Happy birthday Philip Johnson!

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Philip Johnson (July 8, 1906 — January 25, 2005) was an American architect. He founded the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Some of his best known works include the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, as well as the Seagram Building and the AT&T Corporate Headquarters in New York.

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Johnson was born Philip Cortelyu in Cleveland, Ohio, descended from some of the first urban planners of what is now New York City, when it was still New Amsterdam. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate, studying history and philosophy. During his time in university, he took breaks to travel to Europe, where he saw many ruins and developed an appreciation for architecture.

In 1928, he met architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The meeting was pivotal for Johnson, forming the foundation for collaboration throughout his career.

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In 1930, he became the founder and director of the Department of Architecture and Design of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was during his time there that he had his first major exhibition. He collaborated with his friends Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and Henry-Russell Hitchcock for an exhibition called "The International Style: Architecture Since 1922" at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition was a landmark, exposing American architects to a style that favored function and structure over decoration. "The International Style" would become a beacon for American architecture over the next half century. It can be seen in the Seagram Building, for which he collaborated with Mies van der Rohe, as well as his Glass House.

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The Seagram Building

The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut—Johnson's own residence—was extremely influential. It's design was derived from the concepts of transparency, reflection, proportions, and minimalism. It is now open for tours as a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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When he was 34 years old he returned to his alma mater to study architecture.

By 1967, Johnson was hugely well established, and formed a partnership with fellow big name architect John Burgee. Together, they signed high-profile deals and designed such buildings as the Minneapolis IDS Center, the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, and the corporate headquarters of Pittsburgh Plate Glass.

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The Glass Cathedral

 

Johnson's style evolved in 1984 with the design of AT&T's corporate headquarters in New York. It's use of materials purely for ornamental value was in direct opposition to the tenets of the International Style. The building, one of the most overt manifestations of the Postmodern aesthetic, was initially controversial. Its top was seen as an assault on everything known in American architecture.

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AT&T's corporate headquarters

Other notable works by Johnson include the New York State Theater (renamed David H. Koch Theater) at Lincoln Center, the Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C., the Fort Worth Water Gardens, in Fort Worth, Texas, The Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture in Houston, Texas, and many others.

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The David H. Koch Theatre

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Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C

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Fort Worth Water Gardens. Photo credit: James Brandon

 

Johnson won the first lifetime achievement Pritzker Architecture Prize as well as a Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 08 July 2014
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