Architectural approach and 6 iconic works of Philip Johnson

AI Creative Challenge 4.0_ Winner01

Become A Digital Member

Subscribe only for €3.99 per month.
Cancel anytime!

Advance your design skills

join PAACADEMY’s online workshops to learn more about parametric and computational design

Philip Johnson with models
Philip Johnson with models © Bettmann via Getty Images

Philip Johnson (Philip Cortelyou Johnson), an American architect and critic born on July 8, 1906, and died on January 25, 2005, rose to prominence as an advocate for the International Style before defining postmodern architecture. One of his ancestors, Jacques Corteau, was a French Calvinist who developed the master plan for the largest colony of Peter Stuyvesant’s New Amsterdam.

He was raised in New London, Ohio, and was diagnosed with cyclothymia and stuttering at an early age. After graduating from Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, he went on to earn a degree in philosophy at Harvard University in 1930. That same year, he traveled to Europe, including Germany, which was home to his family’s summer estate. Together with architectural historian Henry Russell Hitchcock, he introduced Americans to modernists such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. His appointment as the director of the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) Department of Architecture took place in 1932.

Portrait of Philip posing with a model of his newly designed AT&T Building, May 1978. As reproduced in Philip Johnson: A Visual Biography via Phaidon
Portrait of Philip posing with a model of his newly designed AT&T Building, May 1978. As reproduced in Philip Johnson: A Visual Biography via Phaidon

Henry Russell Hitchcock and Johnson wrote a book called The International Style: Architecture, which defined what happened in architecture after the First World War. In 1940, Johnson returned to Harvard to study architecture with Marcel Breuer. He collaborated with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on the highly acclaimed Seagram Building in New York City (1958), who served as his true mentor.

Johnson’s own home in New Canaan, Connecticut, known as the Glass House, contributed to his increased notoriety in 1949. The Glass House, a simple building with expansive glass panels, influenced Mies’ style and that of 18th—and 19th-century architects. The National Trust for Historic Preservation received Johnson’s estate as a donation.

Fort Worth Water Gardens by John Burgee, Philip Johnson (1974)
Fort Worth Water Gardens by John Burgee, Philip Johnson (1974)

In 1956, Temple Kneses Tifereth Israel opened its doors to worshippers in Port Chester, New York. This marked the beginning of the 1950s, when the relationship between Miesian inspiration and historical allusion changed, oscillating over time. The AT&T Building in New York City and the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston, constructed based on designs by Claude Nicolas Ledoux in the 18th century, are some instances of Johnson’s postmodern architectural style.

Johnson was honored with the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1978, the first Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979, and many more accolades throughout his long life in design, well beyond the 21st century.

Let’s take a look at some of his most recognizable projects. The following is a brief overview of six well-known projects that Philip Johnson designed:

The Glass House

The Glass House
© Simon Garcia

Year: 1949
Location: New Canaan, Connecticut, United States

A historic home museum in New Canaan, Connecticut, is called the Glass House (also known as the Johnson House). Johnson and his visitors originally resided in the 56-foot-long, 32-foot-wide, and 10.5-foot-high Glass House. The house stands out for having a very straightforward rectilinear design and using big glass panels for walls. The exterior is composed of glass and steel coated in charcoal, with a brick floor located 10 inches above the ground.

The open interior is divided by modest walnut cabinets; the only thing that reaches the floor to the ceiling is a brick cylinder that houses the bathroom. According to the New York Times, his “signature work” is the Glass House.

Seagram Building

Seagram Building

Year: 1958
Location: Manhattan, New York, United States

Designed by Philip Johnson and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Seagram Building is a skyscraper located at 375 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. The 38-story, 515-foot (157-meter) International Style edifice was finished in 1958 and stands in stark contrast to the plaza’s expansive granite surface below. Sheathed in glass and bronze, this elegant skyscraper is a textbook example of a rectilinear prism.

To improve the vertical articulation of the structure and reinforce the skin for installation and wind loading, welded vertical components were added to window panels. Johnson was in charge of designing the opulent interior, which was made to blend in with the facade’s aesthetic.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza

John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza
Tripadvisor

Year: 1970
Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Built in Dallas, Texas, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial honors US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It was dedicated in 1970. The open tomb is a minimalist piece of art that represents President Kennedy’s liberation. It is made up of a simple, open-air, square granite edifice that is meant to evoke reflection and solemnity. There are 72 white pre-cast concrete columns in the square, open space; some of them seem to float without any apparent support.

A force that cannot be seen, known as a magnetic force, holds the columns together. The Kennedy assassination can be explored at the sixth-floor museum at Dealey Plaza, which was originally designed as a place for contemplation and commemoration.

Thanksgiving Square

Thanksgiving Square

Year: 1976
Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thanksgiving Square is a public park and amenity located in Dallas that represents unity and spiritual meditation. A church building and a planted garden are two of the noteworthy characteristics. The Square, which is 15 feet below ground, has planted gardens, a tranquil green island with water elements, and areas for reflection that encourage thankfulness and tranquility. Thanksgiving Square’s Chapel of Thanksgiving, with granite markers quoting scripture from various religions, is a spiritual center open to people of all faiths. Under the church is the Hall of Thanksgiving, which is used as an exhibition area. Thanksgiving Square is decorated with stained glass, mosaics, engraving, and graphic art on its walls and windows.

550 Madison Avenue

550 Madison Avenue
© Marshall Gerometta/CTBUH

Year: 1984
Location: Manhattan, New York, United States

550 Madison Avenue (formerly known as the AT&T building) is a postmodern skyscraper located on Madison Avenue in New York City. The structure is a 37-story office tower with a pink granite front, which is 647 feet (197 meters) to the top. At the top is a broken pediment, then a common atrium helps it rise freely without barriers along the way, arcades, and a big entrance arch. While the retail sections surround the lobby on the ground floor, the upper one opens to office levels. There was a sharp contrast between the granite exterior and arched entry and the modern skyscrapers that existed during that period. An annex that was shorter than the four stories of granite that were replaced in early 2020 had been built towards the west.

One Atlantic Center

One Atlantic Center

Year: 1987
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

One Atlantic Center, also known as IBM Tower, is situated in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia. This 50-story-high, magnificent tower is inspired by Chicago’s Tribune Tower right from its base. Spanish granite in a rose hue covers the building’s facade, which ends in a copper pyramid with a gold summit. Gothic accents can be seen throughout the design, most notably beneath the building’s copper roof and its ornate foundation, which features arched windows, a Gothic balustrade, and corbels. The peaks and ridges along the summit are brilliantly lit at night, casting an imposing presence and luminous effect on the city’s skyline.

References 1 2 3 4 5

Share with a friend:
Courses:

Learn about parametric and computational from the online courses at the PAACADEMY:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become A Digital Member

Subscribe only for €3.99 per month. Cancel anytime!

Weekly Newsletter in Your Inbox

Explore More

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter