Architects: Unsuitable Cases for Stardom? – 建筑师:不适合明星的案例?

By the time Philip Johnson died in 2005, aged 98, his architectural influence and patronage had stretched from (modernist) post to (postmodern) pillar and beyond. Frank Gehry delivered his funeral address. Mark Lamster’s nimble new biography,The Man in the Glass House (2018; Little, Brown), tells two parallel stories: one a Gatsby-like parable of wealth, beauty and immorality (as a fascist and Hitler supporter in the 1930s); the other, the tale of a man who knew that, above everything in life, he wanted influence. Triumphantly, Johnson was to become more notorious than Le Corbusier, as much in the spotlight as Frank Lloyd Wright. He was the first ‘starchitect’. 


Architects: Unsuitable Cases for Stardom? - 建筑师:不适合明星的案例?

The Seagram Building at dusk, 1958. Courtesy: Esto-Ezra Stoller 

A student at Harvard, he insouciantly stepped into the limelight at the new Museum of Modern Art in New York, networking his European connections as he helped assemble material for the first architectural exhibition to be held there, in 1932. From his curatorial pulpit, and with no formal architectural training, Johnson criticised those twice his age with bare-faced cheek but driven by a brilliantly sharp eye. By the time he joined Walter Gropius’s graduate course at the Harvard School of Design in 1940, his fellow students were disconcerted to find themselves reading a textbook that bore Johnson’s name, titled The International Style (published in 1932), and studying a prefabricated house down the road that he was building as his thesis project. Easily bored, he was never a qualified architect but found ways to sidestep that slight bureaucratic problem. Johnson was one of those who considered rules were for little men and as he parachuted into the profession, considering himself supremely entitled, he borrowed promiscuously and openly, retreating into self-deprecation when politic. He began with more than a dash of Mies van de Rohe in his own Glass House, New Canaan, completed in 1949. 

A man’s high estimation of himself goes further and faster in the USA than in Europe (saying which, Johnson even worked with Donald Trump). Keeping two careers running, curator and architect, was risky. He even included his own work in exhibitions, leading to a reprimand from Frank Lloyd Wright, the elder statesman of American architecture. Around mid-career, Johnson began to wear a pair of owlish black spectacles, just like Le Corbusier, (whom he judged ‘an objectionable man but unquestionably a genius’) to continue the process of turning himself from handsome boulevardier to serious design hero. It was a canny act of homage, a distraction from the fact that he could neither draw nor claim a proper understanding of structure. Style was everything.


Architects: Unsuitable Cases for Stardom? - 建筑师:不适合明星的案例?

The Promenade of the State Theater, one of New York's great rooms. Courtesy: Esto-Ezra Stoller

But over decades, and around the world, wherever ambitious architects were to be found, Johnson was, too – and they imbibed his lessons. The rise of the architect as superstar can be seen largely as his creation, with a little prior help from Wright and Corb. Yet Johnson had gut instincts and a strong nerve. In 1971 he was a juror choosing the architects for the Centre Pompidou (Beaubourg) in Paris and he argued fiercely, surprisingly enough alongside the socially aware Jean Prouvé, that the winning design was that entered by two untried young men, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. 

By the mid 1970s, the ascent of the so-called ‘New York Five’ – Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hedjuk and Richard Meier – was a phenomenon. As Lamster puts it, Johnson scrambled on board, offering endorsement in the form of a postscript to the second edition of Five Architects (1972), the monograph that assured their notoriety. In 1979 Johnson was the first recipient of the Pritzker Prize. By now he was king-maker in chief. 

To mark Johnson’s ninetieth birthday in 1996 he assembled fifteen architects – his ‘pals’, as he called them – including Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Arata Isozaki, Rem Koolhaas, Bob Stern and four of the NY Five. Phyllis Lambert, who had vouchsafed him the commission of the Four Seasons restaurant, where they were dining, sat like an empress in their midst. For decades, Johnson had embodied wit, wisdom and patronage in architecture and the photograph that evening celebrated his achievement. 


Architects: Unsuitable Cases for Stardom? - 建筑师:不适合明星的案例?

Mark Lamster, The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century, 2018. Courtesy: Little, Brown & Company

But Piano, Rogers, Norman Foster (whom he had encountered at Yale) and Jean Nouvel were nowhere to be seen that evening. How do architects judge one another and how are their reputations made? One route is through a string of prestigious prizes, inside and outside the profession, and a currency easily prone to inflation. They draw ambitious clients – eager to be seen as savvy – who bankroll projects which may bring little credit to the practice. Foster’s latest offering in the City of London, the preposterous ‘Tulip’ viewing tower, suggests that the weight of expectation is a burden, as do Piano’s successive designs for a ‘Pole’ skyscraper (subsequently cut to a ‘Cube’) next to Paddington Station.

