Glass House
Fot. Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Glass House: an icon of modernist architecture from overseas

The Glass House is a modernist residential house built in 1949 in New Canaan, Connecticut, designed by the famous American architect Philip Johnson as his own residence. A symbol of modern architecture, the house is one of the most important icons of 20th century modernism.

The Glass House is located in the central part of Johnson’s estate, on which he also designed other buildings such as the guest house (1953), the pond pavilion (1963), the painting gallery (1965) and the sculpture gallery (1970). The house takes the form of a cuboid with facades consisting of large glass walls supported by steel frames, allowing an unobstructed view of the interior. Its dimensions are 17 m long, 9.8 m wide and 3.2 m high.

Photo by Christopher Peterson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The interior of the Glass House is not divided by walls, giving it an open plan feel. The space has been functionally organised, with separate kitchen, bedroom and living room areas. The only enclosed space is the bathroom, hidden in a cylindrical stone structure. The home’s furnishings are walnut wood furniture designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which is Johnson’s homage to his mentor, whose motto ‘less is more’ was central to the design.

Photo by Edelteil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The design of the Glass House was inspired by the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, in particular the Farnsworth House, which also features a minimalist approach and extensive use of glass. Johnson’s Glass House is considered one of the icons of modernism, influencing many American architects to encourage the use of glass and steel in their designs.

Glass House
Photo by Edelteil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a counterpoint to the completely transparent Glass House, Johnson also designed a guest house, called the Brick House, which features solid brick walls without windows, the antithesis to its glass counterpart. This juxtaposition of two radically different architectural concepts on one property demonstrates the diversity of Johnson’s approach to designing living spaces.

Guest House. Photo by Staib, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Philip Johnson lived in Glass House with his partner David Whitney from the time it was built until his death in 2005. After their deaths, the entire property was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a historic preservation organisation. In 1997, the Glass House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recognised as a National Historic Landmark.

Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, the property is open to the public and its original decoration and design are kept intact. Glass House also serves as a place for learning, reflection and dialogue about modernist architecture, landscape and art.

Glass House is not only an iconic masterpiece of modernist architecture, but also a manifesto of modern ideas for the design of living spaces. Its transparency, minimalism and harmonious integration with the surrounding landscape make it a unique place that continues to inspire new generations of architects and art lovers.


Also read: single-family house | Modernism | History | United States | Interesting facts

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