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PRINT October 1978

Philip Johnson and History

THE RESTORATION OF THE PAST to architecture, after several decades of only intramural tumult in the profession, produced last spring the more public shock of Philip Johnson’s project for the American Telephone and Telegraph building in New York. Its conspicuous size and site, at 56th and Madison; its publication on the front page of the New York Times; and, above all, its raw juxtaposition of classical forms on a skyscraper, as a rejection, not a reform, of modern architecture, brought into question the meanings of tradition and the purposes of historicism in recent American architecture.

It is appropriate for Johnson to have raised these doubts, since his long career and his viewpoint exemplify more fully than any other architect’s the confounding of historical sense by architectural modernism in America. Whereas the modern painting that Johnson also did so much to foster could be safely

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