The Glass House tour, part 1

I was invited to go along on a 2-hour tour of Philip Johnson’s The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. I’m not a fan of Philip Johnson’s work. And ever since I saw the play called The Glass House, which was about the Farnsworth House designed by Mies van der Rohe, I have an even less regard for him as an architect. You can read my take on the play here >>
Despite my opinion of Mr. Johnson, I did want to see and experience one of PJ’s work up close.

The tour started at the visitor center in downtown New Canaan, CT literally across the street from the Metro-North train station.  At the visitor center, you can watch videos about the architect. There was also a wall of video monitors that showed images relating to Philip Johnson and the Glass House that played in a loop. Souvenir were also available for purchase at the visitor center.

The Glass House is about a 6 minute drive from the visitor center, and transportation was provided with admission purchase.

The 2-hour tour permitted photographing the house and other buildings we entered. We did enter The Glass House, and the two buildings that housed his art collection. The Brick House which was near the Glass House was closed for renovation. The property was dotted with other buildings besides the glass house, follies, and sculpture pieces which we were not permitted access at the time.

We entered the property through a sort of gate that reminded me of tribal architecture where you have imposing pillars or posts marking the entrance to something great. Some of the visitors were rather surprised to find something like that intended by Philip Johnson. Our guide pointed out that the motif is related to the Sony Building (back then it was the AT&T Building).

The first building we see when we enter the property is da Monsta, which was intended as the visitor center, however it was the last building to enter on the tour.

After a brief intro, our guide led us from the shaded covering of the white pine to an open view where we see a brown follie in the middle of an open field and beside it, The Ghost House, made of steel and chain link fence. We continued our walk leading to the Glass House where our guide pointed out a Donald Judd sculpture piece; a concrete ring with an unintentional crack in it.

We continued our walk along the stone wall an we could see the Glass House in front of slightly obscured by the stone wall. This was intentional as explained by our guide because Mr. Johnson wanted the Glass House to reveal itself as guests approached it. The Glass House is sparse. It was Philip Johnson’s weekend home. When you enter, you see a set of Barcelona chairs and daybed. There is a painting amongst the Barcelona pieces. The bathroom core is to the right as you enter. There is a modest kitchen in one corner of the house, which was designed to hide it’s function. On the opposite corner, there is the dining table. The sleeping area is separated with a row of cabinets facing the living space. Just a small bed and a writing desk.



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