Mark your calendars – The Glass House, which closed for the season on October 30th, re-opens on May 1st with a newly-renovated Sculpture Gallery. I had been meaning to visit The Glass House for about two years, so even though I knew the Sculpture Gallery was closed, I still squeezed in a visit in mid-October. (Which ended up being a fabulous decision, as the property was breathtaking in the fall!)
A vision of designer Philip Johnson, The Glass House was built between 1949 and 1955 as Johnson’s personal residence. Set amongst 49 sprawling acres in New Canaan, CT, The Glass House boasts fourteen structures including sculptures, Johnson’s residence and a Painting Gallery he designed to house his collection of large-scale modern paintings.
Visitors park and check-in at The Glass House’s visitor’s center & design store on Elm Street in New Canaan and are then shuttled via bus to the property – a nice touch, as it ensures the property stays as pristine as possible.
After winding over the hills and through the woods – admiring New Canaan’s beautiful scenery along the way – we arrived! The minimalist entry gate sets the tone for the entire experience.
While some visitors I rode the bus with were booked into a tour, I had opted for the self-guided tour, so I exited the bus and off I went to explore!
Of the 14 structures on property, the most recently completed structure – Da Monsta, 1995 – was the first I visited. At 990 square feet, the red, angular structure housed a few sculptures. A glass beauty caught my eye.
Next I walked down the hill to the Studio (384 square feet,) completed in 1980. A one-room workspace and library, the Studio is filled with 1,400 volumes on architecture. A simple white desk was accented with two really fun chairs. I’m sure it’s quite cozy with a roaring fire in the fireplace!
You’ll notice in the below photo that there is no path to or from the Studio. Learn why Johnson designed it that way – a very funny commentary – on The Glass House’s website.
Further down the hill from the Studio is Ghost House – quite an interesting structure! (I actually found it a bit eerie, truth be told.) Johnson gives a fascinating commentary about Ghost House – including how he was inspired by his friend Frank Gehry – on the website.
Next, I strolled past a picturesque stone wall and babbling brook to Pavilion in the Pond, a very interesting concrete structure completed in 1962, located toward the back of the property.
A crisp, clear fall day made for beautiful reflections.
What I learned once I returned home and started researching Johnson was that he designed the famed New York State Theater at Lincoln Center – now called the David H. Koch Theater. (I thought Pavilion in The Pond looked familiar.) How very cool!
A shot of Johnson in the New York State Theater in 1964. Photo via Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
A shot of Lincoln Center in more recent times. Photo via Mark Bussell.
Ascending the hill, I made my way to The Glass House. I enjoyed picturing what it would look like on a snowy winter’s day – gorgeous, I’m sure! Completed in 1949, The Glass House was Philip Johnson’s home. Stark yet inviting, his glass and painted steel, 1,815 square feet home is 55 feet long and 33 feet wide. Although it doesn’t have any walls, Johnson referred to the spaces as “rooms.”
How fun are these lights? I think I’d feel like a movie star every night as I was brushing my teeth!
Six years after the completion of The Glass House, in 1955, the pool was ready for summertime dips. I can only imagine what fabulous parties Johnson hosted around this pool!
The Sculpture Gallery was closed for renovation, but the Painting Gallery was not! And it was even hosting an exhibit of Enoc Perez‘ depictions of NYC’s famed Lipstick Building, which I was excited to see since the building was just blocks from our apartment in NYC and I had always been a fan of its unique design.
A very unassuming structure built into the side of a hill, I thought the 3,778 square feet Painting Gallery – completed in 1965 – resembled more of a bunker than a gallery, but it showcased the paintings beautifully!
The layering technique Perez used was magnificent!
One of my favorite touches throughout the entire property was the overhead lights in a small little kitchenette that was just off the entry foyer of the Painting Gallery. How fun are these?!
When I finished wandering, I boarded the bus and headed back to the Visitor’s Center. What I really appreciated about The Glass House was the ability for guests to go at their own speed – whether they chose a one-hour guided tour, a many-hour guided tour or opted for a self-guided tour.
To be honest, tickets (especially weekend tickets) are sold-out MANY weeks in advance and when I settled on a date the only option left was self-guided. However, I didn’t feel like I missed out on any intel since a wonderful (and knowledgeable) docent was present at each building. (Plus, I always love hunkering down in front of my laptop and investigating places post-visit anyway.)
If you appreciate art, design, architecture or just spending a few hours enjoying interesting sights in a beautiful, natural setting, you’re sure to enjoy a visit to The Glass House!