Philip Johnson: The Constancy of Change

Philip Johnson: The Constancy of Change

by Emmanuel J. Petit
     
 

Essays by Beatriz Colomina, Peter Eisenman, Kurt W. Forster, Mark Jarzombek, Charles Jencks, Phyllis Lambert, Reinhold Martin, Detlef Mertins, Joan Ockman, Terence Riley, Vincent Scully, Michael Sorkin, Kazys Varnelis, Stanislaus von Moos, Ujjval Vyas, and Mark Wigley

Witty, wealthy, and well connected, the architect Philip Johnson was for years the most powerful

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Overview

Essays by Beatriz Colomina, Peter Eisenman, Kurt W. Forster, Mark Jarzombek, Charles Jencks, Phyllis Lambert, Reinhold Martin, Detlef Mertins, Joan Ockman, Terence Riley, Vincent Scully, Michael Sorkin, Kazys Varnelis, Stanislaus von Moos, Ujjval Vyas, and Mark Wigley

Witty, wealthy, and well connected, the architect Philip Johnson was for years the most powerful figure in the cultural politics of his profession. As the Museum of Modern Art’s founding architecture curator in the early 1930s, he helped establish modernism in the United States; as the architect of New York’s AT&T building—the “Chippendale skyscraper”—he gave postmodernism commercial viability on a large scale during the 1980s.

In this book, sixteen eminent voices in the architectural establishment present their ideas on Johnson, focusing on both his eclectic design approach and his vivid intellect. Among the topics covered are Johnson’s wide-ranging knowledge of art history, his endorsement of different versions of architectural modernism, his use of rhetoric and the mass media, his social persona, and his politics of patronage.

Owing perhaps to the control he exerted over critiques of his work, few scholarly treatments of Johnson exist. This “unauthorized” account, the first in-depth study to follow his death, constitutes a milestone in the analysis of one of America’s most renowned architects.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Responding to criticism of the skyscrapers he was building in 1983, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005) replied, "I am a whore." The 16 essayists in this volume, edited by Petit, assistant professor at Yale's School of Architecture-and originally presented in a symposium co-sponsored in 2006 by Yale and the Museum of Modern Art-tackle Johnson's "whoredom," his enormous influence as a curator and the mixed quality of his built legacy from historical, theoretical and sociological perspectives. The contributors admit, as Joan Ockman writes, that "his claim to fame may be his greatest claim to fame," and that few of his critics could be as truthful about his shortcomings as was the architect himself. His involvement with Father Coughlin's anti-Semitism in the 1930s runs through many of the essays, but so does admiration for the compound he developed in New Canaan, Conn., for his Glass House and other outlying buildings. One finishes this book with the feeling that Johnson is a case for further study, summed up by one essayist as the star of "a reality-TV show that ran longer than anyone could have imagined." 163 b&w and 53 color illus. (Feb. 24)

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Library Journal

There's no arguing that Philip Johnson (1906-2005) is among the best-known names in modern architecture, but the nature and worth of his contributions are still open to plenty of debate. Petit (Yale Sch. of Architecture) offers 16 essays by distinguished critics, academics, and architects, many of whom knew Johnson personally and each of whom shines a spotlight on a different aspect of a talent notorious for its elusiveness. From longtime friend and patron Phyllis Lambert's tribute to Johnson's "intelligence [and] fearlessness" to critic Michael Sorkin's wickedly satiric "alternate history" positing Johnson's prominence in a Nazi America, these reappraisals all constitute springboards for further investigation. Other noteworthy contributors include Vincent Scully (Yale Univ.), Charles Jencks (The New Paradigm in Architecture), and architect Peter Eisenman. Each essay is well documented and includes some illustrations. Appended is an oddly unattributed but handsome photo portfolio of Johnson's Connecticut estate, where his famous Glass House is now open to the public. Academic and large public libraries will want to supplement Franz Schulze's comprehensive Philip Johnson: Life and Work with Petit's thought-provoking addendum.
—David Soltesz

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300121810
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
02/24/2009
Pages:
274
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 10.80(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Emmanuel Petit is assistant professor at the Yale School of Architecture.

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