A look at my recent visit to Philip Johnson's iconic home.
Earlier this month, I made the pilgrimage to Philip Johnson's seminal work- his Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, now managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). Completed in 1949 (that's two years before Mies van der Rohe could get his glass box- Farnsworth House- constructed), Johnson's monument to the International Style (and in some ways to Mies) is full of suspense and surprise. Nestled into a carefully choreographed landscape, the glass pavilion is just one part of a slowly unfolding, sprawling composition that seems to epitomize Johnson's approach to architecture- meticulous, mischievous, and always a little hard to pin down. Though I'm not the biggest Philip Johnson fan, his property is both breathtaking and provoking, an enduring symbol of not just the architect's complicated life and work but the evolution of American Modernism.
I won't bore you with too much of the property's history (if you don't already know it, you can read a good summary here), but I thought I might share a few of my photographs. And as for the tour? It is well worth any architecture enthusiast's time and money (our guide was exceptional), and though the house was pretty much what I had expected (a gleaming glass box), the grounds and the many follies, pavilions, and sculptures proved to be the most compelling part of my tour (I was especially taken with the sculpture pavilion).
And just for fun, here are a few fun facts from the tour.
1. The highlight of the house is (obviously) the dramatic views of the pastoral New England landscape. Johnson called it "expensive wallpaper."
2. The bathroom ceiling is still covered in leather tile. This makes no sense to me but seems perfectly on brand for Mr. Johnson.
3. The floor plan feels more traditional than one might anticipate. With the hearth as the center of the home, the herringbone brick floors (which I loved), and the steel chair rail, Johnson was always playing with expectations.
4. Johnson had the trees on the property trimmed and pruned in ways that would slowly reveal the landscape and shape the views of the many buildings on site. The NTHP continues this practice today- just as Philip Johnson directed.
5. Was the Glass House a blatant copy of Mies' work? The master sure thought so and reportedly stormed out of the Glass House after seeing it. (Actually, this bit of information isn't from the tour, but I just love imagining Mies flustered.)
Information on visiting the Glass House is available here. Have a good weekend!
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.