Often architecture can become a game of ‘spot the influence’, quite regularly I find myself comparing different elements in a build to that of other greats like Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. Most shy away from these inspirations, but Philip Johnson was one such individual that didn’t, he freely talked about the architects he admired and just from looking at his builds you often spot furniture and other items that were much of the same as other builds in Europe. This willingness to explore others ideas and elaborate on them more in-depth meant complex thoughts that pushed him in his later life to produce more artistic shapes and forms. So as I was perusing around casually online last night, the eccentric man that is Philip Johnson led me on to a few talks at his estate named ‘Conversations in Context’.
If you’re wondering what particular video I’m referring to, it’s an excerpt from a film produced by Chequerboard films and they’ve recently released a few snippets from their DVD on their youtube channel, The Philip Johnson Foundation has also placed one on their vimeo account. Definitely worth watching if you have a minute, as we get an idea for his intriguing relationship with sculptor Frank Stella, also some of his thoughts on the Glass House that we’re going to mention briefly today.
So the foundation itself has been holding these little conversations with different architects and creatives who have some sort of connection to the famed designer. They get a chance to walk around the estate and discuss the house and voice their opinion on the structure itself, which is probably the most fascinating part about it all. It’s great hearing all these complex thoughts on the design patterns, the feelings you get when you walk around, also the surrounding landscape which isn’t something you necessarily take into account at first glance. Often you would be dealing with a smaller area to build on, but since this is such a big plot you also have to take into account the amount of growth and the meadows on a maintenance perspective. Amazing how this can influence your perception of a build, I guess the natural environment around a house is always growing and changing so it’s never stationary.
When I watch little snippets like these below you get that bite size connection with architecture as a whole, it’s not too full on but you gain a real respect for the craft and get an idea of what it would be like to be in Philip Johnson’s mind. I once watched a piece on Dieter Rams and he said that if he was to do it all again he wouldn’t be a designer, he would be an architect. He went on to say that we need to redesign our landscapes to make them uncluttered and free, also easy to use and environmentally friendly. Maybe one day I will get a chance to be involved in a building type project of some sort, but for now I’ll revel in the inspiration below. I’ve highlighted a few videos here but there are plenty more on the The Philip Johnson Glass House video page, I’d also recommend checking their website for future updates.