The Glass House Blog

Henry Urbach named next Director of the Philip Johnson Glass House

Henry UrbachThe Glass House and The National Trust for Historic Preservation are pleased to announce that Henry Urbach has been named Director of The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. Mr. Urbach will assume this role on April 2, 2012. Museum consultant, Rena Zurofsky, interim director since September 2011, will continue in that role through the end of March.

Previously, Mr. Urbach served as Curator of Architecture and Design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). His exhibitions – known for their provocative and timely ideas, breathtaking installations, and broad appeal -were widely lauded. Mr. Urbach left SFMOMA in May 2011 to pursue independent writing and curatorial work, including research toward a project about the Glass House compound as a laboratory for curatorial experimentation.

“I can hardly imagine a place more full of potential than the Glass House. It has long contributed to culture by bringing together art, architecture, landscape, and people in significant and inventive ways. That is exactly what I hope to foster,” said Urbach.

Henry Urbach holds a degree in History and Theory of Architecture from Princeton University, a Masters degree from Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and a Master of Arts in History and Theory of Architecture from Princeton University. He will reside in New Canaan, Connecticut.

The Glass House is owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a part of the Sites Department led by Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Vice President of Historic Sites. “I am delighted that Henry will become a part of our team. His passion, intellect and skill make him the ideal director for the Glass House at this moment in time,” said Rael-Gálvez. “I am confident Henry will work to develop and sustain an environment where creativity, consciousness and community ensure the site’s success and future contribution to American culture.”

To learn more about the Philip Johnson Glass House visit

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Message from the Director

I am pleased to announce that The Glass House will have a new director, Henry Urbach.

Henry UrbachHenry most recently served as Curator of Architecture and Design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where his exhibitions were widely lauded. Mr. Urbach left SFMOMA in May 2011 to pursue independent writing and curatorial work, including research toward a project about the Glass House compound as a laboratory for curatorial experimentation.

Henry began his career as a project management associate at Carnegie Hall, during the period of its restoration and renovation, foreshadowing a career dedicated to producing spaces that support creative labor and its power to inspire. He holds a degree in History and Theory of Architecture from Princeton University (AB 1984 Magna Cum Laude), a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (M.Arch. 1990), and a Master of Arts in History and Theory of Architecture from Princeton University.

He has taught and published extensively in the fields of architecture, art, design, and culture with writings that encompass theory, criticism, and journalism; and he has taught at numerous schools of architecture.

In 1997, Henry launched Henry Urbach Architecture, a unique New York-based gallery committed to joining the worlds of contemporary art and experimental architecture. He ran this business for nearly ten years, achieving international recognition.

I met Henry last spring and was struck by his energy and enthusiasm for the site.  He seems to me ideal to lead the dedicated Glass House team into even more innovative and exciting programmatic terrain, and to push restoration programs on track.  I congratulate Henry, and also Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Vice President of Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, on his astute choice.

Henry’s tenure will commence on April 2.

Rena Zurofsky

Interim Director, Philip Johnson Glass House

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Message From The Director

January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!

I write as air finally chills with winter, although the ground remains resolutely brown, denying the season its romance.  The Glass House site is closed to the public until May 2nd.  However, the staff is hard at work with many off-season projects.

Here is a look at how we spend the winter: Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Conversations in Context, Dine with Design, Glass House Conversations, Message from the Director, Preservation in Action, Tours + Programs, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NEW: Message From The Director

November 16, 2011

As our tour season winds down to its November 30 close, we keep active. In the past few weeks we’ve announced some wonderful collaborations which will stretch through the holidays, and some of them beyond.

For any of you in the greater metropolitan area, please don’t miss the exquisite exhibition of James Welling’s Glass House photographs on view in the lobby of the Four Seasons Restaurant through January 2, 2012. A collaboration between The Glass House, David Zwirner, and the Four Seasons, all photographs are offered for sale, with a large percentage benefiting The Glass House.

