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Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Philip Johnson, Elder Statesman of U.S. Architecture, Dies at 98
I grew up with the specter of Philip Johnson, Frank Lloyd Wright and others around our house as a kid. My Dad was nominated for the Pritzker Prize one year.

Philip Johnson may have been a son of a gun, but he left a real legacy to both the art and the business model of architecture and large architectural firms.
posted by Broadsheet @ 5:08 PM  
10 Editorial Opinions:
  • At January 26, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    Elder Statesman my ass... Philip Johnson was the Caillebotte of the International Movement, except without the talent... while I'm never happy to see anyone die, at his best Johnson just ripped off van der Rohe and Corbusier, and at his worst he was a PoMo who was in a unique position to know better.

    It's more of a milestone because he was the last of the original members of the IM alive. Frank Lloyd Wright had more talent in his toenail than Johnson ever had. Johnson is exactly the sort of architect I was always terrified to become (you know, instead of the type I ACTUALLY became...).

     
  • At January 26, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    I totally agree with you - so would my Dad, I assure you. But the guy left a big mark. It's kind of like the argument we had with Campbell re: MLK. May not like the person's application of their talent - but the talent cannot be denied. Johnson made an impact - for better or for worse.

     
  • At January 26, 2005, Blogger Broadsheet said…

    PS And I think that Johnson's legacy as it regards the business model for large architectural firms is concerned, is really what he's known for in the architecural world. He took architecture from the "mom & pop" partnerships to multi-city, mult-national corporations.

     
  • At January 27, 2005, Blogger Jen said…

    Was he the glass house guy? I seem to remember some sort of gimmickyness associated with him.

     
  • At January 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yeah - that's him. I agree with Jwer's comment, but you can't dismiss his presence and the impact it had on Modernism and American Architecture just cause he wasn't a likeable guy who designed some quesitonable buildings. There's an excellent obit in the NYT today.

     
  • At January 27, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    Johnson designed the Glass House, yes, a very slight rework of van der Rohe's Farnsworth house. He could also be called to task for shilling the International School as he did, especially since said school is now widely out of favor.

    I never thought it made much sense to group van der Rohe, Corbu, and Wright, anyway; only two of them were building severe boxes, and only two of them (not the same two) ever had any commissions... the other was just a giant gasbag. Funny that he's the one that Johnson most styled himself after.

     
  • At January 27, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    ...not only that, but who said architecture SHOULD be run as a multi-national concern? I gotta say, I'll take Mt Vernon over the Reagan International Trade building any damn day of the week.

     
  • At January 27, 2005, Blogger Mark said…

    I have to say it didn't take much for me to get my fill of Johnson way back when in design school.

    In fact, I seem to recall confusing the Mies and Phil glass casas in a freshman history course (in which, thankfully, the multiple-choice tests precluded the necessity of recollecting the proper spelling of "Alvar Aalto").

    I'm minutes from heading out the door and drinking with a couple coworkers who make their living architecting gut rehab rowhomes in east Baltimore. I'm gonna bet that they don't have much time for Phil, either.

    In slight defense of IM, I have to say I sort of got it once I finally visited Europe, where the old/new yin/yang made sense. But the SOMsters (that's Same Old Modernists, right???) didn't know or care that it wouldn't look quite the same mirrored twenty times over all the way up 5th Avenue.

    Side note on Wright: it's just another Usonian, but Cedar Rock in eastern IA is a very pleasant visit. It's run as a state park, so it's very low key and it gives you the chance to reflect on the pure beauty of the Indian name of the adjacent river, "Wapsipinicon."

    As for Corbu, well, the willfully eclectic new townhouses east of the Baltimore Brewing Company may be cheesy, but they beat the hell out of the old tower blocks there that were his legacy. I do have a little soft spot for the Ronchamp church, though, if only because it was the clear inspiration for Iowa State's Stephens Auditorium -- which structurally beats the living shit out of the Meyerhoff -- where I was serving dinner to 38 Special, REM, John Fogerty and UB40 when I wasn't studying for those design tests.

     
  • At January 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gonna side with Linda on the topic of Johnson. The man had talent, if poorly applied and, let's face it, chutzpah.

    As for Mies, however original, I think it matters that he whored himself to the Nazis--see the book, "Architects of Fortune." Doesn't diminish the talent but does diminish the "greatness" of his overall legacy.

    Meanwhile, I didn't know dad's firm was nominated for the Prizker, I just thought he was the guy who built stuff for us when we needed it and busted my ass when Mom was too tired for the task. ;)

    The Sister

     
  • At February 01, 2005, Blogger jwer said…

    I was apprised of this contrary opinion several drinks ago, so, mea culpas in advance, but: Johnson's talent was in self-promotion; I don't intend to diminish his achievements in furthering the craft, but his best work was hopelessly derivative, and, when boiled down, his best asset was being To The Manor Born. Yes, van der Rohe had ties to Nazis, but I drive a '73 Mercedes, so I'm likely to cut a little slack there; every non-Jewish German in the 40's was at least slightly complicit in the Third Reich, or they were dead.

    Also, Johnson was an irretrievable wanker. There, I've said it.

     
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