticut, January 25, 2005)

Philip Johnson was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906. He received an A. B. in architectural history from Harvard University in 1930 and upon graduation became the Director of the Department of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In 1932 he co-directed the Modern Architecture exhibition at MOMA which introduced European modern architecture to a wide American audience. Building on the MOMA show, Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock codified the principles of modern architecture in the book The International Style: Architecture since 1922 . During the 1930s, Johnson used his personal wealth to champion the cause of many modern architects most notably Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

In 1940 Johnson returned to Harvard's Graduate School of Design where he trained under Marcel Breuer. He received a B.Arch in 1943 and practised architecture in Cambridge, Massachusetts until 1946, when he moved back to New York to serve as Director of Architecture at MOMA. He worked with Richard Foster from 1964 to 1967 and with John Burgee from 1967 until his retirement. He became a trustee of MOMA in 1958, received the AIA Gold Medal in 1978, and received the Pritzker Architecture prize in 1979.

As an architect, Johnson is most widely respected for his work in the early 1950s while still under the influence of Mies Van Der Rohe. However, he altered his architectural principles from Modernist to Post-Modernist to anti-Post Modernist at will. This has led to the criticism that he showed more interest in style than in substance. He will probably be remembered more as a stimulator of ideas than as a designer.

Dennis Sharp. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Architects and Architecture. New York: Quatro Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-2539-X. NA40.I45. p83-84.

"Toward the end of his life, Johnson went public with some private matters -- his homosexuality and his past as a disciple of Hitler-style fascism. On the latter, he said he spent much time in Berlin in the 1930s and became "fascinated with power," but added he did not consider that an excuse.

""I have no excuse (for) such utter, unbelievable stupidity. ... I don't know how you expiate guilt," he says.

"He blamed his homosexuality for causing a nervous breakdown while he was a student at Harvard and said that in 1977 he asked the New Yorker magazine to omit references to it in a profile, fearing he might lose the AT&T commission, which he called "the job of my life."

"In the 1950s, Johnson reflected on his career and what he hoped to achieve.

""I like the thought that what we are to do on this earth is embellish it for its greater beauty," he said, "so that oncoming generations can look back to the shapes we leave here and get the same thrill that I get in looking back at theirs -- at the Parthenon, at Chartres Cathedral.""

— "Celebrated architect Philip Johnson dies at 98", Associated Press story at CNN, 2005.0126

"In the late 1950's, just after he had collaborated with Mies on the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, he introduced elements of classical architecture into his buildings, beginning a long quest to find ways of connecting contemporary architecture to historical form. It was a quest that would begin with highly abstracted versions of Classicism in the 1960's and culminate in a much more literal use of the architectural forms of the past in his revivalist skyscrapers of the 1980's.

"That phase of Mr. Johnson's career included such well-known monuments as the classically detailed pink-granite AT&T Building (now the Sony building) on Madison Avenue, which he completed in 1984 with John Burgee, then his partner; the Republic Bank tower (now NCNB Center) in Houston, which used elements of Flemish Renaissance architecture; the Transco Tower (now the Williams Tower) in Houston, which recapitulated the setback forms of a romantic 1920's tower in glass, perhaps his finest skyscraper; and the PPG Place in Pittsburgh, a reflective glass tower whose Gothic form copied the shape of the tower of the Houses of Parliament in London. ...

"Mr. Johnson, an urbane, elegant figure, was perhaps the most socially prominent New York architect since Stanford White. Born to wealth, he and Mr. Whitney, a curator and art dealer, lived well, for many years in a town house on East 52nd Street that Mr. Johnson had originally designed as a guest house for John D. Rockefeller 3d, then in an elaborately decorated apartment in Museum Tower above the Museum of Modern Art and always on weekends in the famous Glass House compound.

"Mr. Johnson had lunch daily amid other prominent and powerful New Yorkers at a special table in the corner of the Grill Room of the Four Seasons. His guest was likely to be a young architect in whose work he had taken an interest, and for years his table functioned as a kind of miniature architectural salon."

— Paul Goldberger, "Philip Johnson Is Dead at 98; Architecture's Restless Intellect", New York Times, 2005.0127.

The Creator's Words

"Merely that a building works is not sufficient." - 1954

"I would rather sleep in Chartres Cathedral with the nearest toilet two blocks away than in a Harvard house with back-to-back bathrooms."

"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. ...

"Monuments differ in different periods. Each age has its own. ...

"Maybe, just maybe, we shall at last come to care for the most important, most challenging, surely the most satisfying of all architectural creations: building cities for people to live in."


Philip Cortelyou Johnson, son of Homer H. Johnson, a wealthy lawyer, and Louise Pope Johnson

Fellow, American Institute of Architects, 1963
AIA Gold Medal, 1978

Recipient of the first Pritzker Architecture Prize, 1979.

Resources Sources on Philip Johnson

"Celebrated architect Philip Johnson dies at 98" Associated Press story at CNN, 2005.0126.

Paul Goldberger, "Philip Johnson Is Dead at 98; Architecture's Restless Intellect", New York Times, 2005.0127.   Find books about Philip Johnson

Search the RIBA architecture library catalog for more references on Philip Johnson

Web Resources Links on Philip Johnson

Philip Johnson Pritzker PrizeSeveral pages of good background information, at the Pritzker Prize site.

Philip Johnson at ArchiplanetFind, add, and edit info at the all-buildings collaboration

Google    Search the web for Philip Johnson

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