Splendor in the Glass

As one iconic Modernist house opens to an eager public, others molder or are being bulldozed away

Eirik Johnson / The Philip Johnson Glass House

The Philip Johnson Glass House located at 199 Elm St, New Canaan, CT, photographed circa July, 2006, will open to the public for the first time in its 50 year history this spring.

WHEN COMPLETED IN 1949, THE HOUSE THAT Philip Johnson designed for himself in New Canaan, Conn., was the most resolute statement of Modernist principles ever set down in a leafy glade. An homage to the ideas of High Modernism developed in Europe between the wars, it consisted of floor-to-ceiling glass on all four sides, which was supported by eight steel piers on a brick platform. Not so much a house as the Platonic ideal of a house, it was also an affront to ordinary notions of domesticity and creaturely comfort, and this at a time when not many office buildings, much...

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