Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Philip Johnson originally completed the Amon Carter Museum in 1961. Forty years later in 2001, Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects completed a transformation of the Museum that nearly tripled the exhibition space for this Fort Worth landmark. As is always the case with additions to well loved buildings, the challenge was to create something new that would also enhance the older structure. Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects accomplished this by “making no apologies” for the addition. It is unquestionably a new piece of architecture.

The patron for the project was the same as in the ’60s, Ruth Carter Stevenson, daughter of the Museum’s founder. The architects credit Mrs. Stevenson for her leadership in remaking this important Texas institution. The older building now serves as the “porch” for the much expanded Museum. With the introduction of a skylit atrium and a new entrance, entirely new circulation is now possible. Far more exhibition space makes a variety of curatorial options now available.

For the exterior, Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects moved away from the use of Texas shell stone and instead chose a rich brown granite. The contrast of these two materials is striking and elegant.


Philip Johnson at Dumbarton Oaks: Figure 1

Museum for Pre-Colombian Art, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.

The Museum is a pavilion behind a classical mansion, which was acquired in 1920, by Robert and Mildred Bliss, collectors of Pre-Columbian Art. The new pavilion is a curvilinear and transparent element within the remarkable landscape originally designed by garden expert Beatrix Farrand in the 1920s. The gemlike pavilion that Johnson created for the Blisses was the product of an extraordinary collaboration between Johnson and Mrs. Bliss, whom Johnson credits as his design partner on the project.

Beautifully surrounded by trees, the Museum consists of nine circular elements grouped in a three-by-three pattern and linked to each other at tangential points. Eight domes form the roof and recall the character of Byzantine architecture. In fact, Johnson claims he was influenced by the work of the great Turkish architect Sinan. The central circle, open to the sky, contains a small garden with a pool and fountain.

The interior and exhibits have a restrained elegance. Housed within eight of the domed spaces, the galleries display the Pre-Columbian works within custom cases. The curved floor-to-ceiling sheets of glass of the building are divided by cylindrical columns three feet in diameter and sheathed in buff veined marble. Defining the edges of the structure and the various openings in the walls and ceilings are teak floors and bronze moldings. Luxurious yet simple, the Museum for Pre-Columbian Art is a fine example of a small scale structure that reads as a monument. The sixteen-acre property and its collection were later donated to Harvard University.

Client: Harvard University
Completion Date: 1964


Sheldon Museum of Art, University Of Nebraska Lincoln Sheldon Museum of Art Sheldon Museum of Art

Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln Nebraska

The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery is composed of a compact rectangular prism, its travertine walls modulated by pilasters with reversed entasis. The building rests on a stylobate that projects at the pilasters. The galleries housed in rooms on either side of the monumental thirty foot high Great Hall, which has a coffered ceiling and stairs leading to the second floor.



Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas

The elements of this design include a small building of thick, white concrete walls that are carefully crafted and reminiscent of pueblos, Spanish missions, and corresponding courtyards.

The climate of Corpus Christi suggests the Mediterranean as well as the American Southwest. Aspects were drawn from both cultures – the reflective white stucco walls of Mikonos and the heavy adobe of the Navajo. Openings are introduced with visual ingenuity. Above each window and door, there is a garden. The shallow balconies throughout the building provide color and softness to both the interior and exterior. The magic of the Museum lies in the inventive employment of light and view amidst a remarkable site.

Client: Art Museum of South Texas
Completion Date: 1972
Associate Architects: Howard Barnstone



Children’s Museum (Unbuilt), Guadalajara, Mexico

“I don’t like straight lines. I like warped lines. I like the forms that are the basis of the world. Regular forms are also what create the basis for architecture. This is why I would speak of classicism. After all, I distort the forms to make the thing more fun. Each of the four pavilions will have a different function: a painting studio, a sculpture studio, a music studio: different disciplines. And one will be devoted only to the movement of the children inside the construction, with a staircase to climb to the top, and holes to look outside.”
– Philip Johnson

A cultural project with a playful program, the Children’s Museum for Guadalajara, Mexico is a fine example of an experiment with traditional geometry. Johnson refers to the project as Playing with Plato, a reference to the liberties the design takes with traditional geometric form. Small pavilions, designed to be enjoyable for children to enter and exit, are based on cubes, cones, cylinders and pyramids. These pavilions are laid out a small island to be separated from the mainland by a springy bridge. The intent is to make for a fun and joyous escape for children.

