New Tours Give Glass House Visitors Another View

Visitors from 46 states and 30 countries toured this treasured legacy of modernism and nature in 2010.

The Philip Johnson Glass House launched its 2011 season on Sunday May 1. 

Six times a day, six days a week, vans carry visitors on a round trip from its Elm Street headquarters to tour the serene, sublime and sprawling 47 acre destination on Ponus Ridge.

To mark the milestone of its fifth season, the National Trust Historic Site is offering three 'Focus Tours' for both new and returning visitors  to experience its architecture, landscape and art collections in greater depth.

Each two hour tour specifically details one feature of what Phillip Johnson described as his "fifty year diary."

Considering himself more a student of history than architecture, Johnson's passion was merging ancient and 20th Century design, seen in the monolithic yet modern front gate to the property inspired by an Egyptian tomb.  

The Glass House itself is perched atop a shelf of land and based on the design of an ancient temple — the Parthenon.  A bunker-like structure built into a hill is reminiscent of a Mycenaean tomb, and contains a treasury of modern paintings amassed with esteemed curator David Whitney, whom Johnson considered his "eyes and ears" and who was his life partner for 45 years. 

Unlike the brief glimpse into the painting and sculpture galleries afforded on the regular Glass House Tour, the Art Tour is a behind the scenes look at Johnson's pivotal collection of iconic American artists that include Frank Stella, Robert Raushenberg, Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and Julian Schnabel.

For Johnson and Whitney, who was an avid gardener, their weekend home was foremost a sanctuary to celebrate nature. "You cannot compete with nature," Johnson said.

The Landscape Tour explores the property's evolution from its original five wooded acres to its present 47 articulated acres inspired by 18th Century English landscape design and the meadows of Johnson's grandfather's farm in Ohio.  

Procession — how you approach a building — was important to Johnson, and the landscape reveals visual surprises as one wanders through areas that embrace, hold and then release into an expansive view.

Johnson tells you where to look through the landscape which changed through the years as Johnson himself changed. He said he was "always itchy."

Finally, in keeping its legacy as a long-running salon, The Glass House will offer Conversations in Context. On each of 10 Thursday evenings a guest host will conduct a two-hour tour, followed by a reception. Each guide will be a leading mind in architecture, art, landscape, history, design or preservation.

More than 13,000 visitors from 46 states and 30 countries toured the Glass House in 2010 and its 2011 schedule is nearly sold out.



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