In the early 1980s I worked in Manhattan just a few blocks from where Philip Johnson’s AT&T building was being erected. We watched with amazement as the raw steel forms of what became known as the “Chippendale” skyscraper were put in place.
Remember this was a neighborhood dominated for the previous 40 years by simple elegant rectangular forms, like the 1952 Lever House or Johnson’s own 1958 Seagram building, and more recently offset by the simple geometric angles of the 1977 CitiGroup Center or the 1983 IBM building just a block away.
And I remember the response by the architectural and design critics at the time. It was shock and awe. But love it or hate it, we now know that it has influenced many areas of design ever since.
To suggest that Philip Johnson has had an indelible influence on architecture for the last several decades, is of course obvious. But his aesthetic influence, with projects like the AT&T building, has also had a lasting influence on product and package design.
An archive of over 25,000 of his sketches, covering a period from 1968 to 1992, is being put up for sale by one of his former architectural partners, Raj Ahuja. The image above shows three of these sketches, from work on the Momentum Place in Dallas and an unbuilt Neiman Marcus building in Honolulu.
They are juxtaposed with a selection of fragrance and spirits packaging from the last decade. And the influence of his spare geometric line quality, with its obvious influences of classic arch, dome and column shapes, is unmistakable.
The images of the Johnson drawings are by Daniel Barry from a NY Times article on the collection.
The images of the packages are from thedieline.com