About the architect and his work
Controversial with his design, unapologetic for his behavior, and living life as he deemed fit, diving in every shade and era of architecture and life that we discuss decades after he is gone, proves the legacy that Philip Johnson lived. He is one of the most talked-about architects of the last century, from a curator to critic to architect and much more. He was immensely and creatively involved with everything he did as a student as well as a teacher learning, inspiring, and influencing throughout his life.
One of them being the inaugural Pritzker Prize in 1979 for his tremendous contribution in the field of architecture as cited by the jury” Philip Johnson is being honored for 50 years of imagination and vitality embodied in a myriad of museums, theatres, libraries, houses, gardens, and corporate structures.” They just didn’t acknowledge his vision and talent for architecture but also his expertise as a historian and curator. He enrolled to get his architecture degree at the age of 34 and started his firm after he returned from world war 2 and it was the first building that started off to him on a personal note, which then went on to become a world-renowned site and put him and his works on the map.
A place that saw his initial & final projects, ventures, and labors; this building was none other than The Glass House located in New Canaan, Connecticut, USA. Initially spread out at 4 acres of land, which grew along with the architect to be at 47 acres with the elbow space. The architect always wanted also by that time many others were incorporated on the site with the House.
Inspiration and Influence
The inspiration for The Glass House came to him from the heavy influence of Genius Architect Mies Van der rohe because of their earlier interactions when he used to curate his exhibitions and that’s when he became a role model for him. The architects never shy away from admitting that he is a copycat at heart, and The Glass House is derived from the Farnsworth House in Chicago.
It was not just this but many of his earlier work such as the Hodgson House in 1951 on the other side of the town, which came from the Ideology of Mies which had modernist characters such as the use of glass & steel, minimalistic design, and simple 3D shape but it was the originality in inspiration which stands out in his buildings. Maybe that’s why Mies decided not to spend another day at that house and left without saying a word.
Appreciation and Criticism of his Design style and Elements
The Glass House is just as famous as it is criticized; some consider it to be one of the greatest residences ever built and some doesn’t even qualify it as a house, which includes another great architect F.L. Wright who refused to remove his hat because he didn’t consider himself to be indoors as what is a house without walls .
Many arguments have been made over the years from the materials to structure and the philosophy of the house, but it’s the smart and efficient design approach that can be identified from both the inside and outside that speaks of the architect’s design style and ideologies.
As we approach the house, the pathways are designed in such a way that we see the symmetrically placed rectangle at a certain pleasant angle. We enter through a door placed at the center demonstrating the venturi effect of wind and enjoying a great panoramic view of the beautifully crafted landscape, which a wall would have concealed.
Each component of the house is well defined and the placement of furniture is organized such that it attracts all the focus and binds us to create an imaginary wall and experience every part of the house as a separate distinguished element. A solid cylinder at the middle that reaches the ceiling but doesn’t cause hindrance with the purpose of this house while serving its own, the architect tries to bring in nature indoors with the best possible way he can so that the user has sort of a camping experience.
As the size of the estate grew, he kept on adding more elements such as a pavilion filled with arch columns that give the user the experience of moving along a million columns, a small art gallery with movable walls, a library, and structures dedicated to his inspiring colleagues.
From Modernism to Postmodernism
Philip Johnson doesn’t consider himself to be a part of any generation or era of architect and tries to move from one phase to another and that’s exactly what happened when he designed the Christ cathedral, which became a landmark for not just California but to his transition into this new era where architects like Robert Venturi and Frank O Gehry were thriving. He then designed the AT&T tower with John Burgess that had a huge arch entry and a pediment at the top, which brought the ornamentation and design philosophy, rejected by modernism and thus became the initial big-scale project in postmodernism and began a new era in architecture.
Philip Johnson never claimed that he was a great architect and thought that it was mere luck that his building got the kind of fame they did. But he always believed that an architect needed to be arrogant towards his work; though his dedication towards architecture was the reason why he was so proud of himself. And whether he was a creative Genius or an arrogant fool, the debate might still go on long after he has perished.