The award-winning architectural critic and biographer considers the life and work of one of the last century's most influential and controversial architectural masters, who, for a time, also happened to be a fascist and Nazi sympathizer.
Lamster’s book captures what made Johnson such an out-sized force in the world of 20th century American architecture ... Perhaps what is most fascinating about Lamster’s book is the way he grounds these boarder cultural and philosophic ideas in the life of man whose story is rife with contradictions and conflict. When you get to the end of The Man in the Glass House, you are left with a feeling that some of these very notions of what it means to build a good city—to create a great building, to exert a sense of dominance through architecture—are inextricable from the way Johnson’s own life dabbled in radical—and often racist—political and cultural ideas (perhaps the most significant historical contribution in Lamster’s book is its exposition of the extent of Johnson’s sympathetic dealings with the Nazis, and New York Magazinetoday published an excerpt from the book that explores that very thing) ... read Lamster’s book. In it is contained a surprising story of an incredible, if incorrigible, man who shaped the America we live in today—and by extension, shaped Dallas too.
...stimulating and lively ... the reality of Johnson...is that the ... qualities that make him, and this book, fascinating are his nimble intelligence, his restlessness, his energy, his anxieties, his ambitions and his passions, all of which were channeled into the making of a few pieces of architecture that will stand the test of time, and many others that will not ... Lamster’s timing is excellent: He has written the story of Philip Johnson for the age of Donald Trump, and it makes us see a side of Johnson that is, at the very least, sobering. Johnson, like Trump, made himself impossible to ignore. Lamster’s most important contribution may be to show us that, however electrifying the ability to command the spotlight may be, it does not confer the lasting qualities of greatness.
...[a] searing yet judicious new biography ... [a previous] biography provided a seemingly complete roster of Johnson’s romantic involvements, though Lamster comes up with yet another major affair previously unrecorded, as well as other less-enduring liaisons. But of far more interest and importance than the architect’s love life is the previously unrevealed extent of his involvement with Nazi Germany ... Lamster goes further than any previous writer in asserting that Johnson was infinitely worse than a misguided, impressionable youth who fell for Hitlerian theatrics: he was in effect an unpaid spy for the Nazi regime ... Although the subtitle of Lamster’s insightful investigation might at first seem like marketing overreach, there is little question that Johnson, if scarcely his celebrity-worshiping epoch’s finest architect, was perhaps its most representative one ... [Johnson] was no different from the current president of the United States, and the business connections between the two have given Lamster a final chapter more grotesque than even his darkly cynical subject could have predicted.