Robin Pogrebin of The New York Times recently reported that Raj Ahuja, an Indian-born architect who joined Philip Johnson’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.”