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Phillip Johnson Glass House

September 14, 2009

I’ve always wanted to visit (and live in) Philip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan, CT and since it’s accessible via an hour long train ride on Metro North out of Grand Central I may sometime soon. Johnson was a contemporary of John McAndrew (the architect and professor behind the Vassar College Art Library) and the two attended Harvard together (and made the grand tour of Europe together) along with many other influential architects of the time. Both Johnson and McAndrew designed sculpture gardens at the MoMA in New York City (McAndrew’s was the original garden, designed in a single night before the museum opened at its current location in 1939; Johnson’s is the one we see today, designed in 1953 when he was director of architecture and design). There is an interesting audio guide to the garden here. The Glass House seems to contain many elements that McAndrew also used in his design of the Vassar Art Library including tubular steel furniture which was a symbol of modernism in the 1930’s (as I learned at the lectures this past weekend) and, of course, the use of glass as a building element (McAndrew used glass tile walls in the study rooms for students to hang images on and above the bookshelves to allow in natural light).

Slide1

The Glass House was designed by Johnson in 1949 and he lived there until he passed away in 2005. The house was opened to the public in 2007 and is now managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The grounds include a painting gallery (that’s underground in a hill!), a sculpture gallery and a guest house. Tours are limited to ten people a group and include a half mile walk around the property. Visit the website here.

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