The freedom with which the design approaches classical geometry is a great contrast with Johnson’s personal history. As a young curator at The Museum of Modern Art, Johnson once celebrated the superiority of simple geometry. Today he has rethought that hierarchy and is now more than willing to explore manipulations of traditional form.

The project is the brainchild of Mexican business powerhouse Jorge Vergara, who has commissioned multiple projects from prominent architects for this large-scale development in Guadalajara.



Museum of Television and Radio – Paley Center, New York, New York

The Museum of Television & Radio is not a museum in the traditional sense with artifacts housed in cases or hanging on walls. It houses the sounds and images that portray the history of broadcasting. Its elegant white façade is loosely based on Brunelleschi’s Pazzi chapel in Florence and fits in nicely with its neighbors on New York’s 52nd Street. The Museum of Television and Radio fits a monumental building into a context of row houses and large commercial structures. The design accomplishes this by establishing strong corners to provide a contrast with neighboring buildings and by conforming to the height and scale of the row houses to the east. A type of contextualism is at work.

Just below the lobby at the ground level, there is a two hundred-seat theater for audio-visual programs, discussions, and lectures. The second level contains a ninety-seat theater for seminars and other presentations. The heart of the museum, the library, is located on the fourth level, where a computerized catalog system describes the television and radio programs available. On the third and fifth levels, media consoles are located where individuals or groups view their selected material.

Completion Date: 1992
Area: 72,000 square feet


National Museum of Korea, Seoul, Korea

A one million square foot history museum for the Korean nation located at the south end of a proposed park system and cultural complex.

There is a vast 150-meter, wide plaza with central fountain which instigates a public procession that rises as it continues to an enclosed outdoor courtyard with archeological artifacts on display.

The main Lobby is a single room similar in dimension to the Pantheon in Rome, with a thirty-seven meter high ceiling. This room connects to the Lower Level education, service and parking. It then leads one into the General Exhibition Room. Surrounding the Exhibition Room, all galleries connect to this central space. Each gallery is a distinct, two-story, elliptical volume. The necessary outcome of this organization and shape, within such a large complex, is the advantage of a clear circulation that loops through the galleries and always returns to the central Exhibition Room for orientation.

Client: Korean Government, Division of Public Development
Project Date: 1995
Area: 108,000 square meters
Associate Architect: Anderson & Oh, Inc., Chicago Il.
Korean Associate: Wong – II Ltd. Architects & Engineers


Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou, China

The city of Guangzhou, on the Pearl River, is developing a new city center and rehabilitating its waterfront. In 1998, the city held a competition for an opera house, to become a symbol of the city. The scheme consists of a steel sculpture twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower (750m/2,460 ft.), and two concrete volumes, one holding the opera house and the other a museum. The tower is of steel construction, restrained by braces. Amoeba shaped in plan, it is formed of fifty vertical tubes. Planes of diaphragm cables tie the tubes together. Cables attached to each concrete volume balance the columns and eliminate the need to sustain large cantilever moments at the base. Like the St. Louis Arch, the opera house aims to confer an air of technical excellence and beauty on the city around it. The top is reminiscent of a spire that references the first architectural race to the heavens, the Gothic church. The trio of structures with their cables forms a gate on the river and a marker for the new city.



Bielefeld Art Gallery, Bielefeld, Germany

The small museum contains a series of galleries on three floors, with an auditorium, library, and ancillary facilities underground. There is a compromise of both natural light and artificial light throughout the building. It is a freestanding pavilion, gracefully perched on a recessed base, raised off the ground and open to the sky on its top floor. As a “pure prism”, the pavilion is square in plan with a footprint that measures eighty by eighty-feet.

A most intriguing aspect of this building is its structure which is firmly established as an arrangement of massive concrete walls in a loose pinwheel pattern. The skin is made up of glass walls that alternate with solid panels finished with South African granite, inside and out. The proportionate and functional divisions of the museum offer a practical sense to the means of displaying paintings and sculpture. On the exterior, paved and planted terraces on different levels surround the little pavilion. They serve as extensions to the galleries within and are supported with amenities such as reflecting pools and sculpture gardens on all sides.