Da Monsta, 1995
Philip Johnson was a friend and supporter of both Frank Gehry and Peter Eisenman – the influence of both seems evident in the non-Euclidean form of Da Monsta. However, Johnson claimed that his original inspiration for Da Monsta came from the design for a museum in Dresden by artist and friend Frank Stella. In fact, when Johnson first madea model of this structure, he named it “Dresden Zwei,” or “Dresden Two,” and presented it to Stella.
Always steeped in history, Johnson also cited the work of German Expressionist Hermann Finsterlin as a source of inspiration. Finsterlin was known for fantastic designs that stretched the limits of architectural form. German Expressionism, an early twentieth-century movement, had influenced Johnson’s thinking on the architecture of the past. In particular, he claimed his Crystal Cathedral in Southern California was also the outgrowth of re-examining Finsterlin.
This building, constructed of modified gunnite, is the closest to Johnson’s thinking about sculpture and form at the end of his life – what he called the “structured warp.” This architectural direction using warped, torqued forms is far from the rectilinear shapes of the International Style.
The name of the building is an adaptation of the “monster,” a phrase for the building that resulted from a conversation with architecture critic Herbert Muschamp. Johnson felt the building had the quality of a living thing.