A Spring, 2016 “Must-Visit” | The Glass House | New Canaan, CT

Arts & Culture, Destinations, Lifestyle, New England

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!)

The Glass House

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.

The Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

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.

The Glass House

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.

The Glass House

The Glass House

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!

The Glass House

The Glass House

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.

The Glass House

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.

The Glass House

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.

The Glass House

The Glass House

A crisp, clear fall day made for beautiful reflections.

The Glass House

The Glass House

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.

Figure 10. Philip Johnson at the New York State Theater (now the David H. Koch Theater), Lincoln Center, New York, New York, ca. 1964.

A shot of Lincoln Center in more recent times. Photo via Mark Bussell.

The Glass House

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.”

The Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

How fun are these lights? I think I’d feel like a movie star every night as I was brushing my teeth!

The Glass House

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 Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

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.

The Glass House

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 Glass House

The Glass House

The Glass House

The layering technique Perez used was magnificent!

The Glass House

The Glass House

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?!

The Glass House

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!

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Lars Guy
    December 21, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Fabulous post! I now feel like I’ve spent a few hours touring Johnson’s property.

    • Reply
      Amanda
      December 22, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Thank you! I could tour it again & again and I’m sure I’d see something different each time. Hope you’re able to visit this spring or summer!

  • Reply
    Susan Joyce
    December 21, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Loved taking this tour with you. A must see for anyone in the area. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Amanda
      December 22, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks, Susan! It sure is a treat to see in person.

  • Reply
    Doug
    December 22, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    I didn’t realize how many “new” buildings there were. My friend Tom was studying architecture at Princeton in the mid-1970s, arranged a private tour with Philip Johnson, and invited me along. I remember feeling like the sculpture gallery was like being in a sand castle, and told him. I’m not sure it exactly made sense. We saw the house and the painting gallery, and I think that’s all there was.

    • Reply
      Amanda
      December 29, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      WOW – how very cool that you had a private tour with Johnson in the 70s! Must have been neat to wander the property with the gentleman who created it. I look forward to visiting the Sculpture Gallery when it re-opens in the spring – I’ll let you know if I feel like I’m in a sand castle. 😉

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