Unique New England Museums: The Glass House

By Carla Charter

NEW CANAAN, CT.-On a promontory in New Canaan, sits a house of glass. It was once the home of late architect, curator and philanthropist Philip Johnson and his partner David Whitney, who lived on the on the 49-acre property.

Johnson decided to build the Glass House as his weekend home in the countryside. The house is 55 feet long and 33 feet wide and is 1,815 square feet. Johnson and Whitney lived in the home until 2015.

He first came across the idea of a Glass House while working as curator of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) In New York City.  He saw designs for it while he was compiling a retrospective on Mies van der Rohe who was designing a house all made of glass and Johnson thought he would copy his idea and do the same.  In 1949, the technology to create large glass walls and to use steel to build a home was a new advancement which made it possible to create this “glass” house, according to Christa Carr, Communications Director of the Glass House

Johnson stated in a 1991 interview, “I thought it’d be nice to have a place that you could swivel all the way around and see the whole place, which is what you can do here. I claim that’s the only house in the world where you can see the sunset and the moonrise at the same time, standing in the same place.” Most of the furniture in the house came from Johnson’s New York apartment which was designed by der Rohe, including a daybed designed specifically for Johnson.

The Glass House is not the only building on the property. Other buildings built over 50 years include, The Brick House, Da Monsta, The Studio Library, The Sculpture Gallery, The Painting Gallery, Ghost House, Popestead. Each building was designed by Philip Johnson and each includes a variation of styles.

Johnson and Whitney, who was an art curator as well, were both collectors of art and sculptures. Their collection is on display at the property for viewing. Artworks include those by Franke Stella, Cindy Sherman, David Salle, Julian Schnabel, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg. Sculptures include those by Donald Judd, Julian Schnabel, Frank Stella, Bruce Nauman, Michael Heizer, Andrew Lord, Robert Morris, John Chamberlain, Robert Rauschenberg, George Segal. More information on the Glass House can be found at www.theglasshouse.org.