Philip Johnson’s Collection for Sale

Robin Pogrebin of The New York Times recently reported that Raj Ahuja, an Indian-born architect who joined ’s firm back in 1971 and became a partner in 1984, will be selling the architect’s archive of sketches.  And, this isn’t any ordinary sketchbook.  Johnson’s collection includes over 25,000 design sketches, working drawings, renderings and photographs that cover more than 120 projects from 1968 to 1992.  After a bankruptcy claim left the work in Ahuja’s possession, he has been waiting to “transfer it to respectful hands” with the hope that a single institution will acquire the entire collection so as not to break up the archive.

More about the collection after the break.

The archive is chock full of material on Johnson’s later projects, specifically his taller towers such as his AT&T Building in Manhattan (the Victoria and Albert Museum of London acquired a 7 and ½ foot presentation drawing of the façade for $70,000 in April),  the PPG Place in Pittsburgh, and the Pennzoil Place in Houston.

The archive will show another side to Johnson, who has, as Pogrebin reported, previously been criticized for “focusing on aesthetics at the expense of more fundamental issues of function”.   Michael Robinson, an expert on 20th-century documents and another appraiser of the archive, told the NY Times, “Nobody thinks of Johnson as a planner.  They think of him as an antiurbanist. He really was concerned with how life interacted with these buildings. You get elaborate plans for walkways, roads, the works.”  He added, “You literally see him thinking on paper all the way through to the final drawings necessary to actually build a building.”

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Philip Johnson’s Collection for Sale" 17 Aug 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Adam

    So, did I miss something or when exactly is the auction.

  • hovaard

    not quite piranesis i guess.

  • rodger

    i don’t know anybody who would think so highly of philip johnson and believe that these drawings are worth anything.

    • You have got to be kidding


      your comments on this website are consistently appalling.
      all you do is badmouth people and projects.
      where is your built work?
      where is your pritzker prize?
      where is your aia gold medal?
      any architect that builds over 100 projects and changes the way an entire continent builds buildings is incredibly significant.
      of course his output is worth something.
      and i reckon the vast majority of the art and architecture community would agree.

      what’s your output?

  • analia

    did they have to mention the at&t/sony building …….

  • rodger

    @ you have to be kidding.
    you have spoken like a true professional.

    speaking of appalling, and i agree, my comments are often harsh. that said, you must be familiar with the story of mies van der rohe’s visit to philip johnson’s glass house? he was so appalled by his architectural homage that he couldn’t even stay for the duration of his invitation.

    philip johnson was a hack, and important hack, but hack none the less. one can only imagine, if he had been less influential the U.S. would have been blessed with more buildings by paul rudolph.

    my apologies for being offensive.

    i wish the greatest of success to the brave person who stands up and pronounces the master status to a man who was great in many ways but never as an architect.