Philip Johnson Glass House

Text: ArchitectuulPhotography: Ezra StollerPhotography: Simon GarcíaDate of Construction: 1949Location: New Canaan, Connecticut
Date: January 19, 2023 Category: Classic

“The only house in the world where you can watch the sun set and the moon rise at the same time. And the snow. It’s amazing when you’re surrounded at night with the falling snow. It’s lighted, which makes it look as though you’re rising on a celestial elevator.” – Alice Rawsthorne, the International Herald Tribune

The Glass House or Johnson house, built in 1949 in New Canaan, Connecticut built atop a dramatic hill on a rolling 47-acre estate was designed by Philip Johnson as his own residence and is considered a masterpiece in the use of glass. It is now operated as a historic house museum by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

It was an important and influential project for Johnson and his associate Richard Foster. The building is an essay in minimal structure, geometry, proportion, and the effects of transparency and reflection. The minimal domicile is equipped with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and space for dining and entertaining all arranged inside a simple rectangle measuring 32 by 56 feet (approx. 9 x 17m).

The basic concept for Johnson’s glass house was borrowed from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was designing the glass-and-steel Farnsworth House during the same period. Unlike the Farnsworth House, however, Philip Johnson’s home is symmetrical and sits solidly on the ground. The quarter-inch thick glass walls are supported by black steel pillars. The interior space is divided by low walnut cabinets and a brick cylinder that contains the bathroom. The cylinder and the brick floors are a polished purple hue.

The guesthouse sits as a smaller counterpoint to the main glasshouse and is constructed from red bricks. The Guest House (Brick House) was remodelled in 1953, but contains a bedroom, reading room and bathroom connected by a narrow corridor.

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