Philip Johnson at age 95 in his office in the Seagram Building, Manhattan with his model of a 30′ by 60′ sculpture created for a Qatari collector. (2002)
|Born||Philip Cortelyou Johnson
July 8, 1906
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||January 25, 2005
New Canaan, Connecticut, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard Graduate School of Design|
|Awards||Pritzker Prize (1979)
AIA Gold Medal (1978)
|Buildings||IDS Tower, PPG Place, Crystal Cathedral|
I call myself a traditionalist, although I have fought against tradition all my life.
The people with money to build today are corporations – they are our popes and Medicis. The sense of pride is why they build.
Architecture is basically the design of interiors, the art of organizing interior space.
I haven't any wisdom – just a child like everybody else. I'm not as great as Frank Lloyd Wright.
There's no such thing as old age. I'm no different now than I was 50 years ago. I'm just having more fun.
Anybody can build a building, putting some doors into it, but how many times have you been in a building that moves you to tears the way Beethoven's 'Eighth' does?
I like the thought that what we are to do on this earth is embellish it for its greater beauty, so that oncoming generations can look back to the shapes we leave here and get the same thrill that I get in looking back at theirs – at the Parthenon, at Chartres Cathedral.
I guess I want to make money just like other people, perhaps more than most people.
In my own work, I'd say I'm a classicist, but I look everywhere for my solutions. I don't study the toilet-living habits of my clients, although that's a popular approach. First, I think of every building in history that has been similar in purpose. Then I think of the functional program – that's a major part of the study.
How does an artist know when the line that he just painted is good or not good? That's the catch. De Kooning was the greatest of my contemporaries in art, and he knew when he'd done a good line. When he didn't, he threw it away. I wish I'd thrown away some of mine.
Processionalism is primary – how you get from one place to another, the relationships and effects of spaces as you move about in them. That's worked out awfully well in the State Theater. I'm a 'straight-in' man myself; I'm too nervous, I like to know where I am. I also like to know where I'm going.
If architects weren't arrogant, they wouldn't be architects. I don't know a modest good architect.
Maybe, just maybe, we shall at last come to care for the most important, most challenging, surely the most satisfying of all architectural creations: building cities for people to live in.
The first complete sentence out of my mouth was probably that line about consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds.
You're going to change the world? Well, go ahead and try. You'll give it up at a certain point and change yourself instead.
Don't build a glass house if you're worried about saving money on heating.
There's no worse feeling than seeing my buildings and realizing the mistakes.
I wouldn't build a building if it wasn't of interest to me as a potential work of art. Why should I?
I used to think that each phase of life was the end. But now that my view on life is more or less fixed, I believe that change is a great thing. In fact, it's the only real absolute in the world.
Houston is undoubtedly my showcase city. I saved all my best buildings for Houston.
It is wonderful to be in the country in a glass house, because no matter what happens out there, you're nice and safe, you know, cuddled in your little bed, and there it is, raging storms, snowing – wonderful.
Faith? Haven't any. I'm not a nihilist or a relativist. I don't believe in anything but change. I'm a Heraclitean – you can't step in the same river twice.
There's only one reason for my whole life, and that's art. Nothing else counts; nothing else gives me pleasure; nothing else gives me satisfaction.
I get between nine and ten hours of sleep. Go to bed at 8:30 and get up at 6:00 or 6:30 if I oversleep.
Concrete you can mold, you can press it into – after all, you haven't any straight lines in your body. Why should we have straight lines in our architecture? You'd be surprised when you go into a room that has no straight line – how marvelous it is that you can feel the walls talking back to you, as it were.
To me, the drive for monumentality is as inbred as the desire for food and sex, regardless of how we denigrate it. Monuments differ in different periods. Each age has its own.
I guess I can't be a great architect. Great architects have a recognizable style. But if every building I did were the same, it would be pretty boring.
I'm a chameleon, so changeable. I see myself as a gadfly and a questioner.
I like to be buttoned onto tradition. The thing is to improve it, twist it and mold it; to make something new of it; not to deny it. The riches of history can be plucked at any point.
All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.