When Philip Johnson curated the Museum of Modern Arts’ (MoMA) 1932 “International Exhibition of Modern Architecture,” he did so with the explicit intention of defining the International Style. As a guest curator at the same institution in 1988 alongside Mark Wigley (now Dean Emeritus of the Columbia GSAPP), Johnson took the opposite approach: rather than present architecture derived from a rigidly uniform set of design principles, he gathered a collection of work by architects whose similar (but not identical) approaches had yielded similar results. The designers he selected—Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, and the firm Coop Himmelblau (led by Wolf Prix)—would prove to be some of the most influential architects of the late 20th Century to the present day.[1,2]
The architectural legacy of the Rockefeller family in Manhattan is well-known, most obviously demonstrated in the slab-like Art Deco towers of the Rockefeller Center and the ever-expanding campus of the MoMA. But in a city that is filled with landmarks and historic buildings, it's easy for even the most remarkable projects to go unrecognized. Philip Johnson's Rockefeller Guest House in Manhattan was completed in 1950, just one year after the construction of his better known Glass House in New Canaan. The Glass House is an obvious cousin to the later guest house: both feature largely empty glass and steel boxlike forms, where structural work is exposed and celebrated.
The "architectural pilgrimage" is much more than just everyday tourism. Studying and admiring a building through text and images often creates a hunger in architects, thanks to the space between the limitations of 2D representation and the true experience of the building. Seeing a building in person that one has long loved from a distance can become something of a spiritual experience, and architects often plan vacations around favorite or important spaces. But too often, architects become transfixed by a need to visit the same dozen European cities that have come to make up the traveling architect's bucket list.
The list here shares some sites that may not have made your list just yet. Although somewhat less well known than the canonical cities, the architecture of these six cities is sure to hold its ground against the world's best. The locations here make ideal long weekend trips (depending of course on where you are traveling from), although it never hurts to have more than a few days to really become immersed in a city. We have selected a few must-see buildings from each location, but each has even more to offer than what you see here—so don't be afraid to explore!
When the Crystal Cathedral was constructed near Los Angeles in 1980, its design was pure Hollywood: designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee for televangelist star Robert Schuller, the design combined traditional elements of church design with features that made it suitable for television broadcasts. However, when Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy in 2010, the building was passed to a very different tenant, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, who then commissioned Los Angeles-based firm Johnson Fain to adapt the building to be a better fit for the Catholic Church.
A recent article by Mimi Zeiger for Architect Magazine investigates how Johnson Fain are converting the 1980 classic into something more suitable for its new life out of the spotlight—including modulating the light within the vast all-glass structure and rearranging the seating.
New York’s Architecture Research Office (ARO) has been selected to lead in the renovation and master planning of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. The project aims to modernize and improve the renowned structure, which houses 14 monumental paintings by Mark Rothko in an interior space designed to meet the artist’s precise specifications, and its surrounding plaza and reflecting pool. The original building was largely designed by Rothko himself, with consult from a trio of architects including Philip Johnson.
Artist and writer Yayoi Kusama has created an installation for the Glass House that will be on display in celebration of the 110th anniversary of Philip Johnson’s birth, as well as the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Glass House site to the public.
From September 1 through 26, Dots Obsession – Alive, Seeking for Eternal Hope will be on display, with the Glass House itself covered with polka dots. “Visitors who attend the exhibition during this time will be offered the unique experience to simultaneously see the world through the eyes of both Philip Johnson and Yayoi Kusama.”
When he was awarded the first ever Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979, the jury described Philip Johnson (July 8, 1906 – January 25, 2005) as someone who “produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the environment," adding that "as a critic and historian, he championed the cause of modern architecture and then went on to design some of his greatest buildings.” However, even after winning the Pritzker Prize at age 73, Johnson still had so much more of his legacy to build: in the years after 1979, Johnson almost completely redefined his style, adding another chapter to his influence over the architecture world.
How do you reinvent an architectural icon for the 21st century? How can you inspire people to see potential in a structure that has been off limits for decades? And how do you activate a public space in a way that is sustainable for future generations? The National Trust and People for the Pavilion invite you to do just that by envisioning a bold and optimistic future for the New York State Pavilion.
As an unavoidable art form, “architecture is one of humanity’s most visible and long-lasting forms of expression,” writes Complex Media. Within the past 150 years—the period of modern architecture—a distinct form of artistry has developed, significantly changing the way we look at the urban environments around us. To highlight some of the key figures in architecture over the past 150 years, Complex Media has created a list of “25 Architects You Should Know,” covering a range of icons including Zaha Hadid, Ieoh Ming Pei, Philip Johnson, Oscar Neimeyer, SOM, Daniel Libeskind, and more. Read the full list to learn more about each iconic architect, here.
Side by Side is an exhibition by photographer Robin Hill that explores the similarities and differences between two of America's most iconic houses. The Glass House by Philip Johnson and The Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe. Through a series of dyptychs, Mr. Hill's lens explores both the geometry of the structures and their place in the environment. Tellingly the exhibition is housed in the Seagram Building designed by Mies van der Rohe and assisted by Philip Johnson. The lobby of The Four Seasons is an ideal venue for this exhibition as much of the design aesthetic of both architects is prevalent in the space as well as in the photographs.
Five of history's most iconic modern houses are re-created as illustrations in this two-minute video created by Matteo Muci. Set to the tune of cleverly timed, light-hearted music, the animation constructs the houses piece-by-piece on playful pastel backgrounds. The five homes featured in the short but sweet video are Le Courbusier's Villa Savoye, Gerrit Rietveld's Rietveld Schröder House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, Philip Johnson's Glass House and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.
Modernism induced a shift in lighting away from luminaires and towards invisible light sources that render spaces in a purer (forgive the pun) light. For the first time, lit walls were used to define rooms and to structure architecture. Today I’d like to explore early prototypes - including Philip Johnson’s Brick House and the Seagram Building - and discuss how their lighting techniques continue to influence architecture today.
If you haven't heard of CyArk yet, make sure to check out their recent Kickstarter project. The not-for-profit company digitally preserves some of the world's most important sites: including Easter Island, Mt. Rushmore and The Pantheon, to name a few. Now the group is headed to New York to preserve Philip Johnson and Lev Zetlin's 1964 World’s Fair New York State Pavilion. Since the fair ended, the pavilion has fallen into disrepair and been heavily vandalized. With assistance from the University of Central Florida, they plan to release the digitally preserved 3D files to the public, for free. To help preserve this "National Treasure," check out their Kickstarter page.
Celebrating the 65th anniversary of Philip Johnson's iconic Glass House, artist Fujiko Nakaya has created the building's first ever site-specific art installation. The installation, titled "Veil", will shroud the glass house in fog for 10 minutes every hour, creating a dialogue with Johnson's design intentions by breaking the visual connection between inside and out, and covering the building's sharp, clean lines with misty indeterminacy. At the same time it will make literal Johnson's ideal of an architecture that vanishes.
Read after the break for more information and images
Richard Kelly illuminated some of the twentieth century’s most iconic buildings: the Glass House, Seagram Building and Kimbell Art Museum, to name a few. His design strategy was surprisingly simple, but extremely successful.
Lighting for architecture has been and still often is dominated by an engineering viewpoint, resigned to determining sufficient illuminance levels for a safe and efficient working environment. With a background in stage lighting, Kelly introduced a scenographic perspective for architectural lighting. His point of view might look self-evident to today’s architectural community, but it was revolutionary for his time and has strongly influenced modern architecture.
Read more about Richard Kelly’s remarkable, and unsung, contribution to architecutre, after the break.
Philip Johnson’s “iconic” New York State Pavilion has been listed as a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This designation, which was announced today at the 1964-65 World’s Fair’s 50th anniversary celebration in Queens, declares the pavilion a “historically, culturally and architecturally important site” and will help raise awareness and funding for its preservation. It is now one of just 44 national sites bearing this recognition.
“In the last 50 years, Flushing Meadows Corona Park has grown from the site of the World’s Fair to the home of the World’s Park,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “As we celebrate this anniversary, it is just as important that we look to the next 50 years and plan for the Park’s future. I would like to thank the National Trust for Historic Preservation for honoring the New York State Pavilion as a ‘National Treasure’. This designation will highlight the importance of the Pavilion as a national icon, and help us to continue the conversation about how it can best serve Queens’ residents.”
For the first time in decades, Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion will open to the public tomorrow (April 22) in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, “the Pavilion represents a pivotal time in American history when the allure of putting a man on the moon inspired renowned architect Philip Johnson to create this emblem for Space Age enthusiasm,” described Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.