The charming chameleon Johnson was primarily a networker. No shoals of disciples flocked to his office (where they would have found, disconcertingly, how little the great man actually did) as they had to work alongside Wright or to follow Mies (those famous ‘little blind Mies’). An exhibition of Piano’s work currently on show at London’s Royal Academy (until January 20) makes much of the ‘building workshop’ aspect to the practice, and a fair amount of credit is shared between the fellow players in his sixteen featured schemes – the crème de la crème of a lifetime’s work. But for prestige jobs, celebrity status trumps all. Clients commissioning a building from the 81-year-old Renzo Piano, or the 83-year-old Norman Foster, are buying their stellar imprimatur above all else. 


Architects: Unsuitable Cases for Stardom? - 建筑师:不适合明星的案例?

Johnson's Study Library set in the Glass House meadow, 1980. Courtesy: the author

Hadid gained eventual ascendancy in her own style allied to a storming talent and her stand-alone status as a hugely successful woman in the profession. But the bitter wars currently taking place in the High Court between her architectural partner Patrik Schumacher and her executors have much to do with where her fiat lay. The intemperate Schumacher converted her splintered constructivist designs into buildings, from the Vitra Fire Station outside Basel – her first built project – onwards. I well remember, at the building’s press opening in 1993, that he was identified as the man who had engineered it into being – but he was still in the shadows. 

Is the world of Philip Johnson and his ‘pals’ fading away? The urgency of our environmental crisis, seen against a shifting geo-political background, point towards a new sobriety at large in the architectural profession and the figure of the solitary, inspired starchitect begins to seem an absurd aberration. Vive la différence. 

Main image: The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, 1963, distinctive for its coatbutton ceiling and fabric walls. Courtesy: Esto-Ezra Stoller

Gillian Darley

Gillian Darley is a widely published architectural writer and biographer based in London, UK. She is President of the 20th Century Society.

