Philip Johnson

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Philip Johnson (1906-07-08 - 2005-01-25) was an American architect.


  • I like Houston. It's the last great 19th-century city. Houston has a spirit about it that is truly American, an optimism. People there aren't afraid to try something new.
    • Financial Times, June 3, 1989


  • Architecture is the art of how to waste space.
  • Architecture is basically the design of interiors, the art of organizing interior space.
  • The people with money to build today are corporations -- they are our popes and Medicis. The sense of pride is why they build.
  • I am a whore and I am paid very well for high-rise buildings.
  • 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 believe in juxtaposition of the arts.
  • Philip Johnson on Frank Lloyd Wright - He's the greatest architect of the nineteenth century.
  • The Michelangelos of this world are not to be imitated; it is too difficult, and too dangerous.
  • The duty of the artist is to strain against the bonds of the existing style.
  • The job of the architect today is to create beautiful buildings. That's all.
  • I would rather stay in Chartres Cathedral with the nearest toilet two blocks away, than in a Harvard house with back-to-back bathrooms.
  • Architecture is surely not the design of space, certainly not the massing or organization of volumes. These are ancillary to the main point, which is the organization of procession. Architecture exists in time.
  • On architects being known for long life spans: Of course they live long -- they have a chance to act out all their aggressions.
  • To be in the presence of a great work of architecture is such a satisfaction that you can go hungry for days. To create a feeling such as mine in Chartres Cathedral when I was 13 is the aim of architecture.
  • Early unsuccessess shouldn't bother anybody because it happens to absolutely everybody.
  • ...Comfort is not a function of beauty... purpose is not necessary to make a building beautiful...sooner or later we will fit our buildings so that they can be used...where form comes from I don't know, but it has nothing at all to do with the functional or sociological aspects of our architecture.


Johnson wrote: (Heyer, 1966):

The painters have every advantage over us today...Besides being able to tear up their failures—we never can seem to grow ivy fast enough—their materials cost them nothing. They have no committees of laymen telling them what to do. They have no deadlines, no budgets. We are all sickeningly familiar with the final cuts to our plans at the last moment. Why not take out the landscaping, the retaining walls, the colonnades? The building would be just as useful and much cheaper. True, an architect leads a hard life—for an artist.
    • Heyer, Paul, ed. (1966). Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America, p. 279. New York: Walker and Company.

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