Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Photo Diary: The Glass House

Early last month, a friend and I took the train up to New Canaan, Connecticut to see Philip Johnson's Glass House with Fujiko Nakaya's fog installation, Veil.
I first spotted the house & the installation on Whitney Hayes' instagram feed (an incredible one to follow, if you don't already!) over the summer, when The Glass House arranged for an amazing group of instagram photographers to tour the grounds—search #emptypjglasshouse on instagram to see all the photos. I made it a priority (which I talked about here) to make it there before the installation ended in late November and they closed up for winter. Naturally, things kept coming up weekend after weekend—this year was a busy one—and we finally settled on the first weekend of November.
As luck would have it, the day we picked ended up being cold and rainy, but it also made for a serene visit. We did a guided tour despite first wanting to do the self-guided tour, where you get about an hour more to wander the grounds as you please (all of those were sold out—they're only offered about twice a month, and only once on a weekend). In retrospect, the guided tour is a great idea if you've never visited and especially if you're only vaguely or not at all familiar with the grounds, as we were. 
The train from NYC out of Grand Central takes just over an hour and drops you on the main street of New Canaan, right across from the visitor center for the Glass House. Once you check in, they give you a little time to wander the visitor center, where they have a selection of mid-century modern home goods for sale, along with architecture books, and a wall of digital photos showing the Glass House at various times of year over its 65 year history, before a small bus takes you on a short scenic trip to the grounds (make sure to look out the windows on the way over—there are a lot of amazing houses in New Canann, including several more minimalist, modern home from the 50's and 60's.)
Now, for a little bit about the house...Philip Johnson was an architect who first studied at Harvard after high school and became best known for his post-modern work, particularly with glass, in the 40's and 50's. He built the Glass House as a weekend and summer retreat for himself and his partner, David Whitney (yes, from that family) and spent much of his time here. What I loved most about visiting was how comfortable the house felt, despite its minimalist vibes. It doesn't feel like you're visiting a museum, but rather a home where the owner has maybe just stepped out for a bit. It's obvious how much he loved the property and the home, which he called his pavilion for viewing nature (and what a view there is!). Frequent summer guests included renowned artists, dancers and musicians—Andy Warhol was a close friend, and some of his work is on display in the Painting Gallery.
Over the 50 or so years he spent there (Johnson passed in 2005), he purchased surrounding land and added on—first with an all-brick guest house not far from The Glass House, along with a Pond Pavilion,  the aforementioned Painting Gallery, Sculpture Gallery, Study, and very surreal-looking property at the front called Da Monsta (it reminded me of Beetlejuice—I didn't get any great pictures of it, though!). Several art installations are scattered about, too, but our tour didn't cover the full grounds so I only spotted them from afar. There are low-lying stone walls throughout the property and at the front near the road, many of which date back to the 1800's. There's also an old farmhouse (pictured up top) that Johnson restored and used for laundry, storage and a few other amenities. These days it's been converted in office and storage for events and the like, but it stands in sharp contrast to the other buildings on the 40+ acres.
Post-tour, we decided to hang out in New Canaan a little longer, so we wandered down the main road to Elm, a cute restaurant with a solid brunch menu, and clearly inspired by the postmodern reputation about town (they've also catered several of the parties that take place the the Glass House over the summer!). The main drag had a cozy, comforting feel, and had it not been raining and we hadn't had plans in the city that night, we probably would have stayed a while and wandered around. Regardless, I'm already planning to bring my mom up next summer when she visits.
Now, about the fog...unfortunately, the installation was just for this year—though I wish they'd make it permanent. There's a nice video from the opening here that gives you a better idea of the layout of the property and effects of the fog when you're visiting. It was pretty easy to get completely lost in! Melissa Hope also has some amazing photos up from shortly before I visited.

The Glass House re-opens on May 1 next year.

*all photos shot by Rose Mayo for Blonde in this City

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