Philip Johnson was one of the most influential architects of the past century and became one of the best-known architects of the 20th century. He was awarded the first-ever Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979 and died in 2005. One of his most known and celebrated projects, “Glass House,” became a celebrated landmark of modernist design in Connecticut and around the globe.
Sadly he also championed racist and white supremacist viewpoints in his younger years. Johnson’s Nazi sympathies, for example, have been well documented.
A group of more than 30 prominent artists, architects and academics recently cast a light on the more unsavoury part of Johnson’s legacy, demanding in a letter published online on Nov. 27 that institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Harvard Graduate School of Design remove the name of the architect, who died in 2005, from their spaces.
“There is a role for Johnson’s architectural work in archives and historic preservation,” the Johnson Study Group, a largely anonymous group of designers and architects, wrote in the letter. “However, naming titles and spaces inevitably suggests that the honoree is a model for curators, administrators, students and others who participate in these institutions.”
In response, US architecture and design school Harvard GSD removed Philip Johnson’s name from a house he built while studying at the institution in response to the campaign calling for a rethink of the Nazi-supporting late architect’s legacy.
Harvard Graduate School of Design announced this week has renamed the house Johnson designed and built in the 1940s as his GSD thesis project. Formerly known as Philip Johnson Thesis House, the single-storey dwelling is now named after its address, 9 Ash Street.
Philip Johnson is “an inappropriate namesake” His ties to fascism have previously been detailed in a book by American journalist Marc Wortman, which describes his growing support for the Nazis in the 1930s and efforts to import fascism to America.
Called 1941: Fighting the Shadow War, the book suggests Johnson’s allegiance with the regime began when he attended a youth rally led by Adolf Hitler shortly after organising a 1932 show on the International Style at MoMA. The architect’s pro-Nazi efforts soon garnered attention in the US, with Harper’s Magazine listed him as a leading American Nazi in an article, and the FBI tracking his activities. I guess ones past can catch up with anyone.