James Welling Photograph

Entering the lobby is free, so don’t hesitate to see this beautiful show.  Plus, a short turn to the ladies’ room will give you an intimate view of the same Fortuny fabric that Philip Johnson used in the Brick House, currently closed pending restoration. Johnson often used the same materials on his projects (he designed the Four Seasons restaurant, and partnered with Mies van Der Rohe on the entire Seagram’s building), the Library/Study has carpeting originally used at the Four Seasons as well. The succulent garden, which can be viewed during our landscape tours, is built on a foundation of the same pink granite used for the AT&T, now Sony building. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Message from the Director, Preservation in Action, Tours + Programs, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Living in the Glass House

Support The Glass House

Dear Friends,

It has been an incredibly fast-paced year for the Philip Johnson Glass House. We celebrated our Fifth Season by developing new ways of welcoming the public to our site in person, online, through educational programs and events, and at art and design fairs around the world.

We’ve collaborated with significant architects (Charles Renfro, Tod Williams + Billie Tsien, Gregg Pasquarelli), artists (James Welling, Todd Eberle, David Salle) and writers (Paul Goldberger, Karen Stein, Philip Nobel), great chefs (Michele Richard, Brian Lewis, Bill Taibe, Lee Chizmar, Derek Wagner), as well as talented local high school students and their inspired teachers.

This year, more than ever, we need your support to help balance our budget. Our endowment covers only 40% of our operations, preservation and programs but we count on the generosity of our supporters to complete the picture.

Here’s why we hope you will  Donate Now!

New Tours

Focus: Concentrate on art, landscape and /or architecture -you decide!

Plein Air Afternoons: Unguided access for creative inspiration.
Pure Glass: Short, sweet and the lucid heart of the property

Cultural Experiences in Person
and Online

Private made Public: Salons hosted by cultural leaders are now available to all, either through an evening on site or connecting through an online film of each program.

Preservation and Conservation: The first site-specific work of Donald Judd, Untitled, 1971 was cleaned and conserved this season. Explore documentation of the it’s history, from archival images of the initial installation, to video of the conservation team at work and an online dialogue led by Flavin Judd.

Important Research: A seminal biography of David Whitney, Philip Johnson’s private but influential partner, is essential reading for understanding of the legacy of Johnson, Whitney and the Glass House.


Generations Together: This fall marks our fourth year working with the New Canaan High School students and their teachers. This year’s projects included landscape photography and oral history films featuring local notable architects John Black Lee, John Johansen, and Fred Noyes speaking about his father, Eliot Noyes. These projects bring generations together to explore the essential history of New Canaan and Modernism. All of the student-produced oral histories and many of their photographs 
can now be enjoyed on our website.

47 Acres and 14 Structures

Storms: Besides the investments we choose to make, because we believe in them and their importance, there are the investments we need to make. Hurricane Irene, seasonal flooding and heavy unexpected snowstorms hammered the Glass House just as it did our neighbors. Repairs and canceled tours due to power outages and clean-ups resulted in significant lost revenues that severely affected our bottom line.

To maintain our role as an important community asset and site of international significance, we need your support. Please help us balance the Glass House budget with a generous year-end donation.

We welcome your support at every level.  Donate Now!

We hope to see you at the Glass House soon and often, on a tour through November, or early next season.


Rena Zurofsky
Interim Executive Director

The Library of Philip JohnsonAs an additional thank you for your donation of $1,000 or more, we will send you a copy of the just published, limited edition Library of Philip Johnson. Written by Birch Cooper and Jordan Hruska, this beautifully illustrated book examines 100 titles from the architect’s Library/Study located at the Glass House site and features an introduction by Architect Robert A. M. Stern, textual analyses and 350 photographs.

Donors of $5,000 or more will also receive invitations to an exclusive event at The Glass House during the 2012 season.

