Architecture is one of my passions & 20th century American architecture is my focus. I say that as I realize that my favorite structure is the Duomo in Sienna. Not all that long ago, a young man who was gay & loved design was expected to become a decorator. Brick & concrete were for straight guys; homos were supposed to stick to furniture & fabrics. But for most of the 20th century, there was a glorious exception. Philip Cortely Johnson built skyscrapers in nearly every major USA city, mentored 3 generations of mostly straight male architects, & lived with a man he met when Dwight D. Eisenhower occupied the White House.
Photograph by Irving Penn
Today marks the birthday of Phillip Johnson, my favorite American Architect. Distinctive in his thick round glasses, Johnson caught my interest when I lived in NYC & fell in love with the Seagram's building (which has a mention in the musical Company, making me curious about the reference). After graduating from Harvard, Johnson founded the Department of Architecture & Design at the MOMA. He didn't actually practice architecture for another 10 years. His most iconic work is his Glass House, which I want to see in my lifetime. His other important works include the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center, JFK Memorial Plaza in Dallas, 101 California Street in San Francisco, 191 Peachtree Tower in Atalanta, the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove California, the Tata Theatre in Mombai, & the unfinished GLBT Cathedral Of Hope in Dallas. Throughout his career he was as well-known for his quips as he was for his buildings. He once famously called Frank Lloyd Wright whose career lasted from the 1880s to the 1950s, "the greatest architect of the 19th century."
The Seagram Building, built in 1958
Johnson lived with his partner- curator David Whitney from 1960 until his death in January 2005. He died at his Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. Johnson was 98. Whitney died less than 6 months later.