Not currently on display at the V&A

Design

1978 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This architectural elevation of the AT&T Building (later to become the Sony Building) in Manhattan is considered a landmark in Postmodern architecture. The architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005) ironically did much to promote Modernism in the United States during his early career. He introduced such influential European architects as Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius to the country where their influence would shape 20th century American architecture. Yet, his later years are characterized by a move towards postmodern thinking. In conjunction with his colleague John Burgee (1933-) Johnson designed a classic skyscraper which has more in common with earlier Manhattan buildings like the Chrysler and the Empire State and less in common with New York's austere, postwar skyscrapers of concrete and glass such as the Seagram building (also designed by Johnson). However, the top of the AT&T building boasts an unorthodox addition which resembles a Georgian pediment in the style of a Chippendale bookcase or wardrobe. This apparent disrespect for historical and social context was seen as provocation on a grand scale and the skyscraper came to be the most controversial building of Johnson's illustrious career. Such irreverence is a key theme in postmodern design whether as a direct critique of modernism or as playfulness for the sake of wit.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Ink, graphite and ink wash on tracing paper
Brief Description
Design, architectural drawing (elevation) of the AT&T Building, Manhattan, by Philip Johnson (Studio of Johnson and Burgee Associates), New York, USA, 1978.
Physical Description
Design of the facade of the AT&T building.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2324mm
  • Width: 1073mm
  • Frame height: 2360mm
  • Frame width: 1110mm
  • Frame depth: 80mm
Style
Summary
This architectural elevation of the AT&T Building (later to become the Sony Building) in Manhattan is considered a landmark in Postmodern architecture. The architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005) ironically did much to promote Modernism in the United States during his early career. He introduced such influential European architects as Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius to the country where their influence would shape 20th century American architecture. Yet, his later years are characterized by a move towards postmodern thinking. In conjunction with his colleague John Burgee (1933-) Johnson designed a classic skyscraper which has more in common with earlier Manhattan buildings like the Chrysler and the Empire State and less in common with New York's austere, postwar skyscrapers of concrete and glass such as the Seagram building (also designed by Johnson). However, the top of the AT&T building boasts an unorthodox addition which resembles a Georgian pediment in the style of a Chippendale bookcase or wardrobe. This apparent disrespect for historical and social context was seen as provocation on a grand scale and the skyscraper came to be the most controversial building of Johnson's illustrious career. Such irreverence is a key theme in postmodern design whether as a direct critique of modernism or as playfulness for the sake of wit.
Collection
Accession Number
E.522-2010

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record createdFebruary 1, 2011
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