For the first time this spring, visitors will be able to linger on self-guided tours of Philip Johnson's legendary Glass House in New Canaan.
Beginning May 1, visitors can choose between the traditional guided tours or view the property at their own pace, spending as much time as they wish in the house and several other Johnson-designed buildings on the 49-acre grounds. The sites include the underground Painting Gallery, the Sculpture Gallery, the Library, "Da Monsta" (a collection of sculptures), and the lower landscape's Pond Pavilion and Lincoln Kirstein Tower. Glass House guides will be available to provide background and answer questions.
Johnson was the founding director of the Department of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where his 1932 exhibition, "The International Style," introduced modern architecture to the American public. An associate of Mies van der Rohe, Johnson worked with the modern master in the 1950s on the design of the Seagram Building and its famed Four Seasons Restaurant. Among his many other important works are the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art and New York's AT&T Building, which is now Sony Plaza.
The all-glass, one-room house Johnson built as his weekend retreat in 1949 was remarkable as a pioneer in the use of materials, such as glass and steel in home design, and in its use of the landscape as "wallpaper" completely surrounding the house. Living, dining and sleeping areas are divided by low walnut cabinets so as not to obstruct the views. A brick cylinder containing the bathroom is the only tall structure. The landscaping designed by Johnson and David Whitney, his longtime companion, features manicured areas of gravel or grass and trees grouped in what Johnson called "outdoor vestibules.
The house was named a National Historic Landmark in 1997. Johnson turned the house over to the National Trust before his death in 2005 and it was opened to the public in 2007.
Cost for the self-guided tours is $75; guided tours are $250. Tours will take place Thursday to Monday from May 1 to Nov. 30. They begin and end at the Visitor Center in downtown New Canaan, where shuttles transport small groups to the site.
For information or tour reservations, visit www.theglasshouse.org or call 866-811-4111.