Philip Johnson was a Harvard educated architect who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko. His contributions to modern American architecture are pivotal and vast, as he worked on projects such as the Seagram Building in NYC (among many others) but his Glass House in New Canaan marks the apex of his career.
After working in the city as the director of MOMA's department of architecture, Johnson bought land in New Canaan and began work on what would be his vacation home for nearly 60 years and ultimately his masterpiece:
Through out his years of residence, Johnson continued to build on the property and ultimately created somewhat of an architectural Disneyland. A tour of his compound offers not just the opportunity to set foot inside his home where he relaxed, entertained and ultimately died, but also a glimpse into his entire world of design:
Highlights include structures scattered around the property and a bunker beneath ground curated with some of America's most famous modern artists. Below a Frank Stella from his private collection:
New Canaan became a hub of design when the Harvard Five, a group of architect students hailing from the ivy league college, took up residence in the town and began to build. Between the 1940's and 60's, several homes designed by the five began sprouting up around town giving New Canaan a reputation as a particularly mod place.
Though a tour of Johnson's glass house is somewhat pricey, it also includes a nice drive through the neighborhood of New Canaan where you are also able to view some of the work of the Harvard Five.
Visits to the glass house are seasonal with tours beginning in May and ending in November. Right now would be a great time to get tickets and go with the leaf peeping season upon us.
This trip is worth the savings - not only do you get to have alone time with some very exclusive artwork but Johnson's legacy really inspires and strolling the grounds of the glass house is a truly unique experience that shouldn't be skipped. The guides themselves are also very knowledgeable and tell Johnson's story in great and interesting detail.
Getting There: Metro North New Haven Line, New Canaan Stop. The Glass House visitor center is basically across the street from the train station. A shuttle from the center will take you to the compound.
Cost: Tickets for a 90 minute tour are $30/person. A 2 hour extended tour will set you back $45
What to bring: Shoes that won't aggravate you while doing a lot of standing. Come armed with lots of good questions - the guide I had was eager to talk architecture. Also, make sure you've had a good meal before the tour kicks off, rumbling stomachs are embarrassing in front of strangers.