2005-01-25

Award-winning architect PHILIP JOHNSON died. Born Philip Cortelyou Johnson in 1906. With his trademark thick, round-framed glasses, Johnson was the most recognizable figure in American architecture for decades. In addition to his many large projects, Johnson produced dozens of small works over his long career, on paper and built.

In 1930, he founded the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA and later (1978), as a trustee, he was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and the first Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 1979. He was a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

With Henry-Russell Hitchcock he wrote The International Style: Architecture Since 1922 (1932), which provided a description of (and also a label for) post-World War I modern architecture. In 1940 Johnson returned to Harvard (B.Arch., 1943), where he studied architecture with Marcel Breuer.

His real mentor, however, was Ludwig Mies can der Rohe, with whom he worked on the widely-praised Seagram Building in New York City (1958). After WWII Johnson returned to MoMA as director of the architecture department from 1946 to 1954. His influential monograph Mies van der Rohe was published in 1947

Johnson’s reputation was further enlarged by the design of his own residence, known as the Glass House, at New Canaan, Connecticut (1949). The house, which is notable for its severely simple rectilinear structure and its use of large glass panels as walls, owed much to the precise, minimalist aesthetic of Mies van der Rohe but also alluded to the work of 18th- and 19th-century architects. (In addition to the Glass House, Johnson’s New Canaan estate featured a number of other structures, including an art gallery and a sculpture pavilion. He later donated the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in 2007 it was opened to the public.)

When Johnson died in January 2005, he was survived by his long-time life partner David Whitney, who died only a few months later on June 12, 2005.