Little Glass Houses

The architect Philip Johnson would have been 110 yesterday. He died in January 2005 at the age of 98, at his residence for the previous five decades: his famous Glass House (above), which he built in 1949.

The idea behind the house is intricately simple: walls are an interference (obviously) between us and the world. What if the views on your property provided your home’s natural walls? Of course, my cynical brain brings me to memories of neighborhoods in which I would have happily lived without any windows, where “the view” (not the TV show) was exactly what I did not want to see. Heck, my cynical brain brings me back to apartments in which there were not enough walls between me and … me.

If the property is a few acres in the Connecticut countryside, however, that may be a dream come true, and that is the Glass House. Johnson died in 2005 and his longtime partner, David Whitney died later that same year, so since 2007, the house has been open for tours.

Much like interior decorators selecting color schemes deciding where to place works of art, Johnson and Whitney spent their time arranging the property to maximize the effect. The Glass House is more a studio from which one can contemplate a particular beauty: the countryside. “I have very expensive wallpaper,” he joked.

One story about Johnson, which might be true, illustrates this. A worker on the property had just swept pine needles off the path to the house and Johnson asked him: “Why did you do that? I had them just where I wanted them!”

The Glass House is one building of several he built on the property; it is one-half of a work that was completed by the Brick House, a structure the same size (both are similar to the building I grew up in: a single-level ranch or Colonial, 56 feet long, 32 feet wide, and 10½ feet tall) that has only three windows lined up on one side (the back side, away from the Glass House).

Nature can be deceptively easy to photograph (look at my Instagram page; I have no talent for photography), but the Glass House presents photographers with a unique challenge: capture the view and the fact that it is from inside or looking through an entire building.

Available tour packages of the Glass House do not include sleep-overs.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for July 9 asks us to reflect on the word, “Glass.”

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