Tuesday, May 31, 2011

travel tuesday — philip johnson's glass house — part 1

One of the archi­tec­tural gems of Con­necti­cut is Philip Johnson's Glass House. Opened to the pub­lic in 2007, the 47 acre prop­erty in New Canaan is sim­ply spec­tac­u­lar. When you con­sider John­son started with 5.5 acres and built the glass house in 1949, you under­stand his descrip­tion of the prop­erty as his "50 year diary". The guided tour starts at the top of the site near the road — all the land slopes down­ward and away from the street, pro­tect­ing all the views from and of the house.

As vis­i­tors walk down the dri­ve­way, on the left is the Library/Study. Built in 1980 and used by John­son as his study, the cone at top fea­tures a sky­light. There are no win­dows on the dri­ve­way fac­ing façade, but a small win­dow oppo­site the cone pro­vides a view of the Ghost House. The Ghost House is a folly built in 1984 and ded­i­cated to Frank Gehry. It is not a func­tional struc­ture, com­posed of chain link within a steel framework.

Library/study and Ghost House from the driveway

Library/study and Ghost House from the driveway

Con­tin­u­ing down the dri­ve­way, vis­i­tors pass a 1971 Don­ald Judd con­crete sculp­ture and an impres­sively sized stone wall. The wall was built atop the orig­i­nal farm wall to block Johnson's view of his vis­i­tors' parked cars.

donald judd sculpture with stone wall and glass house beyond

don­ald judd sculp­ture with stone wall and glass house beyond

philip johnson's glass house

philip johnson's glass house

Tra­vers­ing walk­ways through the clipped grass "car­pet", enter the glass house directly into the liv­ing area, with seat­ing ahead, kitchen to left and bed­room to the right. The cab­i­netry seen behind the paint­ing forms the back­drop to the sleep­ing area and pro­vides storage.

glass house seating area features a 1649 Nicolas Poussin painting

glass house seat­ing area fea­tures a 1649 Nico­las Poussin painting

glass house dining area located to the left of the living room area

glass house din­ing area located to the left of the liv­ing room area

Between the din­ing area and the kitchen is this 1930 Elie Nadel­man sculp­ture "Two Cir­cus Women".

elie nadelman sculpture in the glass house

elie nadel­man sculp­ture in the glass house

a corner of the glass house kitchen and view toward driveway

a cor­ner of the glass house kitchen and view toward driveway

the glass house fireplace

the glass house fireplace

the shower room is located on the reverse of the fireplace column

the shower room is located on the reverse of the fire­place column

the bedroom, anchored by cabinetry, is open on all sides

the bed­room, anchored by cab­i­netry, is open on all sides

Step­ping out the back of the house, the views are magnificent.

the view from the glass house bedroom

the view from the glass house bedroom

In the fore­ground is the pond with its 1962 Lake Pavil­ion. The folly ceil­ing height is only 63 inches. Behind and to the left is the Lin­coln Kirstein Tower, a 30 foot tall scal­able sculp­ture com­pleted in 1985. Vis­i­tors are not allowed to climb, but we were told there is a secret inscrip­tion at the top which can­not be revealed to non-climbers!

view from the back of the glass house

view from the back of the glass house

Could you live in a glass house? I def­i­nitely could, and Peep­ing Toms be damned! No clut­ter and no place for clut­ter — none of the debris of daily liv­ing — for me, the pres­sure to put every­thing away would be too much! Of course, I don't know if John­son actu­ally lived this sparsely, but if he did, I salute him!

There are sev­eral more build­ings to explore on the grounds, which I will share in my next post.


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Leave a comment

  1. Amy Graver says:

    You cer­tainly could not live that sparsely and have chil­dren in the house. The mail I get home each day from school alone would fill up that space in a week! He must have used his junk mail for kin­dling. The shower room in back of the fire­place is a good idea to keep the bath­room warm. Do you think the house was very cold in the win­ter with all that glass? Could that one fire­place keep it warm? I think it would make a great vaca­tion home, but don't think I could live there year 'round. Thanks for shar­ing! Great post!

  2. Cynthia says:

    Amy, I won­der if he did live there year round? For sure, he did not have chil­dren there! I'd have to imag­ine con­den­sa­tion would be an ongo­ing prob­lem, but per­haps he con­quered those sorts of issues?

  3. dana wolter says:

    What an incred­i­ble piece of prop­erty with fab­u­lous views. Thanks for sharing–