The Amon Carter Museum was conceived initially as a memorial, rather than a museum, to Amon Carter, publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and legendary civic supporter who died in 1955. Carter’s daughter, Ruth Carter Johnson, and his secretary, Katrine Deakins, took on the task of commissioning a monument to Carter’s memory. Philip Johnson’s response to the sloping triangular-shaped site, which contained a gas station at its west end, was to design a freestanding loggia (he called it a “porch”) that looked east across the Trinity River toward the downtown skyline. In an unpublished 1990 interview, Johnson cited the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence and the Feldherrnhalle in Munich as precedents, “boxes with fronts,” as a strategy for dealing with the narrow triangular site. In front of the loggia, broad steps lead to a bermed and sunken court containing a single mesquite tree and the sculpture Upright Motives #1, #2 and #7 (1955–1957) by Henry Moore. Granite benches around this unusual landscape form match those Johnson designed for his Glass House (1949) in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Johnson used Texas fossilated limestone to veneer the exterior of the steel-framed building and lined the main gallery with sumptuous, book-matched Burmese teak panels. A few objects belonging to Carter were displayed in the interior, which consisted of a skylit, two-story gallery running the length of the building and smaller display rooms at both levels that open into the large space. Under the guidance of founding director Mitchell A. Walker, the Carter came to function as a museum, with a collection of photography in addition to Amon Carter’s collection of works by Frederick Remington and C. M. Russell. Additions in 1964 and 1977, also in fossilated limestone, attempted to keep up with growth. A building program, completed in 2001, demolished the additions and took full advantage of the triangular site with a 25,000-square-foot addition. The roof lantern, sheathed in standing seam steel roofing, moderates natural light reflected directly off of the lower white roof membrane and admits it through four canted lunettes. The museum required that most of the galleries be without daylight. Thus the atrium lantern “leaks” light into two of the adjacent exhibition spaces. The site has no “back” side, and loading and other service functions are incised into the serrated Camp Bowie Boulevard elevation in discreet accommodation.