The Glass House is a renowned architectural landmark designed by Philip Johnson, located in New Canaan, Connecticut. It is considered a masterpiece of the International Style. Its innovative use of glass and seamless integration into the landscape has made it one of the most iconic buildings in American residential architecture. The house, measuring 55 feet by 33 feet and covering 1,815 square feet, sits on a promontory overlooking a pond and the woods beyond, invisible from the road.
The Glass House Technical Information
- Architects: Philip Cortelyou Johnson
- Location: 798–856 Ponus Ridge Road, New Canaan, Connecticut, USA
- Topics: Glass Houses, International Style, American Houses
- Scale: 2 stories
- Project Year: 1945 – 1949
- Drawings and Photographs: © Simon Garcia, © 2 D, © 2 D,
The Glass House started because of the land that was there. (…) And it was all conditioned by the landscape itself. In finding that little knoll, I was in the middle of the woods in the middle of the winter and I almost didn’t find it. I found a great oak tree and I hung a whole design on the oak tree and the knoll because of this place. Don’t forget, it is more of a landscape park than it is a work of architecture, anyhow. (…) It’s just a sort of a landscape in which I focused it on this knoll and this oak tree. And the view from that knoll and the view back was how I figured the whole thing.– Philip Johnson1
Capturing the Glass House: A Photographic Journey
The Iconic Glass House: A Look at Its History
The Philip Johnson Glass House, located in Connecticut, is an iconic example of Modernist architecture, characterized by its use of glass, steel, and a minimalist interior. The house is 56 ft. long, 32 ft. wide, and 10.5 ft. high, with glass walls on the exterior and low walnut cabinets dividing the interior space. The Glass House served as both a living and entertaining space, with a glass-enclosed room featuring the kitchen, dining, and sleeping areas. The bathroom is contained in a brick cylinder, the only object in the house to reach floor-to-ceiling. The exterior is made of charcoal-painted steel and glass, while the interior is open and uncluttered, with the landscape serving as its “wallpaper.”
The estate also includes the Brick House, which served as a guest house, and 14 other structures designed by Johnson, including the Pavilion on the Pond, Painting and Sculpture Galleries, the Study, the Ghost House, and “Da Monsta.” These structures range from rectangular to circular, with the Glass House being rectangular and the Brick House facing it. The Study was used for work, and the galleries were used to store and display the art collection. Other structures were deemed “follies” due to their unusable size or shape, such as the low-ceilinged Pavilion on the Pond or the Ghost House, made of chain-link fencing and lilies.
The red and black “Da Monsta,” with its absence of right angles, is one of the few structures visible from the road and was inspired by the design of a museum in Dresden by friend and artist Frank Stella. The 20-ft. entrance gate is fashioned from a sailboat boom. Johnson was a friend and supporter of both Frank Gehry and Peter Eisenman, and their influence is evident in the design of “Da Monsta.” The estate’s surrounding landscape was designed by Johnson and Whitney. It featured manicured areas of grass or gravel, trees grouped in outdoor “vestibules,” and slopes and curves that resemble the landscape painting “The Funeral of Phocion.”
Designing the Glass House: A Study in Modern Architecture
Less is not necessarily more, just enough is more.– Philip Johnson1
Each of the four exterior walls of the Glass House is punctuated by a centrally located glass door that opens onto the landscape, providing breathtaking views and creating a seamless connection between the interior and exterior spaces.
The Glass House features an open floor plan, with areas referred to as “rooms” despite the lack of walls, including a kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, hearth area, bathroom, and an entrance area. The furniture in the Glass House was sourced from Johnson’s New York apartment, designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1930, and includes the now-iconic daybed designed specifically for Johnson by Mies.
The focal point of the Glass House is the living room, with a rug defining the space and seating around a low table anchoring it. The placement of furniture is precise and contrasts with the ever-changing landscape outside. The bedroom, separated from the living room by built-in storage cabinets with walnut veneer, is the most private room in the house and contains a small desk.
Johnson designed the house over a span of three years. The structure gained Johnson recognition in both architectural and popular circles, including features in Life magazine and New York Times Magazine. Michael Sorkin described Johnson as having a talent for publicity, setting him apart as the leader of the Modernist style.
Johnson lived alone and became known as the “Man in the Glass House”2. The house became so famous that a police officer was posted to keep out trespassers, and Johnson put up a sign asking for privacy. The New York Times architecture critic wrote that the Glass House did more to make Modernism appealing to the US social elites than any other 20th-century structure.
Mies van der Rohe was reportedly unhappy with the Glass House’s similarities to his Farnsworth House. Johnson acknowledged his debt to Mies and curated an exhibit of Mies’ work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1947.
The Glass House Plans
The Glass House Image Gallery
About Philip Johnson
Philip Cortelyou Johnson (July 8, 1906 – January 25, 2005) was a prominent American architect known for his modernist Glass House in Connecticut and postmodern 550 Madison Ave in New York for AT&T. He also designed 190 South La Salle St in Chicago, the Sculpture Garden at MoMA, and the Pre-Columbian Pavilion at Dumbarton Oaks. Johnson was the first director of MoMA’s architecture department, where he showcased works by Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe. However, he took a detour into politics before resuming his career and receiving the AIA Gold Medal in 1978 and the first Pritzker Prize in 1979. Johnson’s skyscrapers can be seen in the skylines of cities, including New York, Houston, and Chicago.
- Philip Johnson: A Visual Biography by Ian Volner
- The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster