November 21, 2011
Conversations in Context, the ongoing series of Philip Johnson Glass House tours led by critics and theorists from the architecture world, could not be more precisely named. In a rare night tour last week, historian Barry Bergdoll (MoMA’s Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design) led the season’s final conversation on the property, emphasizing the architecture as result of conversation with other disciplines, with history, with the site, and of course, with the work of other architects.
Architects tend to present their work as isolated from context, contemporaries, and history. In contrast, Johnson described his work as unapologetically derivative. Borrowing both specific gestural elements and broader conceptual ideas from myriad projects, he pioneered the consolidation of diverse and contradictory sources, arriving at a richer, more complex and sometimes even humorous architecture. His acute self-awareness, along with an encyclopedic knowledge of design history, embed Johnson’s work with layer after layer of references, jokes, and commentary.