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Life Inside A Glass House

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1 photo, 1,300 words

“Create beautiful things. That’s all.” – Philip Johnson
Architect Philip Johnson lived his life by this simple philosophy and it is evident in the many noteworthy structures he designed during his lengthy career as an architect. Nearly every major city across the United States has one of his skyscrapers, libraries, theaters, art museums, chapels, banks or educational institutions. And while some of Johnson’s edifices also signify his contribution in helping to establish Modernist architecture in this country, it is his private residence, the Glass House, which reveals a different story in his commitment to art and design, his quest for beauty, and his desire to build for building’s sake.

The Glass House sits perched upon a promontory surrounded by 49 acres. It was built in 1949 and is comprised of glass, steel and brick. It is a 1,728 square foot rectangular shape measuring 56-feet long by 32-feet wide. Obviously, since you can see right through it the occupants would have been fully exposed, but because of it’s setting, it remains perfectly private. It has no interior walls, except for a floor to ceiling brick cylinder serving as a lavatory, and yet the “rooms” are clearly delineated by the placement and choices of furniture, which were designed by Mies van der Rohe. While it feels simple and sparse, it is well appointed with everything one needs to live comfortably yet nothing more or less.

Johnson’s life partner, David Whitney, was an avid art collector, curator, critic and gallerist. Together they amassed a huge art collection. As it grew, Johnson designed a Painting Gallery and Sculpture Gallery on the grounds to exhibit the work of Frank Stella, Cindy Sherman, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and others.

Johnson and Whitney had the foresight to safeguard what they created by donating it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The couple also gifted over 2200 pieces of art to the MoMa. The Glass House opened to the public in 2007 and over 15,000 people visit annually.

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  • Architect Philip Johnsons Glass House
    Architect Philip Johnsons Glass House

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