From the 37th floor of a Manhattan office building that they designed, John Burgee, 52, and Philip Johnson, 80, can look a few blocks over and watch their new office building under construction. They are also just a few blocks from the AT&T headquarters, often called the Chippendale Building, which they also designed. But these two creators of the skyline drama in Houston and Pittsburgh agree that the next project -- in this case, PortAmerica -- is always their favorite.
With the enthusiasm of a youngster waiting for Christmas, Johnson said, "Every architect's dream is to build a town . . . . We build big buildings, but rarely get to do the surrounding environment."
"The high and the low . . . . I can hear the water as it laps against the harbor," he said, while dramatically sweeping his arm through the air. The ring of lights around the harbor, Johnson said, would be reminiscent of a cove in Bombay, where such nighttime lighting is called the "Queen's Necklace."
Both men, who are designing James T. Lewis' Tycon buildings near Tysons Corner, are asked to take on projects around the world. Because they get along well with Lewis, they said they were delighted when he asked them to design his PortAmerica town and office buildings in Prince George's County. The two partners have already made sketches of the two-story waterfront shopping arcade that features bold Greek columns.
Designing a residential area is a first for both architects. That area will be called Oxford Landing, and according to Burgee, the low-rise apartments and three-story town houses will be arranged around a battery of small sculptured parks, in a design patterned after old English towns.
They have chosen a Georgian style for the houses. It's like "being able to build Georgetown over again without the problems," Burgee said with a satisfied smile, explaining that there will be ample parking. "A two-car garage behind every house and a chicken in every pot!" CAPTION: Picture 1, James T. Lewis, the Virgina developer planning PortAmerica, stands next to a model of the $700 million project; Picture 2, New York architects Phillip Johnson, and John Burgee show off PortAmerica site plans. Photo 1 by Ellsworth J. Davis -- The Washington Post; Photo 2 by AP for The Washington Post