The Glass House Blog

Glass House + @DOCOMOMO_US National Modern Architecture Tour Day, Oct. 8-10

DOCOMOMO US Tour Day 2011The Glass House joins DOCOMOMO (Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement) US as a partner in the 2011 DOCOMOMO US National Tour Day. The fifth annual event (October 8 -10, 2011) highlights the influence of the Modern Movement within the US and supports its preservation by encouraging a sense of regional and national pride for its rich legacy. Throughout the weekend (October 7-10), the Glass House will extend its National Trust for Historic Preservation member discount rate of $15 off all tours to DOCOMOMO US members. National Tour Day will culminate in a special DOCOMOMO US members-only tour and reception to be held at the Glass House on Monday, October 10.  Limited spaces remain for the members reception, contact info@docomomo-us.org for reservations.

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The Glass House Gets a New Coat of Paint!

Paitning the Glass House, the Front Entrance

Painting the Glass House, the front entrance with blue masking tape.

If you visited the Glass House in recent weeks you may have seen that it is in the process of being painted. The edges of the Glass House’s windows have been masked in bright blue tape, and the steel structure is being carefully sanded, stripped, primed and re-painted. This important conservation project is being carried out in phases, painting one side of the building at a time, and maintains the original finish – matte black industrial paint – first applied when the Glass House was built in 1949. During this process visitors will still be able to go inside the Glass House, but certain collection pieces may be covered for their protection.

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Painting The Glass House

Painters working on the Glass House

Painters working on the Glass House, June 2, 2011

The Glass House is currently being painted. For more images of the process keep reading or check out our photos on Flickr. For more information on the ongoing conservation and preservation projects at the Philip Johnson Glass House please visit our website at
http://philipjohnsonglasshouse.org/preservationatwork.

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The Glass House + Points on a Line at Art Basel

Filming Points on a Line at the Philip Johnson Glass House / Photo: Sarah Morris Points on a Line 2010 35:44 min © Parallax
Filming Points on a Line at the Philip Johnson Glass House
Photo: Sarah Morris Points on a Line 2010 35:44 min © Parallax

Glass House at Art Basel

Points on a Line, a new film by artist Sarah Morris, is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s first contemporary art commission and collaboration between the Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House and the Philip Johnson Glass House.

Points on a Line will be shown at Art Unlimited, Art Basel’s pioneering exhibition platform for projects that transcend the classical art-show stand. Art Unlimited opens on Monday, June 13 and runs through June 19th. Points on a Line is also on view daily at the Glass House Visitor Center.

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Theodore Prudon Hosts Glass House Conversations

Dr. Theodore Prudon, FAIA, an expert on modern preservation, hosts this week’s Glass House Conversation with a question on sustainability, modernism and architecture of the recent past.
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Tatum House by Architect Hugh Smallen

Hugh Smallen's Tatum House, with landscaping and a new entry designed by Peter Rolland and John Black Lee

Tatum House by Architect Hugh Smallen, 1962. Photo by Craig Bloom.

The Tatum House designed by Hugh Smallen was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places as an extension of the The New Canaan Modern Home Survey. It is one of an impressive 18 modern homes that were added to state and national registers in 2010 as part of the first ever multiple-property registry for mid-century modern homes.

Learn more about the Tatum House, Modern Home Survey and this impressive Preservation Milestone for New Canaan Houses.

 

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A Preservation Milestone for New Canaan’s Modern Houses

Roseanne Diserio, John Black Lee, David Bahlman (photo: Claire Hunter)

Before Roseanne Diserio walked across the lawn in front of the Glass House to receive a certificate in honor of her modern home’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, she hesitated just for a second. Then Diserio emerged from the crowd with architect John Black Lee on her arm.  As David Bahlman, Connecticut’s Deputy Historic Preservation Officer, handed Diserio the certificate, eighty-six year old Lee turned to the audience and said “It was my first house!”

There were cheers for Lee and Diserio from the close-knit group of New Canaan modern house owners who gathered at the Philip Johnson Glass House on an 80 degree September day to celebrate a milestone in the preservation of modern residential architecture.  Twelve houses were added to the National Register of Historic Places and six to Connecticut’s State Register in the first multiple-property registry for mid-century modern houses.  Twenty-six homeowners, representing 15 of the houses, attended to accept their certificates in person.

