Philip Johnson was a well-known American architect, and his postmodern work is especially well-known. “Wit, ornament, and reference” are coming back to architecture, which is what “postmodern architecture” means. Because he cared so much about architecture, he made promoting it his life’s work. He did this through his works, writings, and words. Even though he wasn’t the father of modern architecture, he was without a doubt the best child of it. He took architecture to new heights, and both his work and his popularity grew as a result. He worked with Mies van der Rohe and John Burgee, two of the best architects in the world. Some of the wealthiest people in New York were among his clients. They hired him to design their homes. He kept the Glass House for himself because it was his best work. His house had a lot of architectural essays that were his signature style. Many of the most famous buildings in the world, like the “Sony Building,” “Momentum Place,” “IDS Center,” the “National Center for Performing Arts” in Mumbai, and the “Crystal Cathedral,” have his name on them. He was called “the best openly gay architect in America,” and he worked with David Whitney, a gallery owner, for more than 45 years. His combination of art, minimalism, and functional aesthetics made him a kingmaker who brought architecture out of the shadows and put it on the world, which has never looked the same since.
Early years and childhood
On July 8, 1906, Philip Cortelyou Johnson was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His father worked as a lawyer. He was one of his parents’ four children and the only son.
He was a member of the New Amsterdam Jansen family. One of his ancestors was Jacques Cortelyou, a Huguenot who made the first plan for the city of New Amsterdam.
He went to Hackley School in New York when he was young. He did well in school, and in 1923, he didn’t even have to take an exam to get into Harvard. He learned about history and philosophy at Harvard.
Both of Philip Johnson’s parents came from wealthy families, so he was destined to inherit a huge amount of money. In 1924, his father gave him a large part of his wealth. Philip’s sisters got money, and he bought shares of Alcoa. With the money he got from his inheritance, he was able to live for himself.
During this time, he was figuring out his sexuality and often took time off from Harvard to travel around Europe. During these trips, he began to become interested in architecture.
Philip Johnson’s Career
During his travels, Johnson was amazed by how well many old buildings were put together. In 1928, when he met the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, he became even more interested in architecture. Both went on to be friends, partners, and rivals for the rest of their lives.
In 1932, he took over the “Department of Architecture” at New York’s “Museum of Modern Art” (MoMA). Henry-Russell Hitchcock, a historian and critic who taught him about architecture, took him on a tour of Europe and helped him make a show called “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition.” Then, they wrote “The International Style: Modern Architecture Since 1922” together.
In 1934, he tried his hand at journalism and politics during the Great Depression. He wrote about the invasion of Poland in 1939 and went to Germany to see the Nuremberg Rallies. He went back to the United States, joined the army, and fought in World War II.
He went to the “Harvard School of Design” to study architecture and got a “B.Arch.” in 1943. One of his teachers was the well-known architect Marcel Breuer, who was born in Hungary. His mentor, however, was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
He went back to MoMA and was put in charge of the department of architecture. He did this job from 1946 to 1954. This job helped him tell the world about modern architecture.
He was very self-centered, and in 1949 he built his home, called “The Glass House,” in New Canaan, Connecticut. The design was simple and made of glass and steel panels. It had a kitchen, a dining area, and a bedroom.
He made the “Knees Tifereth” Israel in Port Chester, New York, to make up for the fact that he was a Nazi sympathizer. It was built in 1956 and is one of the oldest Jewish groups in the United States.
He worked on the “Seagram Building” with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1958). He worked in this 39-story building for Phyllis Lambert, who is the daughter of the Seagram CEO. This building changed the direction of his career, and he started getting more projects.
He joined the “National Academy of Design” as an associate member in 1961, and then as a full member in 1963.
Johnson used curved lines and historical quotes in an art gallery in Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., in 1963, and he did the same thing in the “IDS center” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1973.
In 1984, he made what is now called the “Sony Building,” which was AT&T’s main building. At the time, it was controversial because of its neo-Georgian pediment and its bold modernist style.
He kept making designs well into the 21st century and left his mark on a huge number of famous buildings and architectural marvels.
Works of note
The “Glass House,” also called the “Johnson House,” is a 56-by-32-foot historic house museum that was built on his estate. It was one of many projects he worked on. It is a very important project for modern architecture, and it shows how smart and postmodern Johnson is.
Philip Johnson and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe worked together to design the inside of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue. The building is a beautiful and perfectly functional work of art. He also designed the building’s restaurants, “The Four Seasons” and “Brasserie.”
Awards & Achievements
In 1978, he was given the Gold Medal by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). It is the highest honor of the institute and was given to him as a reward for his whole body of work.
He was the first person to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was given out in 1979. People sometimes call it “the Nobel Prize of architecture.”
In 1987, he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Houston.
Personal History and Legacies
Philip Johnson came out as gay in 1993. For most of his early life, he had trouble with being gay. David Whitney, who ran an art gallery and was also a curator, was married to Johnson for life. Before he died, they had been together for 45 years.
He was raised in a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) family, which made him anti-Semitic, anti-black, and disrespectful of women. Later, he moved away from these ideas, and many of his clients were from the same groups he used to avoid.
On January 25, 2005, he died of natural causes at the age of 98. At the time of his death, he was living in his Glass House retreat, where he had lived since 1960. David, his partner, died on June 12, 2005, when he was 66 years old.
Estimated Net worth
Philip Johnson is one of the wealthiest architects and is on the list of the most well-known architects. Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider all say that Philip Johnson has a net worth of about $5 million.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation runs the Philip Johnson Glass House, which is open to the public.