Opinion /

Philip Johnson
Zaha Hadid
Frank Gehry
Gilian Darley

菲利浦·约翰逊于2005年去世,享年98岁,他的建筑影响力和赞誉已经从(现代主义)后柱延伸到(后现代主义)后柱。弗兰克·盖里发表了他的葬礼地址。马克·拉姆斯特(Mark Lamster)灵活的新传记《玻璃屋中的男人》(The Man in the Glass House)(2018;Little,Brown)讲述了两个类似的故事:一个是盖茨比式的财富、美丽和道德败坏的寓言(1930年代是法西斯和希特勒的支持者);另一个是一个男人的故事,他知道,在生活中最重要的是,他想要影响力。成功的是,约翰逊将变得比勒柯布西耶更臭名昭著,正如弗兰克劳埃德赖特一样在聚光灯下。他是第一个“星体”。1958年,“黄昏时”的“西格兰大厦”。1958年,“黄昏时”的“西格兰大厦”。礼貌:伊斯托·埃兹拉·斯托勒(Esto Ezra Stoller)哈佛大学的一名学生,1932年,他在纽约新现代艺术博物馆(New Museum of Modern Art)漫不经心地登上了聚光灯,在帮助组装在那里举办的第一个建筑展览材料时,他与欧洲建立了联系。约翰逊在策展人的讲坛上,没有受过正规的建筑训练,他批评那些比他大两倍的人,面颊光秃,但目光敏锐。1940年他进入哈佛设计学院(Harvard School of Design)沃尔特·格罗皮乌斯(Walter Gropius)的研究生课程时,他的同学们感到很不安,他们读了一本名叫约翰逊(Johnson)的教科书,书名为《国际风格》(International Style)(1932年出版),并在他作为论文项目修建的道路上研究一座预制房屋。很容易感到无聊,他从来都不是一个合格的建筑师,但他找到了回避这个轻微的官僚问题的方法。约翰逊是那种认为规则是为小人物制定的人之一,当他跳伞进入这个行业时,他认为自己是至高无上的权利,他漫不经心地、公开地借钱,在政治上退缩到自我贬低的地步。他从1949年建成的新迦南玻璃屋里的米斯·范·德·洛(Mies van de Rohe)开始,他对自己的高度评价,在美国比在欧洲更进一步、更快(约翰逊甚至与唐纳德·特朗普合作)。维持两个职业,馆长和建筑师,是有风险的。他甚至把自己的作品列入展览,招致美国建筑界资深政治家弗兰克·劳埃德·赖特的谴责。在职业生涯中期,约翰逊开始戴着一副猫头鹰般的黑色眼镜,就像勒柯布西耶(他认为勒柯布西耶是个令人反感的人,但毫无疑问是个天才)一样,继续把自己从英俊的林荫大道变成严肃的设计英雄。这是一种精明的敬礼行为,让人分心的是他既不能画也不能声称对结构有正确的理解。风格就是一切。纽约大剧院的长廊。纽约大剧院的长廊,纽约大剧院的长廊。礼貌:埃斯托·埃兹拉·斯托勒,但几十年来,在世界各地,无论在哪里,只要能找到有雄心壮志的建筑师,约翰逊也是——他们吸取了他的经验教训。建筑师作为超级明星的崛起,在赖特和科布的帮助下,很大程度上可以看作是他的创作。然而约翰逊有直觉和坚强的勇气。1971年,他是一名陪审员,为巴黎蓬皮杜中心(Beauburg)挑选建筑师,他与具有社会意识的Jean Prouv_一起激烈地、令人惊讶地争辩说,成功的设计是由两个未经考验的年轻人伦佐·皮亚诺(Renzo Piano)和理查德·罗杰斯(Richard Rogers)设计的。到20世纪70年代中期,所谓的“纽约五号”(New York Five)的崛起-彼得·艾森曼、迈克尔·格雷夫斯、查尔斯·格沃思梅、约翰·赫德朱克和理查德·迈尔都是一种现象。正如拉姆斯特所说,约翰逊匆忙上船,以附言的形式向《五位建筑师》(1972)第二版提供背书,这本专著确保了他们的名声。1979年,约翰逊获得了普里茨克奖。到目前为止,他已经是国王的首席制造者。为了纪念约翰逊在1996年的90岁生日,他召集了15位建筑师——他所谓的“朋友”——包括盖瑞、扎哈·哈迪德、阿拉塔·伊索扎基、雷姆·库哈斯、鲍勃·斯特恩和纽约五人中的4位。菲利斯·兰伯特给了他四季饭店的佣金,他们正在那里吃饭,她坐在那里,像个皇后。几十年来,约翰逊在建筑中体现了智慧、智慧和赞誉,当晚的照片庆祝了他的成就。bookcover.jpg Architects: Unsuitable Cases for Stardom? - 建筑师:不适合明星的案例? mark lamster,The man in the glass house:Philip Johnson,The Architect of the Modern Century,2018.礼貌:小布朗公司,但钢琴、罗杰斯、诺曼·福斯特(他在耶鲁遇到过)和让·努维尔那天晚上都不见了。建筑师如何判断彼此,他们的声誉如何?其中一条途径是通过一系列享有盛誉的奖项,无论是在职业内部还是外部,以及一种容易通胀的货币。他们吸引了雄心勃勃的客户——渴望被视为精明的客户——这些客户为项目提供资金,而这些项目可能不会给实践带来什么好处。福斯特在伦敦城最新推出的“郁金香”观景塔(City of London)方案表明,人们对它的期待是一种负担,就像皮亚诺在帕丁顿车站旁连续设计的“杆子”摩天大楼(随后被切割成“立方体”)一样。迷人的变色龙约翰逊主要是一个交际花。没有一大群门徒蜂拥到他的办公室(在那里他们会发现,令人不安的是,这位伟人实际上做得有多么少),因为他们必须和赖特一起工作或跟随米斯(那些著名的“小盲人米斯”)。目前在伦敦皇家学院(1月20日之前)举办的一场钢琴作品展,在很大程度上体现了“建筑工作室”这一实践,在他的16项特色计划中,与其他演奏者分享了相当多的荣誉——终生作品的“CR_Me de la CR_Me”。但对于有声望的工作,名人地位胜过一切。委托人从81岁的伦佐钢琴(Renzo Piano)或83岁的诺曼福斯特(Norman Foster)建造一座建筑,他们最重要的是购买他们的星级监狱。阿多,1980岁。礼貌:作者最终以她自己的风格获得了优势,这与她在这个职业中的巨大成功的女性的独立自主的地位有关。但是,目前在高等法院,建筑合伙人帕特里克·舒马赫和她的遗嘱执行人之间发生了激烈的战争,这与她的未婚夫所处的位置有很大关系。无礼的舒马赫将她分裂的建筑主义设计转变为建筑,从她第一个建造项目巴塞尔外的维特拉消防站开始。我很清楚地记得,在1993年大楼的新闻发布会上,他被认定为是一个将其设计成的人,但他仍然处于阴影之中。菲利普·约翰逊和他的“朋友”的世界是否正在消逝?我们的环境危机的紧迫性,在不断变化的地缘政治背景下,表明了建筑行业的一种新的普遍的冷静,而独居、灵感四射的星体的形象开始显得荒谬的反常。差异万岁。主要形象:谢尔顿纪念艺术馆,1963年,以其独特的文化特色而著称。燕麦扣天花板和织物墙。礼貌:Esto Ezra Stoller Gillian Darley Gillian Darley是一位广泛出版的建筑作家和传记作家,总部位于英国伦敦。她是20世纪社会的主席。意见/建筑Philip Johnson Zaha Hadid Frank Gehry Gilian Darley意见


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