The registry process was an outgrowth of The New Canaan Mid-Century Modern Houses Survey, executed by Building Conservation Associates and conducted during the tenure of outgoing Glass House Executive Director Christy MacLear.  The survey was a result of a partnership between the New Canaan Historical Society (NCHS), the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation – Philip Johnson Glass House. It was funded by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism (CCCT).

Gretchen Mueller Burke addresses the crowd (photo: Claire Hunter)

Gretchen Mueller Burke of the Glass House, who coordinated the registry effort on the various local, state, and national levels, began work a year ago with Alicia Leuba of the National Trust’s Northeast office, NCHS Executive Director Janet Lindstrom, architect Richard Thomas of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance and Stacey Vairo of CCCT.  Burke emphasized the importance of the MPDF or Multiple Property Documentation Form. Unlike the single property form, it is in Burke’s words “a detailed overview of the history of the development of modern architecture and design in the State of Connecticut that provides an umbrella-like structure for the nomination of individual modern houses to the State and National Register of Historic Places.”

Ginny Adams and Jenny Scofield of Public Archaeological Laboratory (PAL) conducted research, wrote historical context documents, prepared nominations, and shepherded the nominations through the many official avenues.  The formal process included submission of the documentation to the CCCT, and a review by the Connecticut Historic Preservation Board

Ginny Adams, Michael Fedele (photo: Claire Hunter)

and the homeowners.  Once the state review board approved the nominations, they went to the National Park Service (NPS), the official home of the National Register of Historic Places.  Roger Reed of the NPS was on hand for the September event.  “There have never been so many houses listed at once,” said Adams, “and the multiple registry process has never been used statewide for modern houses.”

The new National and State Register listings include houses designed by Marcel Breuer, Gates & Ford, Willis Mills, Hugh Smallen, Allan Gelbin, Eliot Noyes, Alan Goldberg, Laszlo Papp, and John Black Lee, among others.  Alan Goldberg and Laszlo Papp are owners as well as the architects of their houses. The 2010 group joined some illustrious company already designated as historic houses:  Philip Johnson’s Glass House and Hodgson House, the Landis Gores House, Eliot Noyes’s second house, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tirranna.

Rena Zurofsky, Janet Lindstrom (photo: Claire Hunter)

Welcoming the preservationists and homeowners to the Glass House was Interim Executive Director, Rena Zurofsky, who greeted every person as he or she stepped off the van at the top of the Glass House driveway.  Zurofsky, along with David Bahlman and Alicia Leuba, offered their thanks to the many preservationists in attendance, including Mary Donohue, Connecticut’s Survey and Planning Grants Coordinator, and Janet Lindstrom, Executive Director of the New Canaan Historical Society (and a modern home owner) who for many years championed the preservation of modern houses.

Bahlman, however, made a point of honoring the homeowners. “The real stars are those of you who agreed to have the designation placed upon these very significant houses…. It’s quite an honor and sets the stage for other homeowners in Connecticut to nominate houses.”

“This is going to be a model,” said Bahlman in his summing up. “Nowhere has the buy-in or enthusiasm been as strong as it has been here in Connecticut.”  As PAL’s documents noted, “Connecticut’s unique contribution to the development of mid-twentieth century Modern residential architecture was nearly unparalleled in scope and impact.”

by Gwen North Reiss

Filed under: Modern Home Project, , , , , , , , ,

An Interview with John Johansen, Part II: John Johansen and Philip Johnson

John Johansen, photo: New Canaan Modern Homes Survey, Philip Johnson Glass House

by Gwen North Reiss

As classmates at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, colleagues, and neighbors in New Canaan, CT, where they built their early houses, John Johansen and Philip Johnson had a lifetime of conversations about architecture.  Their friendship and mutual respect survived the years, though more often than not they disagreed.

Johansen first encountered Johnson at the Graduate School of Design.  “He was ten years older than I.  When we were students, he had been director of the Architecture Department at the Museum of Modern Art.  He was way above us in that experience, and also wealthy.  When he was a student he built his own house there in Cambridge.  That was dazzling to the rest of us.”  Johansen remembered Johnson’s irreverent spirit, and that he distanced himself somewhat from Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.  “He was attached to Mies and nobody else—Mies, whom he had arranged to come to this country and who was the greatest man he borrowed from.”

