Renowned architect Philip Johnson '27, the creator of dozens of contemporary buildings, was in Boston yesterday to laud the city at his latest achievement, the International Place near South Station.
"It's by far the most exciting city in the world," Johnson said of Boston at a panel discussion entitled, "Philip Johnson and the Future of the City," one of many events in a week of celebrating the International Place's opening.
"I hope this boom goes on. I think it's delicious," Johnson said, discussing Boston's recent building craze. "I trust it. I love it. I know you'll do it right," he said of the city and the architectural decisions it faces.
But Johnson, the creator of A.T. and T. corporate headquarters and Lincoln Center's New York State Theatre, said that architects design buildings, not policy decisions.
"What should be the aim of the city in the throes of this boom? There's no answer. Certainly architects don't have the answer," he told an audience of 150 in the new building's lobby.
Faced with a question about urban architectural policy from discussion moderator Dan H. Fenn, lecturer on business administration at the Kennedy School, Johnson elicited laughter by saying, "You, sir, are a professor of government. If you don't know, how should the rest of us know?"
Johnson said he was disappointed that the marble part of the lobby, where the discussion was held, would soon be replaced by a cafe. "We thought it was marvelous to create great spaces," he said.
Johnson, a graduate of Harvard's Graduate School of Design, was joined by three other panelists, who spoke about the importance of keeping Boston a city for the people.
Boston should "hang onto" its individuality and its accessibility to pedestrians, said Kent Bartwick, President of the New York Municipal Art Society. "If you believe yourselves to be a pedestrian city, fight fiercely for it. Hang on to a sense of yourself," he said.
In addition, the city should not fear density, and should "Preserve its weave and texture," said Michael Buckley, a real estate developer and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The other speaker, Professor of Architecture in Design and Design Theory Jorge Silvetti, said that images of cities are important because "when we talk about images, we talk of agents of power."
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