Mathematics Tower/Science and Engineering Library 
231 West 18th Avenue and 231 West 18th Avenue 
Ohio 43210

Philip Johnson/John Burgee with Collins, Reimer & Gordon Architects 1992

Only blocks away from Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for The Visual Arts (Columbus, Ohio) stand two understated buildings by Ohio native Philip Johnson. Though physically close to the Wexner Center, they are stylistically very distant from Eisenman's Deconstructivist structure. Johnson does, however, use the Wexner Center for inspiration (however loosely). In his two symmetrical brick buildings, he takes a design cue from a turret that Eisenman used in his design for the Wexner Center in order to evoke a campus building that once stood on the OSU campus. 

In both of these buildings, Johnson uses brick in an inventive and layered manner that gives the buildings character, while allowing them to blend particularly well with other brick faced buildings in that area of the campus.


Located in a far less visible area within the campus that Eisenman's building, Johnson's design takes a back seat in both literal and architectural terms to the Wexner Center. By using materials that respect the environment, Johnson achieves a fluent transition from building to building, a feature which college campuses the sizes of Ohio State commonly lack. In these two buildings, Johnson manages to create interesting patterns and elegant use of materials within what is essentially a simple set educational structure. This notion is perhaps a sign of Johnson¹s lingering devotion to Mies van der Rohe and Mies' ability to use both elegant materials in interesting ways as well as his ability to elevate simple materials to nearly monumental heights.

The Mathematics Tower Science and Engineering Library were dedicated a year after Johnson's Museum of Television and Radio (New York City, NY) and five years after his Momentum Place (Dallas, TX.) yet Johnson's two buildings in Columbus share some qualities with these other Postmodernist offerings. In Columbus, Johnson displays a scaled back and clearly more institutional rendition of the arched entrances and symmetrical ornamentation from buildings like Momentum Place and The Museum of Television and Radio. Though possibly more restricted in monetary terms as well as in size in Columbus, Johnson still manages to shine, in this case by creating a small park-like setting in front of the Library by leaving large trees uncut. Though they partially obscure the view of building's facade year round, they give much needed shade during the summer, and in a way mimic the indoor courtyards which Johnson executed in buildings for more luxurious private clients such as PPG in Pittsburgh and Momentum Place (now Bank One Center) in Texas.

K. Bellon 2003 (updated 2006)


How to visit

The Mathematics Tower and the Science and Engineering Library are located three blocks West of Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center. They are respectively buildings 007 and 005 on the OSU's online map. (The Wexner Center is building 386).

Parking around the Ohio State area can be tricky at times, especially during weekdays. Parking garages are available however, and are shown on the above map. It is also possible to find free street parking on side streets just East of High Street. 

The Ohio State campus is easy to reach via bus, and many lines make stops only blocks away from these two buildings on High Street. For more information regarding bus lines use the itinerary planner at

The library is open 24 hours a day to students, and 7.30am to 11.30 p.m. to non-students, 7 days a week (closed on Holidays). The Mathematics Tower is open during school hours and weekends, though some areas are restricted to ID-carrying students only.

For more information please call the main University number at 
+1 614 292 6446.

Books and other web sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from

The architecture of Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson, Richard Payne (Photographer), Hilary Lewis, Stephen Fox

The authorized and up-to-date account of Philip Johnson's wide-ranging and long-spanning architectural career

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