Monday, July 24, 2017

Famous Homes: The Glass House

In our Famous Homes series, we previously visited The Stahl House in Los Angeles, here.

Let's visit another modernist masterpiece, The Glass House or The Johnson House. It was built in 1949 by architect Philip Johnson for himself on a 45-acre plot in New Canaan, Connecticut that also features thirteen other architectural experiments, but it is the Glass House that remains iconic and legendary.

Inspired by Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and the idea of German "glass architecture" from the 1920s, The Glass House is an open, 1,700 square foot structure made of industrial materials. Since the entire envelope of the house is glass, there is an intense and intimate relationship with the surrounding landscape. The view serves as a kind of "wallpaper"--Johnson once even quipped "I have very expensive wallpaper."

The house is sparsely furnished according to Modernist/Minimlaist sensibility. But with Minimalism, the few furniture pieces that are present need to be chosen with extreme care. And here we see the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair and ottoman, previously discussed here, and the Barcelona daybed, previously discussed here.

Living in a glass house can have its challenges, and while the house itself cannot really be seen from the road--and there are clearly no neighbors to overlook--the house none the less occasionally needed some kind of window covering to block the glare of oblique sun. Johnson chose to install woven flat panels by Conrad on a slim track.

The only structure inside the house is a brick cylinder that houses both a fireplace and bathroom.

The dining area is opposite the semi-hidden kitchen.

And here is the kitchen which is more of an island that can be closed up when not in use.

A brick herringbone floor features radiant heat below which helps to keep the temperature of the house at a constant comfortable level.

The brick cylinder fireplace...

...and bathroom entrance.

The curves of the cylinder, door, interior bathroom walls and circular shower provide relief from the rectilinear structure of the house itself.

The sleeping area is concealed behind a set of storage units.

Despite being a very ill-informed early supporter of Hitler, Johnson was gay and lived in The Glass House with his longtime partner of 45 years, David Whitney, an art curator, gallerist, and critic who was a close friend of Andy Warhol. Johnson came out publicly in 1993. Both men died in 2005, Johnson in his sleep while at The Glass House at the age of 89, and Whitney at the young age of 66.

Philip Johnson, left, with David Whitney at the dining area of The Glass House

The Glass House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997, now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is open to the public for guided tours. The Glass House also hosts many diverse art shows and installations, concerts, and dance performances. Check their site for more information.

Happy designing!

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