The Philip Johnson Tapes
Interviews by Robert A. M. Stern
By Robert A.M. Stern
(The Monacelli Press, Hardcover, 9781580932141, 208pp.)
Publication Date: November 18, 2008
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Debate and banter between the irascible Philip Johnson and the equally articulate and opinionated Robert A. M. Stern generates a provocative combination of astute commentary and personal observation on the state of architecture in the twentieth century.
Philip Johnson's multifaceted career as an architect, curator, and collector extended from the early 1920s to his death in 2005. Captivated by the work of the European modernists Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe, Johnson assembled the seminal exhibition "Modern Architecture—International Exhibition" at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. Among his most notable achievements are the famous Glass House in Connecticut, designed for his own use, and the Seagram Building in New York, in association with Mies van der Rohe.
Recognized as the dean of American architecture, Johnson had a profound influence on the next generation of architects, including Robert A. M. Stern. Stern has conducted a series of ten interviews with Johnson, each covering a decade of his life, that provide an illuminating assessment of a significant period of American architecture.
Robert A. M. Stern is the founding partner of Robert A. M. Stern Architects and dean of the Yale School of Architecture. He is the author of the monumental five-volume history of New York's architecture and urban development, concluding with New York 2000. The author lives in New York.
"Lively, irreverent, taking no hostages . . . Johnson comes across in this rapid-fire exchange with all the vibrancy he had for decades in auditoriums or on camera. For those who knew the architect, curator, bon vivant, the man is present on every page as he was in every moment in life; for those who didn't the verve with which Johnson had his finger both on the pulse, and in the pie, of architectural, cultural, and business decisions of New York from the 1930s to the 1980s is astounding. Both his unfortunate politics in the 1930s and his later studied apoliticism could not be clearer."
—Barry Bergdoll, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art
"Philip Johnson and Robert Stern have few rivals in the history of talking about architecture. Rarely cloistering himself to commit his ideas to paper, Johnson spent a lifetime in dialogue with the world around him. Stern’s recordings of his conversations with Johnson are a brilliant sampler of what was an almost daily fact of Johnson’s life: an unending round of back-and-forth between himself and those that he found interesting to spend time with. The shadings and nuances revealed by such an extended conversation tell us more about Johnson’s thinking—as well as Stern’s—than any single author could ever do."
—Terence Riley, Director, Miami Art Museum