John Johansen Is 93!

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Friday, June 19, 2009
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Johansen at his Dutchess County house.

Johansen at his Dutchess County house. (Photo by Hae-In Kim)

On June 27, Open House New York celebrates one of our last links to the early history of modern architecture with a birthday tribute to John Johansen. Long admired for his intricate concrete forms like the U.S. Embassy in Dublin (1963) and far-out assemblages like Oklahoma City’s Mummers Theater (1970), Johansen has blazed a highly original trail over a career spanning more than a half-century.

Educated in Walter Gropius’ first Harvard class—and later marrying Gropius’ daughter Ati—Johansen studied alongside I.M. Pei, Paul Rudolph, and Bruno Zevi, drank heavily with Marcel Breuer and Le Corbusier, learned color theory with Josef Albers and history with Siegfried Giedion, and worked with Gordon Bunshaft at SOM. The only surviving member of the New Canaan–based Harvard 5 (with Eliot Noyes, Breuer, Landis Gore, and Philip Johnson), Johansen is also known for designing some of the most unique private houses on the East Coast. One of them, his own country house—a truncated and translucent fiberglass pyramid in Dutchess County—has now been sold, and John will move out next fall.

As a last hurrah, OHNY is sponsoring a 93rd birthday party for John, and inviting the public to tour the house next weekend, with buses picking up celebrants in Manhattan and driving them to John’s house. Please join Barry Bergdoll, Michael Webb, Lebbeus Woods, Tom Hanrahan, Anthony Vidler, and many others for the special Saturday birthday party.

The original concept for Johansens 1974 house.

A sketch of Johansen's 1974 house.

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