Philip Johnson

Just before Christmas, I read the statement made by Sarah Whiting, the Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, that in future no reference would be made to Philip Johnson’s design of his so-called thesis house on the corner of Ash Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, but in future it would be known only as 9, Ash Street. I hadn’t know that he had been a late vocation student under Gropius in the early days of the Second World War, having spent the 1930s, first as a fervent advocate for Modernism – the International Style – and then as an equally fervent supporter of Nazism – no secret, but not previously known to me. This combination of beliefs struck me as deeply unexpected, but interesting, and the accompanying article is an attempt to interpret the conjunction:-


3 thoughts on “Philip Johnson

  1. joan says:

    Even before I got to the relevant paragraph I was thinking about Fr Charles Coughlin and was not at all surprised to see the connection. I had to read a lot of Coughlin while researching my PhD – about Catholic social thought – thirty years ago. People of all types of fascist sympathies did, of course, live out long lives postwar when no doubt all sorts of rethinks/reinvention happened. Coughlin himself was a parish priest until the 1960s. You only have to read Phillipe Sands’ books to get a sense of the complexity for both the individuals themselves and the families who survive them.

  2. CLIVE ASLET says:

    Dear Charles,
    So interesting. I wonder if architects who were Communists at the time of Stalin get the same treatment?
    I don’t know much about P.Johnson and I suppose his fall from grace is in proportion to the adulation he previously received, but I imagine he was a utopian. Utopianism, when translated into real life politics, is extremist. Obviously his support for Nazism is appalling. I’m interested to hear his response to the Nazi rally though: that was the whole point of them, to manipulate the feelings of the audience — and clearly he was a willing victim.
    The Critic is a splendid addition to our lives, only I’m sorry that Michael Mosbacher has been given the heave-ho. He lives round the corner as it happens.
    All best,

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