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Philip Johnson, his life and work

Year: 1976, 55 mins
Code: CAT-Philip

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"Philip Johnson, leading American architect, interviewed by art critic and lecturer Rosamond Bernier. Filmed over a period of ten years, Johnson was 70 years of age (1976) at the time of the last interview. Illustrated with filmed tours of many examples of his work.

Glass house in New Canaan, CT. where Philip Johnson often lives. Influence of Mies van der Rohe. Deep explanation of architecture, Renaissance influence, element of surprise, house "built like a dog sniffing to find out where he wants to curl up and lie down,' etc. IDS shopping center in Minneapolis is shown and explained in detail. Johnson: Shakespeare would translate his sonnets into stone, mechanics of pleasing clients, urban planners nibbling away at art and architecture, stinginess of those who commission architecture, cheapness of Levittown, etc. Pennzoil Plaza in Houston made Johnson really famous, praised by Business Week, but "value judgments don't coincide with business." Bernier interviews architect Johnson in various places, buildings which he has made.
Sculpture gallery in the Glass House area built in 1970 and called "the most beautiful small building in America." Processional architecture at its most inventive. Johnson's love for stairways. "Stairs, chairs and city squares" the three most difficult things to design. Johnson's office in Seagram's Building in New York, "the largest Johnson and Mies (van der Rohe) had ever done."

Pennzoil building in Houston, "most exciting building on urban scale, the end of the skyscraper," the country now being saturated with the skyscraper. Community Grove church for TV preacher, Dr. Schuler, who speaks to parked cars. "Religious architecture is the most important kind of architecture". 4,000 seats, bigger than Chartres, block long in size. Interview with John Burgee, young partner of Johnson's, age difference ("none"), description of Johnson as "patrician and elegant… public image different from private one… not formal and straight or aloof, "Open to new ideas." Experimental underground art museum built on the grounds of Glass House in Connecticut; remodeling Avery Fischer Hall. Art Museum of Corpus Christi, Texas, picture window, white and stark. Johnson views on Cultural Center South Bend, Indiana. Water Garden in Fort Worth, Texas, reclamation of slum. Johnson's town house in New York City, 26 years old but still modern, atrium paved with water. Clear, clean, sparse, spare, wall-washing lights. Johnson's views on the future of architecture. 1976."

Rosamond Bernier was often the first writer to get into print with new achievements in art that have since acquired landmark status. Since 1971 she has spoken to audiences around the globe. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she eventually gave over 200 lectures, her annual series routinely sold out months in advance. Madame Bernier is also a practiced television performer, having conducted numerous interviews with leading artists and cultural figures for CBS and Channel THIRTEEN. Narrating scripts by her late husband John Russell, former chief art critic of The New York Times, she made two programs on unfamiliar aspects of the Louvre and a further two on the Pompidou Center. The latter won the coveted Peabody Award.

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