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Influential architect dies at 98



Published: Thu, January 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Cleveland native designed the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Philip Johnson, whose austere "glass box" buildings and latter-day penchant for incorporating whimsical touches in his designs made him one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, has died at 98.

The Cleveland native died Tuesday at his home in New Canaan, Conn. -- itself one of his most important creations.

Johnson's work, which spanned more than half a century starting in the 1940s, ranged from the modernism of his home, a glass cube in the woods, to the more fanciful work of his later years, including the AT & amp;T Building in New York, with its curved pediment that made it look like a giant Chippendale chest of drawers.

Johnson once said his great ambition was "to build the greatest room in the world -- a great theater or cathedral or monument. Nobody's given me the job."

In 1980, however, he completed his great room, the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., a soaring glass structure wider and higher than Notre Dame in Paris. If architects are remembered for their one-room buildings, Johnson said, "This may be it for me."

With his partner, John Burgee, Johnson also designed the Bank of America building in Houston, a 56-story tower of pink granite stepped back in a series of Dutch gable roofs; and the Cleveland Playhouse, a complex with the feel of an 11th-century town.

"The world has lost a towering force who defined the art and practice of architecture in the 20th century," said architect Daniel Libeskind, the master planner for the new towers rising on the site of the World Trade Center.

Trademark glasses

Johnson was one of architecture's most recognizable figures, with his trademark black round-rimmed glasses that gave him an owlish look.

Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger of The New Yorker pronounced him "the greatest architectural presence of our time -- which is not the same thing as the greatest architect."

"He was probably our first and most significant architect as celebrity," Goldberger said. "There's no question that he used his fame for the betterment of architecture. His greatest passion was in seeing architecture, talking about it, making a stimulating dialogue about it."

Johnson also invented the role of museum architecture curator, at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1932. And he coined the term International Style for the work of Europeans Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.




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