John Johansen's first house, adjacent to Philip Johnson's property, received its share of press notices. Clipping from the New Canaan Historical Society archives

The title of the landmark 1932 MoMA show “The International Style Exhibit,” curated by a very young  Philip Johnson (the catalog became a history text for architecture students at Harvard), always rankled with Johansen. “It was a movement and not a style…I was offended and I told him so.  And I told Hitchcock too” [curator Henry-Russell Hitchcock].  “However, I think we would all agree that the modern movement was a new idea.  A spirit, regardless of what different expressions it took, and I think that’s very much with us.”

In 1950, just after the completion of the Glass House, Johansen bought land next door to Philip Johnson to the north.  “I bought for $10,000 about 10 acres.  I sold half of it for 5,000…and there I was with that wonderful view.”  Johansen’s kids, born while he was living in New Canaan, had an open invitation to Johnson’s round swimming pool close to the Glass House and Brick House.  Johansen remembered sleeping in the Brick House bedroom with its wall panels of Fortuny fabric.  “I didn’t know when it was day,” he said “I slept ’til eleven o’clock.”  He also recalled the 1967 event where Merce Cunningham’s dance company performed on the meadow:  “Wonderful.”  One room appealed very much to Johansen’s love of primordial spaces–the bathroom in the Glass House, which he describes as an enclosure with “a powerful essence.”  Johansen also remembers that Johnson often “referred to me and my wife as kids…I was thinking of myself as a respectable architect!”

"I didn't know when it was day," said Johansen, "I slept 'til eleven o'clock." photo: Guest House by Dean Kaufman, Philip Johnson Glass House

Their conversations about architecture were frequent.  “We’d talk about anything,” said Johansen, “history, architects, the great architects, the old architects,… the design process.”  This is entirely echoed by Johnson’s comments in Robert A. M. Stern’s new book, The Philip Johnson Tapes, where Johnson says “Johansen was my biggest supporter and good friend at school…We talked the same language…I talked more architecture with him than with any other single architect.”

John Johansen's Morris Mechanic Theater in Baltimore. Photo by Andrew Bossi

It was Philip Johnson who recommended Johansen for the Morris Mechanic Theater in Baltimore.  The mass and monumental grace of this 1967 design show Johansen to be akin spiritually to Paul Rudolph. Johansen’s influential Oklahoma Theater Center was done while he was living in New Canaan as was the American Embassy in Dublin, the plans for which he had to rescue from his office during a fire.  He remembered Johnson’s excitement about the Oklahoma Theater design. “Philip took a whole dinner party to my office after dinner to see the model.”

Johansen described the bathroom in the Glass House (inside the cylinder) as an enclosure with "a powerful essence." photo by Jake DiPietro

Johansen also sat in on many architectural discussions at the Glass House, including a famous one with Mies.  “One that pained me,” he said “was how to correctly make a corner…I didn’t like Mies—a silent man, morose.”  That personal impression in no way altered Johansen’s recognition of Mies’s influence and virtuosity.  Mies, Johansen remembered “could design in his mind without paper or pencil a complete major building.”

Johansen referred to a story about someone “writing with a piece of soap on the glass:  ‘Philip, why didn’t you have the courage to design a Glass House.’ It could have been Frank Lloyd Wright. Come to think about it—if he’d really been original and not copied Mies, the ceiling would be glass, the floor would be glass with underlights, and we would walk on glass.”

Of the later years, Johansen said “we parted company because he embraced Post- Modernism and Deconstruction.”  He set up at MoMA all the work that represented this strange venture.  I picketed outside…and even inside, and said ‘You’re wasting your time here.  This is not going to last.’  Post-Modernism didn’t have the strength to even name itself!”

Looking back on Johnson’s curatorial role, Johansen said “At one time I called him the circus ringmaster with that top hat and whip, announcing the next event in the tent.”

“I think we’re on the right track again,” said Johansen, citing the work of a number of architects including Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava.  Johansen sees the engineering aspect of design as crucial.  “The success of most architects depends heavily now on the inspiration or the creativity of the engineer.”

During the ‘70s, Johansen built his Plastic Tent House in Stanfordville, New York and moved away from New Canaan.  He lost touch with Johnson.  “I didn’t see him for 15 or more years.  And then I came to New Canaan to see my other friends there. We drove down his driveway late in the afternoon unannounced and I walked across the lawn, and he walked across to me, and we embraced each other, and he said “You’re just in time for martinis.”

It was “as though not a day had passed,” said Johansen.  “He remained, in spite of our differences, my friend.”

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