Day Five – Don’t Throw Stones

Recipe for poor travelblogologue performance: Sleep in a cabin with no internet and spend your time with internet with family who you want to talk with and where there is a two year old who loves to play on iPads. That’s my excuse and I am sticking with it.

So where was I? Ah yes, thanks to a rare confluence of atlas obscura and the AAA Guidebook gems, we made reservations to tour the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, CT. First we had to get off of that aptly named island and around NYC. There was the now expected traffic but it was not a bad drive to one of the more distant, but still on the commuter rail line, NYC suburbs.

Johnson was a very famous architect in the middle of the 20th century. He was a leader of the modernist and post-modernist movements. He designed three very iconic skyscrapers in Houston: The Transco (now Williams) Tower, the Penzoil Building, and the Republic Bank (now Bank of America) Building. These were not his most famous works.

He decided to build himself a house on about 5 acres in New Canaan, eventually he purchased adjacent land and the property today is about 50 acres. (I may have these numbers wrong, but you get the idea. And if I start being all factual and look stuff up I will never get caught up.) He bought the original piece because he thought it was the perfect place to build his glass house, a design he had been thinking about for years.

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As advertised, it is a house with the walls made of glass. It sets on a flat terrace, down from the road (but visible for many years until he decided he didn’t need to show it off to attract clients and raised the height of a wall up by the main road – not shown in this picture), and overlooking a broad meadow where he later dug out a pond. He liked to use strong contrasts in his design. The same length but half the width brick house you see in the next picture was part of the original design. It serves as a guest house and also the heat and water systems for both buildings. The round sculpture in the foreground was added later.

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In the 40ish yrs that he lived there (mostly as a weekend home), he didn't change anything inside the home. He did, however change the property by adjusting the landscape and adding other structures that both fit specific needs that he had as well as being experimental designs that he incorporated into other commissions. His life, his designs, and the tour itself were all fascinating to both the husband and me. Here are a few more pictures.

The entrance gate – provides no security but a definite wow factor:

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The bedroom:

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The art gallery – where three “Rolodexes” of walls could be pulled around by hand to display different paintings (Johnson was a huge patron of the arts and donated hundreds of pieces to various museums):

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The pictures don’t do the site justice. If you are ever in the vicinity, the glass house tour is well worth your time.

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