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Little Brown (2018-11-06)
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Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century

by Lamster, Mark

THE MAN IN THE GLASS HOUSE by Mark Lamster is the first critical biography of Philip Johnson published since his death in 2005.

When Philip Johnson died in 2005 at the age of 98, he was still one of the most recognizable - and influential - figures on the cultural landscape. The first recipient of the Pritzker Prize and MoMA's founding architectural curator, Johnson made his mark as one of the world's leading architects with his famous Glass House in New Caanan, CT, and his controversial AT&T Building in NYC, among many others in nearly every city in the country - but his most natural role was as a consummate power broker and shaper of public opinion.

Following his travels and time spent in Europe (he studied in France, spent much time in Berlin and the UK, traveled throughout Poland and the Czech Republic.), Johnson introduced the sleek, glass-and-steel architecture of European modernism to America, and mentored generations of architects, designers, and artists to follow. He defined the era of "starchitecture" with its flamboyant buildings and celebrity designers who esteemed aesthetics and style above all other concerns. But Johnson was also a man of deep paradoxes: he was a Nazi sympathizer, a designer of synagogues, an enfant terrible into his old age, a populist, and a snob. His clients ranged from the Rockefellers to televangelists to Donald Trump.

Award-winning architectural critic and biographer Mark Lamster's THE MAN IN THE GLASS HOUSE lifts the veil on Johnson's controversial and endlessly contradictory life to tell the story of a charming yet deeply flawed man. A rollercoaster tale of the perils of wealth, privilege, and ambition, this book probes the dynamics of Western culture that made him so powerful, and tells the story of the built environment.

Mark Lamster is an architectural historian and critic and the author of two works of nonfiction, Spalding's World Tour and Master of Shadows. For more than a decade, he served as a senior editor at Princeton Architectural Press. He is a contributing editor to Design Observer, the pre-eminent design space for design space and criticism on the Internet, and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and the design publications Architect, Dwell,Metropolis, and Print, among others. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, Mediaite, and Slate. He lives in Texas, where he is the architectural critic for the Dallas Morning News.

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Lamster portrays a diffident genius for whom being boring was the greatest crime.

Review: Kirkus, starred review

a superb, disturbing new bio that's likely to be THE reference work on Johnson for years.

Review: Art and Seek

The Man in the Glass House is a vivid, thoughtful, illuminating, disturbing, and definitive chronicle of one of twentieth-century architecture's most celebrated and powerful figures.

Quote: Kurt Andersen, author and host of Studio 360

To say this is the biography Johnson deserves is no compliment to him. Gracefully and unflinchingly, Lamster depicts the long-lived American modernist poster boy as a man of great strengths inseparable from his even greater flaws - his hunger for self-promotion; his sympathy for the Nazis, notwithstanding his homosexuality, his flexibility with clients, and rigidity in style. Just as importantly, Lamster uses him to point up the amorality of the modernists - social visionaries with massive blind spots, indebted to power and money no matter who had it. (Spoiler alert: Johnson worked with Trump.)

Review: Vulture

Philip Johnson led many lives, and Mark Lamster has masterfully woven them together in a biography that is as much a literary as a critical achievement. Required reading for anyone hoping to make sense of the American century, for Johnson was its house architect.

Quote: Christopher Hawthorne, chief design officer for the city of Los Angeles

A judicious, jargon-free biography that's unafraid to name Johnson's virtues and vices, in architecture and in life... a searching and thorough overview of Johnson's engrossing life.

Review: Wall Street Journal

More than a dozen years after his death, Philip Johnson remains a perplexing, polarizing, magnetic, and frustrating figure: although he was far from our greatest architect, no one did more to shape our architectural culture. In this compelling biography, Mark Lamster deconstructs Johnson's complex persona, evaluates his work, and begins the complex process of establishing his place in history.

Quote: Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of BUILDING ART

Philip Johnson was as complicated and contradictory as the American century that created him and which he helped define. Modernist, reactionary, anti-Semite, populist, artist, and commercial powerhouse, he lived, in some sense, to contradict himself. In Mark Lamster's nuanced telling, Johnson becomes more than the man in the round glasses or the avatar of modernism; he becomes a symbol of America itself. This is biography as history, and it is a magnificent piece of work.

Quote: David L Ulin, author of SIDEWALKING

The Man in the Glass House captures the essence of a prodigious, multivalent, enigmatic American talent with authority and aplomb. It's a biography with attitude, a bullet train through the shifting landscapes of twentieth-century America, and a sheer pleasure to read.

Quote: Tom Vanderbilt, author of TRAFFIC

This is an entertaining and in-depth look at one of architecture's most complex and influential characters.

Review: Publishers Weekly, starred review

Reads like an Ayn Rand plot rewritten by Henry James.

Review: Harvard Magazine

Philip Johnson's Glass House is exposed to the elements, but the life of its creator abounds in shadow. Mark Lamster thoughtfully teases out the real history of this modernist icon, from his impressive sexual appetites and more-than-flirtation with fascism in Hitler's Germany to his 1990s collaboration with Donald Trump. It's clear that Johnson was a fascinating and disturbing figure; Lamster's biography, impressively and honestly, displays him with his full complexity.

Quote: Ruth Franklin, author of SHIRLEY JACKSON

Readers may come away with both contempt and admiration for the subject, a testament to Lamster's masterful achievement.

Review: Booklist, starred review

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