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Philip Johnson: Life and Work 1st Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226740584
ISBN-10: 0226740587
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a candid, revealing, major biography of one of the prime forces in American architecture, Schulze views Philip Johnson less as an original than as a pluralist who primarily followed, ratified and refined forms invented by others. The spoiled son of a prominent Cleveland family, Johnson (born in 1906) championed the geometrical International Style as architect, critic and Museum of Modern Art curator in Manhattan. Later he strived to free himself from the strictures of orthodox modernism. Schulze, biographer of Mies van der Rohe, divulges Johnson's tormented confrontation with his homosexuality while at Harvard. Johnson's plunge into right-wing politics between 1934 and 1945-including his fervid infatuation with Hitler, support of demagogue Huey Long and publication of pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic articles in Father Charles Coughlin's hate-sheet Social Justice in 1939-comes under close scrutiny. In the 1990s, Johnson issued public apologies for his political past, yet his disdain of parliamentary government, his devotion to Nietzsche and his antirationalism, as revealed here, may fuel the debate over his life and his place in architectural history. Photos.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Architectural critic, curator, and imagemaker of corporate America, Philip Johnson has had an amazingly diverse career spanning over six decades. Neither an innovator nor an imitator, Johnson has designed his share of architectural icons: the Glass House in Connecticut; the Seagram Building (in collaboration with Mies van der Rohe) and AT&T's Chippendale headquarters, both in New York; and the Dutch-gabled Republic Bank Center in Houston. This critical biography explores Johnson's early childhood in Cleveland; his years at Harvard, where he comes to terms with his homosexuality; and his brief involvement with the politics of Hitler in the 1930s. Schulze traces Johnson's passion for architecture, first as an influential critic and curator and later as an architect with a wealthy clientele. This immensely readable account of a complex, sometimes contradictory, yet always compelling man is highly recommended.
H. Ward Jandl, National Park Svc., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 479 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226740587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226740584
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a lucid, balanced, and candid account of a late prominent architect. It merits high marks despite a blemished, controversial subject. To some Philip Johnson is an egocentric, vacuous figure (many of his piers at the HGSD despised him). Others consider him (like Andy Warhol) an iconic, original force vital to the 20C.

Probably both are right, but for different reasons (history may declare much of the 20C worthy only of demolition). That said, Schulze faithfully relates Philip Johnson as a celebrated figure (loved and hated), as well as a history difficult for acolytes to ignore (be it privileged origins, leverage as a museum curator/publicist, derivative and eclectic work, banal and self-indulgent behavior).

Mr. Johnson's friendly service as guest of the Third Reich during the invasion of Poland, for example, may interest readers (William Shirer's `Berlin Diary' 19-20 Sept 1939 entry at Zoppot near Danzig: "Dr. Böhmer, press chief of the Propaganda Ministry in charge of this trip, insisted that I share a double room here with Philip Johnson, an American fascist who says he represents Father Coughlin's `Social Justice.' None of us can stand this fellow and suspect he is spying on us for the Nazis").

I rate this work as a fair, well-written resource on the subject. I have no affection for Philip Johnson (indeed, I spent years walking by his iconic Ash Street `fence' and value it only for being near HH Richardson's masterful Stoughton House on Brattle Street).

Also recommended: Schulze's `Mies van der Rohe' (if the reader wants an indisputably original figure who fled - rather than embraced - the Nazis).
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Format: Paperback
A great book about my favorite architect. Johnson's buildings are truly an example of his passion and distinct style. Franz Schulze went to great lengths to describe his career from working w/ Mies ,his partnership w/ John Burgee to practicing alone at 90+ years old. The book discusses his up & down life that impacted his work.
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By NJ on May 22, 2016
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book. Thanks for the prompt delivery.
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Format: Hardcover
Philip Johnson was an active fascist sympathizer and active propagandist for the Nazi government, who had tried to implement fascism in USA for at least 8 years between 1932 and 1940. Details of this past are described in "WE CANNOT NOT KNOW HISTORY:" PHILIP JOHNSON'S POLITICS AND CYNICAL SURVIVAL by KAZYS VARNELIS in Journal of Architectural Education, November 1994 published also on the Internet, and also discussed at [...]
Philip Johnson's modernistic designs were not so original, though he somehow forgot to mention the sources of "inspiration", but his postmodern contribution to architecture has been first class (e.g. AT&T building). By the way, Martin Heidegger, German has been the first class philosopher all the time (laid foundation for existentialism), and more to philosophy than Johnson to architecture.
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Format: Paperback
Franz Schultz's book is actually the most honest overview of Johnson and his work to date.
I felt compelled to provide a "one-star" rating largely to counteract the previous reviews that suggest that Johnson is somehow worthy of admiration with regard to both his character and his work.

Like Heidegger, Johnson was a fervent admirer and active supporter of Nazism. Unlike Heidegger, he wasn't particularly talented in his field -- that is if you consider his field to have been architecture. His buildings are largely uninspired, if not downright awful.

I would harbor serious doubts about the judgement of anyone who would consider him their "favorite architect".

"Passionate" perhaps in his true calling as a cynical powerbroker and publicity hound. Well-educated, wealthy, and witty, but hardly "enlightened" and definitely not an architectural "genius".
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