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A renowned and influential American architect, Philip Johnson was born on July 8, 1906. Best known for his promotion of International Style and revolutionizing Postmodernist Architecture, Johnson was a pioneer, and his architectural career spanned more than half a century. Taking an eclectic approach to his style, Philip Johnson designed numerous buildings, which are still admired today.

Let’s explore some of his most famous pieces of work:

The Glass House

Connecticut

The reason he was dubbed “The Man in the Glass House” in his biography, Philip Johnson built The Glass House from 1948-1949. Originally his place of residence, The Glass House is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Arguably his most famous piece of work, The Glass House is a 56-foot by 32-foot glass rectangle, and its sides are glass and charcoal-painted steel. The Glass House was an influential project for Philip Johnson and the modern architecture movement, the building exemplifies minimal structure, geometry, and the effects of transparency/reflection.

The Seagram Building

New York

An iconic bronze-and-glass tower on Park Avenue in bustling New York City, Philip Johnson teamed up with fellow architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to create The Seagram Building. Completed in 1958, The Seagram Building stands at 38-stories and is Philip Johnson’s first attempt at tall office building construction.

The Seagram Building was cutting-edge for its time, these two architects introducing a new era of simple, straightforward skyscrapers. Rather than being overwhelmed by ornament and detail, The Seagram Building introduced design that embraced its sleek glass and metal, and celebrated minimalist geometries.

550 Madison Avenue

New York

A postmodern 647-foot-tall, 37-story skyscraper located on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, Philip Johnson completed 550 Madison Avenue in 1984. Formerly the headquarters of AT&T and Sony, this structure is infamous for its postmodern flair.

The structure’s ornamental additions challenged modernism’s demand for stark functionalism and purely efficient design. 550 Madison Avenue is adorned with an ornamental top and a stunning arched entryway, measuring 7-stories in height. Many claim that Philip Johnson legitimized postmodernism with this structure, bringing this movement to the global stage.

 

Image by Citizen 59, courtesy of Wikipedia

The Lipstick Building

New York

Philip Johnson’s second postmodern contribution to the New York skyline, The Lipstick Building was completed in 1986. Collaborating with John Burgee, they created the 453-foot-tall and 34-story stunning structure.

“The Lipstick Building” gets its name from its cylindrical shape and red-granite-and-steel exterior, which can resemble a tube of lipstick to a passerby. The Lipstick Building offers a stark contrast to its neighboring buildings, all of which are sharp-edged towers.

“All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.””

Philip Johnson

By: Michael O’Brien

President and CEO of the Window & Door Manufacturers Association.

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