Not wanting to give up on summer, I wanted to make the most of the lovely beginning-of-fall weather, while also educating myself. Hence, visiting Philip Johnson’s Glass House became a very attractive weekend plan, which finally took shape this last weekend.
Located in New Canaan, CT, the project is easily accessible from New York. There are trains that leave from Grand Central (another breathtaking gem) to New Haven every half hour or so. A quick train change in Stamford Station for New Canaan is basically the only commuting necessity. 1.5 hours later, I was in this small Connecticut town, eager to start the tour.
The Glass House itself is a 10-minute drive from the visitor center, which is located right across the street of the train station. The project is part of a large, 47-acre domain, which Johnson used as his architectural canvas for half a century – scattered along the hills and valleys of the estate there are 14 buildings or structures designed by the late American architect.
The central piece is definitely the Glass House, both spatially and in interest. The surroundings of the house work in favor of the main idea of the project – openness, permeability, blurring the line between interior and exterior – but also support the duality present throughout the domain: glass/brick, expressed in the glass and guest house, painting/sculpture, with their respective galleries. The history of the design process also puts the Glass House in direct relation with Mies’ Farnsworth House – both projects stem from the same idea, but come to radically different expression in their final form.
I was completely baffled by the simplicity of Johnson’s projects on site – using simple visual cues, such as reflectance, translucent-opaque duality and few materials (glass, steel and brick), he manages to create complex relations between sculpture, architecture and landscape, done in a playful and deeply personal manner…
…the Martini-glass-shaped pool is a strong testament to the fact.