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Dean of American architecture, Philip Johnson, dies.

Renown architect, Philip Johnson, died this week at the age of 98.

Mr. Johnson pioneered and championed the two architectural movements that have most affected the urban landscape during the last sixty years: the International Style, and "postmodernism", and with it the reintroduction of the use of historic styles in contemporary architectural design. The former was advanced by Mr. Johnson and the late Henry Russell-Hitchcock in the 1930s, the latter through the 1978 unveiling of the design Mr. Johnson created for the AT&T Headquarters building in New York City.

Alan Ritchie, of Philip Johnson/ Alan Ritchie Architects, Johnson's long time friend and colleague said: "I am deeply saddened by the passing of Philip Johnson, my partner and friend for over three decades. Philip leaves an unmatched legacy to the world of architecture and design."

"As an icon of twentieth century American architecture, his intellect, presence and enormous talent will be missed by those of us who knew him, and by his colleagues throughout the world. He leaves behind a lifetime of accomplishment that very few have achieved."

"Those that Philip inspired over his 60 years in architectural practice will carry on the legacy of his work. The firm that he established. Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects, will continue to create design excellence on the foundation of Philip's passion for architecture and art history and his constant desire for change." As founder and director of the Department of Architecture of the Museum of Modern Art, Mr. Johnson's efforts defined an architectural style practiced by such European masters as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, introducing a generation of American architects to this revolutionary approach to design. A design approach characterized by the straightforward use of modern materials such as glass and steel, and emphasizing function and structure over ornamental decoration, the 'International Style' became the guiding spirit of our city skylines for fifty years, and continues to heavily influence contemporary designs. In addition to advocating the practice and benefits of the International Style, Mr. Johnson created two of its most important monuments, the Seagram Building (in 1958, with Mr. Mies van der Rohe), and his own Glass House (1949).

In 1979, Philip Johnson was the first recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Real Estate Weekly pays tribute to the legendary architect by rerunning an article from July 18, 2001, written by then REW staff writer, Parke Chapman, who attended Mr. Johnson's 95th birthday party:

Philip Johnson celebrated his 95th birthday at the Four Seasons restaurant last week. Since Johnson designed the restaurant and the building it occupies, it was a fitting venue for the soiree.

For a man who had outlived everyone in the room, the excitement seemed to energize rather than exhaust him. Johnson basked in the limelight amidst flashbulbs and a steady stream of broadcast crews who fixed their cameras on the Dean of American architecture from all points of the compass. Print journalists queued up to speak with Johnson as he sat before a large square fountain as others gawked from the elevated cocktail patio across the room. He smiled the entire time seated alone at a large round table in the center of the room.

The party was also a decisive opportunity for Johnson and a development team to promote their embattled downtown project--"The Seasons", a highly unconventional residential design that has been called a "habitable sculpture" by The New York Times's architecture critic. It resembles a Cubist sculpture with multi-dimensional sides and double-hung windows.

The project has run up against community opposition in recent months, making its future --at this Spring Street site, at least--uncertain. That hasn't dampened Johnson's spirits, however. "It will be built. Somewhere," said Johnson prior to the luncheon.

The Manhattan building would be part of a series of similar residential projects that, according to the developer, will be built in Italy, Tokyo, South Beach and Los Angeles. Johnson plans to live inside the Manhattan building, yet not in the penthouse. "I will live somewhere in the middle of this building," he mused prior to the lunch.

David Childs, of SOM, spoke briefly to the crowd, calling Johnson a "guiding path" and crediting him for his "spirit and enthusiasm."

George Campbell, the president of Cooper-Union, awarded Johnson a citation for his lifetime achievement as an architect. Cooper-Union will establish an outpost on the retail level of the "Seasons" building where artwork will be exhibited.

Nino Vendome, of the Vendome Group, whose group is relatively new to the business but sure to become known quickly thanks to their high-profile architect, then said, "We want this building to stand for two things. The man himself--Philip Johnson--and the freedom of expression."

He thanked Johnson "for being the artist that you are," and closed his remarks by wishing the nonagenarian a happy birthday.

Johnson then addressed the crowd, saying "architects are more important than they think they are," and thanking the developer of "The Seasons" project, Nino Vendome.

"Nino is the best guy that I have ever worked with," said Johnson. Vendome, standing to Johnson's left, grinned expansively the whole time.

"I'm alive because of Nino Vendome, who feels that this building is a work of sculpture," said Johnson.

At the end of lunch, a chocolate velvet cake -Philip Johnson's favorite--was wheeled over to his table. 96 candles--one extra for luck--generated so much heat that the centerpiece melted.

With some help from the Vendome brothers and his partner Alan Ritchie, Johnson blew out all 96 candles.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 2, 2005
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