Robin Pogrebin reveals 25,000 drawings of Philip Johnson’s late work, his skyscraper phase, will be offered for sale by a former partner, Raj Ahuja, who reveals some of the firms office politics to explain how he came to possess the master’s work:
Mr. Ahuja, the archive’s owner, was a former design partner of Johnson’s. An Indian-born architect, he joined the firm as a young man in 1971 and ran its Iranian office before becoming a partner with Johnson and John Burgee in 1984. During his tenure Mr. Ahuja developed a strong affinity for Johnson, who left the partnership for a consulting role in 1986 and left the practice entirely five years later.
Mr. Ahuja and Mr. Burgee clashed over Johnson’s level of involvement. “I was more for keeping Johnson in the firm as a consultant and as a designer, and Burgee was more determined to get Philip out,” Mr. Ahuja said in an interview. “I thought, without Philip Johnson, we would not be getting the assignments we were getting. He was the man.” (Speaking by telephone from California, where he has retired, Mr. Burgee said he had not forced Johnson out, adding, “He voluntarily withdrew.”)
Mr. Ahuja, now 69, said he ended up with the archival material in 1995 as part of a Chapter 11 proceeding in which Mr. Burgee sought bankruptcy protection for the firm and for himself. The bankruptcy followed an arbitration between Mr. Ahuja and Mr. Burgee in 1988, when Mr. Ahuja left the firm.
Since then, Mr. Ahuja said, he has kept the archive in a warehouse: “The court awarded me the drawings, which I have safeguarded because they are our legacy.” But having paid for its maintenance for years, he added, “it is time to transfer it to respectful hands, and I have my family’s security to think of as well.”
The Hand of a Master Architect (New York Times)