Wednesday, January 26, 2005


[NYT]: Philip Johnson, at once the elder statesman and the enfant terrible of American architecture, died yesterday at the Glass House, the celebrated estate he built for himself in New Canaan, Conn., said David Whitney, his companion of 45 years. He was 98 years old.

Often considered the dean of American architects, Mr. Johnson was known less for his individual buildings than for the sheer force of his presence on the architectural scene, which he served as a combination godfather, gadfly, scholar, patron, critic, curator and cheerleader. His 90th birthday, in July 1996, was marked by symposiums, lectures, an outpouring of essays in his honor and back-to-back dinners at two venerable New York institutions he had played a major role in creating: the Museum of Modern Art, whose department of architecture and design he joined in 1930, and the Four Seasons Restaurant, which he designed as part of the Seagram Building in 1958.

Mr. Johnson was the first winner of the Pritzker Prize, the $100,000 award established in 1979 by the Pritzker family of Chicago to honor an architect of international stature. In 1978, he won the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects, the highest award the American architectural profession bestows on any of its members.

His long career was a study in contradictions. For all his honors, Mr. Johnson was in some ways always an outsider in his profession. His own architecture received mixed reviews, and frequently startled both the public and his fellow architects. The style of his work changed frequently, and he was often accused of pandering to fashion and designing buildings that were facile and shallow.

Yet he created several buildings, including the Glass House, the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, that are widely considered among the architectural masterworks of the 20th century, and for his entire career he maintained an involvement with architectural theory and ideas as deep as that of any scholar.
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 1983 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 in Houston, which recapitulated the setback forms of a romantic 1920's tower in glass, perhaps his finest skyscraper; and the PPG Center in Pittsburgh, a reflective glass tower whose Gothic form copied the shape of the tower of the Houses of Parliament in London.

Glass House
New Canaan, Connecticut
Philip Johnson
1979 Pritzker Prize Laureate

[BLOOMBERG]: Johnson was born in Cleveland, on July 8, 1906, to Homer, an attorney, and Louise Pope Johnson. After attending Harvard College, he traveled to Italy, Greece and Egypt and was mesmerized by important pieces of architecture, often moving him to tears. He said the Parthenon gave him a ``call'' to architecture.

His friend Alfred Barr named Johnson curator of the architecture department at the new Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan in the 1930s. With Hitchcock, Johnson toured Europe, studying modernist architecture.

In 1932, Johnson coordinated ``Modern Architecture,'' probably the most influential 20th century architecture exhibit. The exhibit and the subsequent book ``The International Style,'' introduced simple European avant-garde modern architecture to the U.S. and influenced the construction of tall, boxy glass and steel buildings.

AT&T Headquarters (Now the Sony Building), 1958
560 Madison Avenue (at 56th Street)
New York, NY
Philip Johnson
1979 Pritzker Prize Laureate
"Philip Johnson's design for the AT&T Headquarters (now the Sony Building) in New York City was the most controversial of his career. This otherwise sleek skyscraper, built in the International Style, was adorned with a baroque pediment that was scornfully described as the "Chippendale" top. Today, the AT&T Headquarters is often cited as a masterpiece of postmodernism."

[CNN]: 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."

Lipstick Building
885 Third Avenue (at 53rd Street)
New York City

The New York Times -- Arts > Art & Design > Philip Johnson, Elder Statesman of U.S. Architecture, Dies at 98


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