Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Glass House: Intro/Da Monsta


My first assignment all those years ago in the wee beginnings of architecture school was a bit of a book report with visuals of course. I'm sure my professors had in mind a practice of 'presenting for the client' in this project. It was to present an architect's work. Someone I admired or someone I looked up to I guess but I was so new to the world of architecture that I asked around at work... "Who should I research?"

At the time I worked at Limn and we liked to joke that "the prerequisites to working here were having a boyfriend". Basically it was nearly all women and gay men. It couldn't have been a better place for a young gal in a new city.  One of my mentors there was Robert and he suggested I look up Philip Johnson so that is of course what I did.

When I did I was actually so much more intrigued by his personal life than his architecture. This of course has to do with my age and what was going on in school. It was a return to modernism with a bit of deconstuctivism a la Zaha, Koolhaus, Liebeskind and Gehry. The generations before us had a bitter battle between the two worlds of modernism and post-modernism that I don't think our generation had. I'm quite frankly thankful because I believe we had the opportunity to view the world with a much more open mind and not fall into either camp. So while I've never been a fan of the post-modernist derivative constructions of the ancient icons I am thankful that it shook up the world of strict clean lines and modernist dogma.

Needless to say I'm not necessarily a fan of Philip Johnson's commercial work but I do hold him in high regard as a businessman. No architect is great without the ability to conquer this world as well and it's a world I work to understand better in practice myself and wish I was as masterful. On the other hand his residential work, including his own, That is something I am quite interested in. Thankfully his home is open to the public and easily accessible by train from NYC. I made it a 'must see' this trip to the North East.

The photo above is a bit of an introduction to Philip. He made the 'architect's glasses' a signifier among others and that rolodex right there, THAT was the key to his work and business.

One of the first experiments/buildings that you approach on the property (below) is Da Monsta.  I have a soft spot for PJ (I fully realize I'm in the minority here as Philip Johnson is the architect that architects love to hate.) because he never stopped wanting to progress and move forward. He was infinitely interested in what 'the kids' were doing. This is why even though his main mentor was Mies Van Der Rohe (the godfather of modernism, if you will) he moved with ease into post-modernism.  Da Monsta was built with new modeling technology in it's infancy. This he learned and built in his eighties which I see as a feat in itself. Unfortunately it was closed and we could only take a quick step inside to see the new exhibit that was opening the very next day of Frank Stella's work who was apparently a inspiration for the building itself.

Tomorrow we'll visit his study. 

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