"The Man in the Glass House is a vivid, thoughtful, illuminating, disturbing, and definitive chronicle of one of twentieth-century architecture's most celebrated and powerful figures."Kurt Andersen, author and host of Studio 360
"Mark Lamster thoughtfully teases out the real history of this modernist icon, from his impressive sexual appetites and more-than-flirtation with fascism in Hitler's Germany to his 1990s collaboration with Donald Trump. It's clear that Johnson was a fascinating and disturbing figure; Lamster's biography, impressively and honestly, displays him with his full complexity."Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
"More than a dozen years after his death Philip Johnson remains a perplexing, polarizing, magnetic and frustrating figure: although he was far from our greatest architect, no one did more to shape our architectural culture. In this compelling biography, Mark Lamster deconstructs Johnson's complex persona, evaluates his work and begins the complex process of establishing his place in history."Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry
"Philip Johnson was as complicated and contradictory as the American century that created him and which he helped define. Modernist, reactionary, anti-Semite, populist, artist, and commercial powerhouse, he lived, in some sense, to contradict himself. In Mark Lamster's nuanced telling, Johnson becomes more than the man in the round glasses or the avatar of modernism; he becomes a symbol of America itself. This is biography as history, and it is a magnificent piece of work."David L. Ulin, author of Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles
"The Man in the Glass House captures the essence of a prodigious, multivalent, enigmatic American talent with authority and aplomb. It's a biography with attitude, a bullet train through the shifting landscapes of twentieth-century America, and a sheer pleasure to read."Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do
"Philip Johnson led many livesas curator, aspiring demagogue with a Third Reich fixation, modernist architect, winking post-modernist, and finally kingmaker in the professionand Mark Lamster has masterfully woven them together in a biography that is as much literary as critical achievement. Required reading for anyone hoping to make sense of the American century, for Johnson was its house architect."Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer for the city of Los Angeles and former architecture critic, Los Angeles Times
"An astute... look at the influential modernist architect. Offering a fresh look at his subject's less-than-savory aspects, Lamster portrays a diffident genius for whom being boring was the greatest crime."Kirkus (starred review)
"Lamster's mesmerizing, authoritative, and often-astonishing study grapples with Johnson's legacy in all its ambiguity... Lamster depicts a man by turns enchanting and irritating, sublime and subpar, pioneering and derivative... Johnson's contradictions, Lamster argues, reveal something of the nation's. Readers may come away with both contempt and admiration, a testament to Lamster's masterful achievement."Booklist (starred review)
The first recipient of the Pritzker Prize and the Museum of Modern Art's founding architectural curator, Philip Johnson was one of America's most distinguished architects—even if you can't put his name with a building, you'll know his famous don't-throw-stones Glass House in New Canaan, CT. Award-winning architectural critic/historian Lamster details Johnson's life and aesthetics. With a 35,000-copy first printing.
An astute but not terribly sympathetic look at the influential modernist architect.
Brilliant and iconoclastic but prickly and controversial, Philip Johnson (1906-2005) led a seemingly charmed existence, but he was essentially restless, opportunistic, and—as Dallas Morning News architecture critic Lamster (Architecture/Univ. of Texas at Arlington; Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens, 2009, etc.) portrays through analysis of his architectural creations—often joyless. The well-off son of a Cleveland corporate lawyer and Quaker matron, Johnson was a dilettante in his youth. He became a scholar of classics and philosophy at Harvard, where he fell into a "fraternity of sympathetic gay men" who fervently discussed modern art and design; the group was led by Lincoln Kirstein, Paul J. Sachs, and Alfred H. Barr. The last would become the first director of the new Museum of Modern Art in New York. After a tour of radical European modernism, Johnson—before he even attended architecture school—was chosen to curate the museum's first groundbreaking architectural show in 1932, which featured exhibits by Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. As "house architect" for the museum during four decades, Johnson produced such successful shows as Machine Art (1934) and fashioned the enduring urban oasis of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden (1953). Lamster marvels at how Johnson was able to "straddle both the modernist and the traditionalist factions," from his own New Canaan Glass House (1949), skyline-altering Seagram Building (1958), postmodern AT&T Tower (1994), and other creations to his activism for various cities' Beaux Arts preservation. Notably, the author devotes significant attention to Johnson's troubling foray into fascist anti-Semitic politics of the 1930s, which indeed would haunt him later on.
Offering a fresh look at his subject's less-than-savory aspects, Lamster portrays a diffident genius for whom being boring was the greatest crime and whose work, while often riveting, was also "barren and inert and lonely."