Boston Public Library
Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Johnson Building Improvement Project: Johnsonsian Principles #3 and #4

by Gina Perille

“Procession: Ascent” and “Scale: Respect & Experimentation” are also Johnson Principle highlighted in the design team’s research. Ascent is about celebrated vertical circulation. Johnson said, “But really, the atrium is not an atrium: it’s the center of nine squares. It’s the idea of communication, like McKim’s. My atrium isn’t as nice as his. Well, his is a court. Mine isn’t a court or even an atrium; it’s too small. It’s a stairwell. But it’s still an orientation point.” He also said, “I don’t remember where the elevators are hidden, but they’re meant to be hard to find; that way you’re compelled to take the stairs.”

Procession: Ascent


Respect and Experimentation
are about past and future. Johnson said, “My principle was that the cornice line is sacred; the material is sacred…we have to do modern scale…out of keeping… as long as it doesn’t insult McKim.”

Scale

The source for these quotes is the book Philip Johnson: The Architect in His Own Words.

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