LGBTQ Heroes: Philip Johnson – a ground-breaking architect who shaped a modern style
As we continue our celebration of some of the queer icons from our history, let’s take a look at the life and legacy of architect Philip Johnson.
Born in 1906 and raised in Cleveland, Johnson studied history and philosophy at Harvard. Upon completing his studies in 1927, Johnson travelled to Europe with architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock.
In 1930, Johnson joined the architecture department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
From 1936 until 1941, Johnson worked as a journalist before enrolling in the Harvard Graduate School to study design and architecture.
In 1941, Johnson enlisted in the US military. Johnson was stationed in the US for the duration of World War Two.
Having completed his military service in 1946, Johnson returned to work at the Museum of Modern Art while also establishing his own architecture practice.
Johnson’s first project was to build himself a residence in Connecticut.
Completed in 1949, The Glass House has become a landmark of modern architecture. The glass rectangle showcased a calm and ordered aesthetic that has become a touch-point for contemporary architecture.
Other notable buildings that further consolidated Johnson’s reputation and unique point of view include the interior of the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City’s Seagram Building. This was completed in 1956.
Pursuing a career in journalism, Johnson was working as a correspondent for Social Justice – a newspaper run by the populist Father Charles Coughlin. On behalf of the newspaper, Johnson made several trips to Germany - providing sympathetic coverage of the Nazi rally at Nuremberg, as well as the German invasion of Poland in 1939.
Johnson later described his activities in Germany as stupid, and it remained a point of embarrassment for him throughout his life.
Johnson’s first notable relationship appears to have been with cabaret singer Jimmie Daniels, whom he met in 1934.
Johnson spent 45 years in a relationship with David Whitney.
He died in 2005, aged 98.