Johnson, Philip

Philip Johnson (1906 -2005) American Modernist architect was born in Cleveland Ohio. Highly successful and rewarded, he received the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1979 and was the first recipient of the Pritzker Architectural Prize.

Educated at Harvard and well travelled he met with life long friend, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in Barcelona when he visited the German pavillion of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition.

Employed by MoMA in NYC he instigated visits by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. In 1932 he organised the museums first Modern architecture exhibition. It proved a big success with the public, many of whom had not seen or fully understood International Style architecture. Johnson helped ensure Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe got to America as the Nazi grip tightened on Europe. Johnson arranged their permission to work paperwork.

Johnson left the arts in 1936 as the Great Depression took its toll. He dabbled in politics and journalism, he became the Berlin correspondent for a pro-Hitler newspaper expressing rather foolishly that he had  “more than passing admiration for Hitler” later he reflected on this commenting that he may have been caught up in the moment.

Just as America was entering the war Johnson returned to education enrolling at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he studied with Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius. At this time he designed his own home. When war was declared and people were asked to sign up, he presented himself for recruitment. His association with a newspaper in Germany and his supporting of the priest with dubious views may have explained why he was not posted abroad.

Post war he returned to MoMA

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