John Johansen, a creative force in New York City architecture for nearly 50 years years, died at his home in Wellflett, Mass on October 26. A member of Walter Gropius’ first class at Harvard starting in 1935 Johansen was a confirmed modernist but committed to a highly personal, idioysynctatic, and artistic version of the style.
He was also a member of the New Canaan Five (Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, Landis Gores, and Elliot Noyes) and a celebrated designer during this period, but in recent years many of his best known designs like the Mechanics Theater in Baltimore and the Mummers Theater in Oaklahoma City have come under attack and are threatened with demolition.
He lived for many years in a truncated fiberglass pyramid on a sloped site in Millerton, New York where he would take guests with a large martini shaker and glasses to view the internally-lit house from up the hill for evening entertainment. Johansen was a unique, opinionated, and much-loved figure and teacher, first at Yale University and then for many years at Pratt Institute. Archigrammer Michael Webb, a close friend of Johansen for many years, will write an obituary for the next issue of The Architect’s Newspaper.