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Volume 70, Issue 79, Thursday, January 27, 2005


Innovator of architecture dead at 98

Johnson designed a handful of Houston's most notable buildings

By Jim Parsons
The Daily Cougar

Philip Johnson, one of the most influential American architects of the 20th century and the designer of one of the University's most well-known buildings, died Tuesday at 98.

Johnson was an art critic, art historian and museum director before he designed his first building at the age of 36. His buildings were innovative, memorable and often controversial -- including the Architecture Building at UH, which opened in 1986. Johnson drew fire for the building, which he patterned after a 17th century French design.

Johnson's work included some of Houston's best-known structures, including Pennzoil Place, the Bank of America building downtown, the University of St. Thomas campus and the Williams Tower and Water Wall.

Architects Philip Johnson, right, and John Burgee stand with a model of the UH Architecture Building in this 1983 photo. Johnson, one of America's foremost architects, died Tuesday.
Cougar File Photo

Much of his most prominent work here was the result of a collaboration with developer Gerald Hines, for whom UH's architecture college is named.

"Philip Johnson's legacy is more than just beautiful buildings; it also resides in the work of a generation of architects he inspired," Hines said in a release Wednesday. Johnson was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1906. He took an early interest in innovative art and architecture, and his writings helped advance the reputation of the noted modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in America.

In 1949, Johnson designed his Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., which became an icon of the clean, modern style he espoused. Though his early work was characterized by its Miesian influence, Johnson later turned to more fanciful designs with roots in history.

Johnson visited UH often during his career, supporting the architecture college and giving seminars and guest lectures.

"He was most interested in speaking with students," College of Architecture Associate Dean Lannis Kirkland said Wednesday.

Since 1989, Johnson has been in semi-retirement, working on personal projects and consulting with his former partner, John Burgee.

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