Philip Johnson

Philip Johnson (1906- 2005)

A Cleveland native, was one of the most influential and honored American born architects of the twentieth century. Johnson’s pioneering designs from the 1930s until his death profoundly influenced international modern building design. Harvard educated, he became the first director of the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1972 he was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize for Architecture, and in 1979 he was the first winner of Pritzker Prize for architecture . Turning Point, created expressly in 1996 for the site designated with that name on the CWRU campus master plan, was Johnson’s first work in sculpture, something, he said, he had always wanted to do and thus was a significant “turning point” in his career. For Johnson, the “turning point” signified “ not only the change taking place within himself and the turning towards a new century, but also the confrontation with new concepts and thereby with a completely new architectural vocabulary”. It is closely related to a group of abstract forms used in the small experimental buildings he created for his 47 acre estate in Connecticut, the site of his celebrated Glass House (1949), now administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Johnson completed the Putnam sculptural ensemble with the Turning Point Garden, (1998) an area adjacent to the Turning Point sculptures as a place for students to gather, study, and perform. It comprises a fifty seat amphitheater, a soft green lighting kiosk, a yellow “sit-on” bench, and a “sit-in” wire mesh structure. In 1996 as a consequence of the success of Turning Point Johnson was commissioned by the Museum for Applied and Contemporary Art (MAK) in Vienna, Austria, to create a smaller three element variant he named the Wiener Trio, which was installed (2000) in a park in central Vienna. In 1996 the MAK organized an exhibition and symposium on Johnson’s achievements accompanied by a catalogue titled Turning Point (Vienna,1998). The Turning Point ensemble is dedicated to the memory of Peter Putnam (1925-1987) who, with his mother Mildred Andrews Putnam established the Putnam sculpture endowment at CWRU.

Works in the collection:

31 Turning Point, 1996
Poly resin, fiberglass, wood veneers
Bellflower Road, Ireland Way, [1997.1]

32-35 Turning Point Garden, 2000
32 – blue mesh seating area
33 – yellow bench
34 – green tower
35 – amphitheater
Poly resin, fiberglass, wood veneers
Bellflower Road, Ireland Way, [2001.1-4]

The Putnam Sculpture Collection
Case Western Reserve University
11201 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7110

evelyn.kiefer@case.edu