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"The Nazi Of New Caanan"
By Ed Driscoll · July 31, 2007 11:45 AM · From Bauhaus To Our House · The Memory Hole

James Panero of The New Criterion and Benjamin Ivry of Commentary use the occasion of Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Cannan being opened to the public to remind us what a piece of work the late architect was.

Amongst his links, Panero includes Hilton Kramer's essay on Johnson from the September 1995 Commentary. Here's but a sample:

I was reminded of a conversation I had with Marga Barr in the last year of her life. I was then working with her on the preparation of a "Chronicle" of Alfred Barr's career [as art historian and the first director of the Museum of Modern Art] for publication in the New Criterion. (It was published under the title, "Our Campaigns," in a special issue of the magazine in the summer of 1987.)

On one of the mornings we had set for a meeting in her apartment, the New York Times published Johnson's proposed designs for the rehabilitation of the Times Square-42nd Street area. I found them even more wretched than some of the awful things he had already built, and I was eager to know what Marga thought of them. In recounting to me the story of Alfred's career, she had had frequent occasion to speak of Johnson, and she always did so with fond affection-for the record, so to speak. That morning I asked if she had seen the paper, and she rather glumly acknowledged that she had. I then asked what she thought of the kind of buildings Johnson had lately been designing-and hastened to add that she was under no obligation to discuss the subject if she preferred not to. In responding to difficult questions, Marga had a way of turning away for a few moments while she composed her thoughts and then facing her interlocutor with a very determined look. This is what she did that morning as she said to me: "I feel about Philip today the way I would feel about a beloved son who had gone into a life of crime."

If you're unfamiliar with the endless twists and turns contained within the background of the man who brought modern architecture to America, definitely read the whole thing.

Anne Applebaum's piece on Johnson's decade spent flirting with National Socialism--even as it was kicking his favorite achitects out the door--is also well worth your time.

Update: Video added; the articles in the above hyperlinks make for quite an interesting counterpoint.



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