Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Philip Johnson made notable contributions to 20th century American architecture. Born in 1906, Johnson passed away in 2005 at 98 years of age. One of his major contributions to the industry was the establishment of the Department of Architecture and Design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1978.
Johnson studied history and philosophy as a young man, taking several trips to Europe between academic semesters. In the late 1920s, he met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the influential German-American architect who fostered his interest in architecture. Johnson quickly devoted himself to the vocation and promoted modern architecture in America. He organized several exhibitions and commissioned some of the most influential architects working in Europe.
During the 1930s, Johnson served as a journalist, working in Germany until the start of World War II. He then enlisted with the US Army, returning to school and studying architecture following the end of the war.
Johnson is best known for the Glass House of 1949. Built as his private residence, the building features minimal designs and completely transparent glass walls on all sides, supported by steel beams. The bathroom, concealed in a brick cylinder, serves as the only room hidden from public view.
Johnson continued to work in a modernist style, particularly the International Style, throughout the subsequent decades. However, as these architectural principles became commonplace, he championed new aesthetics that would come to represent post-modernist architecture.
One of Johnson’s last works was the Crystal Cathedral, a protestant church completed in 2007. Located in Garden Grove, California, and constructed of 10,000 rectangular panes of glass attached using silicone glue, the church consists of a sanctuary space and an imposing glass tower.
Learn more about Johnson’s work in this short video documentary: