Ralph Johnson is an award-winning architect who has a deep understanding and appreciation of his hometown of Chicago. His work is instantly recognizable by many who know the city well, and he has added to a long and proud tradition of the Windy City setting new standards with its innovative architectural landscape.
Born on the South Side of Chicago, Ralph Johnson was destined for a bright future in architecture, since he grew up right down the street from Frank Lloyd Wright’s infamous R.W. Evans House. He received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1971 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he went on to receive his Master of Architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 1973. Johnson found that by entering numerous architectural competitions in the years after graduating, he began to develop his own personal approach to design and forge his own path. It would eventually take him back to Chicago to work for a firm he dreamed of being a part of. He joined Perkins&Will after coming back to his hometown, where he has worked ever since.
Ralph Johnson’s work is inseparable from the fabric of the city, and some of his most recognizable work in the Chicago area includes the William Jones College Preparatory High School, Rush University Medical Center Hospital Tower, the Contemporaine Residential Rower, Boeing International Headquarters, and Terminal 5 at O’Hare International Airport. Outside of Chicago, he has developed many groundbreaking designs such as the United States Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C., Tinkham Veale University Center at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and Shanghai Natural History Museum.
In 2015, Johnson was inducted into the National Academy of Design, a prestigious honor adding to the multitude of design awards and recognitions from the American Institute of Architects that he has received throughout his storied career. Of his personal approach to architecture, Johnson has mentioned that he primarily starts all of his projects alone from his own sketches, and he has stated that he believes architecture is primarily about “making responsible and responsive buildings that reflect social and environmental concerns. The essence for me is to create humanistic environments that shelter, comfort, and perform on many meaningful levels.”
Johnson will always be known as a towering figure in architecture, and the many ways he has shaped Chicago and other cities around the world can’t be understated. His work continues to be an inspiration for all of us, and I look forward to many more of his designs making an impact in the future.