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Message From The Director: “Halloween Weekend” Snowstorm

The Glass House in the Snow

The “Halloween Weekend” snowstorm shut down Glass House tours, along with much of the rest of Connecticut–if not the entire northeast United States. On the plus side, a few lucky people actually got to see the property in the rapidly accumulated snow. On the negative side, they had to drive home under dangerous conditions—as did our staff.  Shortly afterwards, the power died and tours remained cancelled through Halloween Day, at least.

We hold tours under most weather conditions  but when extreme weather happens, we often have to make quick decisions about the safety of guests and staff. If we have to cancel your tours due to terrible conditions, we do our best to give maximum notice to everyone. We get on the internet and the telephones asap, and we put a notice on our website. In Saturday’s case, the snow started so quickly  (and earlier than forecast) and fell so fast that we weren’t able to stop everyone from driving in for afternoon tours, which we sincerely regret.

Please rest assured that if we cancel your tour, we make every effort to reschedule within the current tour season. If we are unable to do so, we refund your money and hope you will try again in the following year. We hope all of our visitors, on Saturday or any day, were safe this past weekend.   And we look forward to reopening the property for the rest of the tour season just as soon as possible.

Rena Zurofsky

Interim Director, Philip Johnson Glass House

Filed under: Tours + Programs, , , , , , , ,

Message from the Director: Fall Foliage + New Tours at the Glass House

Sometimes, after a long drive on the Merritt Parkway (as beautiful as it is), I find myself cross and edgy from all the traffic.  I wonder why I do it.  But after only ten minutes walking on the Glass House grounds, I am once again calm and centered, glad to have arrived again at this beautiful location where the buzz of insects is more significant than any passing vehicles.  Lately, of course, the sounds of buzz saws have been prominent as New Canaan finishes the clean up after Hurricane Irene.  Although some neighbors were without power for up to a week due to the many downed trees and wires, our property regained power after four days.  We had a few trees damaged, but happily the Johnson/Whitney landscape plans and the constant vigilance of our groundskeeper ensured that no trees hit structures.  We were very lucky, but between damage and a week of cancelled tours, our annual breakeven budget took a hit of over $20,000 which we hope our generous admirers will help us regain.

September disappeared in a blur, although it was notable in the introduction of our new Pure Glass House tour, which is proving to be very popular.  Other highlights included a crush of Conversations in Context programs, including the always captivating Paul Goldberger, Tod Williams + Billie Tsien, and finally Gregg Paquarelli, Philip Nobel + Karen Stein.  Actually, they were all captivating!  Video from Paul Goldberger’s conversation has just been completed, with more coming soon.

October’s Conversations will be hosted by artist David Salle and architect Charles Renfro, beautifully reflecting the lives of David Whitney, curator and collector and Philip Johnson, architect and arbiter.  Another of our Plein Air Afternoons will be offered this month as well, intended for artists, photographers, writers or others who crave some extra unstructured time on the property.

For all you leaf peepers, there are still some weekday tour tickets available in October.   Personally I can hardly wait until the leaves begin to turn, changing this estate from a green oasis into a hot orange mecca—and by the way, changing Philip Johnson’s “expensive wallpaper” at the same time!

Rena Zurofsky

Interim Director, Philip Johnson Glass House

Filed under: Conversations in Context, Message from the Director, , , , , , , ,

Glass House Conversation: What makes the Glass House sublime?

Glass House at Night

Architects have critiqued the Glass House since its earliest days in 1949.
Frank Lloyd Wright said “Am I inside or am I outside?” Mies van der Rohe was offended by its corners. Contemporary architects echo these and other issues.

So, why do architects, designers, artists, and ordinary people still journey
from all over the world to marvel at it, to be thrilled by it, to sometimes
even weep within it?

What makes the Glass House sublime?

Share your answer, join the discussion going on now at with host Rena Zurofsky, Interim Executive Director of The Philip Johnson Glass House.

Filed under: Glass House Conversations, , , ,


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