Skip to content

Glass and Other Houses

Post date:

Following on from my previous post about The Kiss Principle and miscellaneous tidbits about the Farnsworth House, I was poking around the internet looking for information about the mechanical services at Philip Johnson’s Glass House. After all, it has no mechanical room. The fireplace looks a bit more the business though.


While we’re over here, here’s the bathroom. It’s tricky to photograph.


All of the mechanical needs of the Glass House are met by the Brick House.  An underground umbilical shaft connects the Glass House to a feed of heat from the Brick House.  [thanks metacool]

So, unless there’s an electric booster heater hidden in a kitchen cupboard or a wardrobe, there’s going to be a bit of a time lag between turning on a tap and hot water coming out. There must be underfloor heating, although I’ve never heard any mention of it.  Anyway, here’s the Brick House. A lot’s been written about it but you can read about the progress of the restoration work here and here or on the house’s own blog, here, and how they’re planning to pay for all this work, here.

Glass House and Brick House (image: Andy Romer)

Nothing is annotated here, but I’m guessing that the room at the lower left is a utility room and that in the lower right of that is a trapdoor going down to a basement housing the boilers, with the dotted lines being the ladder down, and the solid part against which it leans being the flue for the very very low chimney you can see here.

house with circular windows - Glass House Copy of IMG_7966

So that’s heating solved! Laundry – who cares?! Certainly not Messrs. Johnson and Whitney. They probably had a separate building for the laundry and its launderers. There’s always something to learn on the internet. The following is from a website The Unclutterer which gives useful tips on how to get rid of stuff and generally tidy up your life. All this information is actually contained here, on the website.


In addition to the glass house, the 47-acre grounds are covered with numerous other homes and buildings where Johnson spent his time:

1. the Brick House, a small guest house that also hides the mechanical support systems for the glass house

2. the Popestead farmhouse, a second guest house with an enormous kitchen he used to cook in when he had guests.

3. the Studio and Library, where he did his work and stored his collection of books

English: The Study at Philip Johnson's Glass H...
English: The Study at Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, CT USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
4. The Painting Gallery which housed 42 of Johnson’s friends’ large paintings
English: Entrance to the Painting Gallery at t...
English: Entrance to the Painting Gallery at the Philip Johnson estate (Glass House) in New Canaan, CT (USA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. The Sculpture Gallery an entire building devoted to his sculpture collection. You normally only see photos of the interior.
6. Da Monsta, which Johnson built for no apparent reason and named it to sound like a hip-hop reference (not a joke).
7. Calluna Farms, a fifth house on the property where his boyfriend lived that is currently occupied by the groundskeeper. Christy MacLear executive director of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, has her office upstairs.

Uncluttered forgot The Pavilion which technically speaking, is a folly I suppose, not a building. It’s looking a bit neglected here. In passing, I wonder how the foundations for the Glass House are faring? It looks like it’s been built on landfill.


The glasshouse site mentions the entrance gate. I don’t know why.  


And I never knew about the Ghost House. I don’t think I believe in ghost houses.


But if I did, I’d prefer Venturi’s one.


The point of all this is not to begrudge Johnson for having a building for having tea and television, a building for dinner parties, a building for paintings, a building for sculpture, a building for his boyfriend to live in, another one for sex, and at least three more for no particular reason at all. This is just what rich people can do.

PJ and David Whitney lived in a New York apartment (overlooking the MOMA – hello again! – gardens; asking price $2,075,000; sold)


and, for those weekends when there’s simply nothing to do in New York, they came back to the estate to do different stuff in different buildings depending on the time of year and who was there. The function of the Glass House, then, is to generate architectural publicity and oh how well it did that. It’s architectural effect and consequent historical reputation is dependent upon us believing that it is lived in and used as an actual house. However, in terms of the onsite functional differentiation, the Glass house is merely a salon, a reception room for receiving and entertaining a certain type of visitor. This looks like a most uncomfortable non-conversation.

Andy Warhol, David Whitney, Philip Johnson, Dr. John Dalton, and Robert A. M. Stern in the Philip Johnson’s Glass House. Photographed in 1964 by David McCabe, for The Glass House Conversations.
Via Arch Daily.

When there weren’t any visitors, there wasn’t that much to do there.

iArqS5lQj2jY (1)