Atlas Shrugged off this mortal coil: Philip Johnson’s legacy reverberates.

atlas.jpgThere was something ominous about yesterday, and we don’t just mean hearing Dick Cheney speak stentorially about “freedom” and “terror” while visiting the death camps in Poland. As www.newcriterion.com reminds us in the most precise eulogy of its kind, the Swifty Lazar-spectacled architecture icon Philip Johnson died late Tuesday night at 98.

Pulling no punches, Criterion dwells as much on his Mies van der Rohe period – which gave this city most of its matchbox-shaped buildings North of Grand Central, including the AT&T building – as on his passionate flirt with National Socialism, which the slight dynamo never sought to deny. According to Criterion, he seemed more bothered by outing himself as gay, lest plum projects pass him by. (Fishbowl wonders if financial backers smile more kindly on people whistling the “Horst Wessel Song” instead of the theme to “Pippin,” but never mind.)

Meanwhile, The Sun yesterday also celebrated the centennial of the birth of Ayn Rand, who gave voice to the way the younger Johnson viewed much of the world and the people who would use his buildings. Not coincidentally, both were inspired by the kind of strength-worshipping, uncompromising Social Darwinism from which poor Daniel Liebeskind would do well to borrow a few red blood cells before the NY Planning Commission has completely eviscerated him and his original Freedom Tower plan.

Because original architecture, designed to make a city a home to its people, has long eluded New York (and, no, Mayor Mike, we’re not impressed with the Olympic pool you want to build in Queens). Judging from the boxy, soulless structures going up on the Bowery – where the City just gave the OK to raze historic dive McGuirk’s Suicide Hall, effectively killing the last part of that old neighborhood – Johnson’s invisible, 1930s hand still hovers over the Manhattan landscape. And somewhere, Howard Roark and Le Corbusier are both laughing.