Johnson and John Burgee
Title: AT & T World Headquarters
Medium: Lithograph, signed l.r. in marker and numbered in pencil l.l.
Size: 12 x 12 inches
(Johnson b. 1906; d. 2005) A twenty year architectural partnership
led by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, founded 1967.
"It was this partnership that transformed Mr. Johnson from
a scholar-architect designing small to medium-size institutional
buildings for well-to-do clients into a major force in commercial
architecture. Mr. Burgee's arrival coincided with the firm's movement
toward a number of major, widely acclaimed skyscraper projects, including
the IDS Center in Minneapolis and Pennzoil Place in Houston. Mr.
Johnson's leanings were always toward the aesthetic issues in design,
and in Mr. Burgee he had a partner who could serve not only as a
colleague in design but also as an executive overseeing the kind
of large architectural office required to produce major skyscrapers.
"As if to mark Mr. Burgee's role, the Johnson-Burgee firm moved
in 1986 into the elliptical skyscraper at 885 Third Avenue, between
53rd and 54th Streets. Popularly known as the Lipstick Building,
it had been designed by the partners together. But the partnership
was not to last long beyond the move: Mr. Burgee, eager to occupy
center stage, negotiated a more limited role for Mr. Johnson and
in 1991 exercised the prerogative he had as the firm's chief executive
and eased Mr. Johnson out altogether.
"It proved an unwise decision: the firm, crippled by an arbitration
decision unrelated to Mr. Johnson, soon went into bankruptcy, all
but ending Mr. Burgee's career. Mr. Johnson, who had severed ties
to his former firm, had no liability and went on to rent a smaller
space in the Lipstick Building, gleefully hanging out his shingle
in his mid-80's and declaring himself in business as a solo practitioner.
Before long, he had several commissions, including a cathedral in
Dallas, and his career had recharged itself."