b. July 8, 1906
d. January 25, 2005
"The job of the architect today is to create beautiful buildings. That's all."
Proportion, minimalism and geometry were elements Philip Johnson combined to create his masterpieces, which include iconic New York buildings. It seemed destined that Johnson, the descendant of Huguenot Jacques Cortelyou, who designed the town plan of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York), would leave an indelible mark on the city.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Johnson studied philosophy and history at Harvard. His education was regularly interrupted by long trips to Europe where he saw architecture that influenced his designs.
At New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), he co-curated an exhibition that tracked recent trends in building. The show, "The International Style: Architecture Since 1922," included Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and provided the official introduction of modern architecture to the United States.
During the Great Depression, Johnson pursued a career in journalism abroad. He subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Army. After his military service, Johnson enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he realized his passion for architecture.
Philip Johnson's work is characterized by innovation. In a career spanning almost 60 years, he developed a reputation for flexibility and foresight.
Johnson founded the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA and served as a trustee of the museum. He was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1978) and the first-ever Pritzker Architecture Prize (1979).
The Glass House (1949), which he designed for himself, is a modest 56-foot-by-32-foot rectangle with exterior walls made almost entirely of glass. The building, in New Canaan, Connecticut, incorporates the bucolic setting as an integral part of the home's ambiance.
His other seminal works are the New York State Pavilion for the World's Fair (1964), MoMA's east wing and sculpture garden (1964), Pennzoil Place in Houston (1975), and the Sony Building in New York City (1984).
The architect shared the last 40 years of his life with his partner, David Whitney, who died only months after Johnson.
Goldberger, Paul. “Philip Johnson, Architecture’s Restless Intellect, Dies at 98.” The New York Times. January 27, 2005
Lacayo, Richard. “Splendor in the Grass.” Time. June 28, 2007
“Philip Johnson.” Legacy. July 2, 2008
Stern, Robert A.M. “Philip Johnson.” Architectural Record. July 2, 2008
Filler, Martin. “ART; The Architect of a Master Builder’s Store of Art.” The New York Times. June 2, 1996
Mason, Christopher. “Behind the Glass Wall.” The New York Times. June 7, 2007
Smith, Roberta. “ART REVIEW; Philip Johnson and the Modern: A Loving Marriage.” The New York Times. June 7, 1996
“Times Topics: Philip Johnson.” The New York Times.
The Glass House (1949)
Trump International Hotel and Tower (1971)
IDS Tower (1973)
Pennzoil Place (1975)
Crystal Cathedral (1980)
Wells Fargo Center (1983)
One PPG Place (1984)
Sony Building (1984)
Puerta de Europa (1996)
The Urban Glass House (2006)
American Masters: Philip Johnson