Philip Johnson, Living in a Glass House

(1906-2005)

Side portrait of architect Philip Johnson in his office August 15, 1998 in New York City.
Philip Johnson in his office, New York City, August 1998. Photo by Evan Kafka/Liaison / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Philip Johnson was a museum director, writer, and, most notably, an architect known for his unconventional designs. His work embraced many influences, from the neoclassicism of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and to the modernism of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Background:

Born: July 8, 1906 in Cleveland, Ohio

Died: January 25, 2005

Full Name: Philip Cortelyou Johnson

Education:

  • 1930: Architectural History, Harvard University
  • 1943: Architecture, Harvard University

Selected Projects:

Important Ideas:

Quotes, In the Words of Philip Johnson:

  • Create beautiful things. That's all.
  • Architecture is surely not the design of space, certainly not the massing or organizing of volumes. These are auxiliary to the main point, which is the organization of procession. Architecture exists only in time.
  • Architecture is the art of how to waste space.
  • All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the person in that space.
  • Why reinvent the spoon?
  • The only test for architecture is to build a building, go inside and let it wrap itself around you.

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    More About Philip Johnson:

    After graduation from Harvard in 1930, Philip Johnson became the first Director of the Department of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1932-1934 and 1945-1954). He coined the term International Style and introduced the work of modern European architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier to America. He would later collaborate with Mies van der Rohe on what is considered the most superb skyscraper in North America, the Seagram Building in New York City (1958).

    Johnson returned to Harvard University in 1940 to study architecture under Marcel Breuer. For his master degree thesis, he designed a residence for himself, the now famous Glass House (1949), which has been called one of the world's most beautiful and yet least functional homes.

    Philip Johnson's buildings were luxurious in scale and materials, featuring expansive interior space and a classical sense of symmetry and elegance. These same traits epitomized corporate America's dominant role in world markets in prominent skyscrapers for such leading companies as AT&T (1984), Pennzoil (1976) and Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (1984).

    In 1979, Philip Johnson was honored with the first Pritzker Architecture Prize in recognition of "50 years of imagination and vitality embodied in a myriad of museums, theaters, libraries, houses, gardens and corporate structures."

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