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Philip Johnson’s Glass House to open to public
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In the years after Mr. Johnson and Mr. Whitney died, the National Trust had to replace several windows after wild turkeys broke the quarter-inch glass, perhaps spotting their reflections and rushing at the windows in a territorial act or because they simply did not see the glass.
The fake coyotes, which caretakers rotate frequently to trick the wayward turkeys, seem to have done the trick. Other than damage from broken tree limbs and other occasional weather problems, none of the panes has needed replacement in the past few years.
A few steps away from the Glass House, a 1949 structure known as the Brick House offers in solitude what the transparent cube provides in openness. With silk-covered wall panes to block the light from its circular windows, it was Mr. Johnson’s refuge for naps or contemplation.
Guests frequently stayed in the home, where Mr. Johnson’s love of blending opposites shows in the contrast between the intellectual heft of his book collection and the whimsical purple carpet in the library that houses it. He also blended so-called “safe danger” in designs throughout the property, such as an eyebrow bridge over a shallow gorge that offers in simple aesthetics what it lacks in handrails.
Circles and rectangles also are an opposites-attract Johnson theme throughout the site, such as the round pool and its rectangular off-center deck.
A few steps away, the 3,778-square-foot Painting Gallery is built into
the side of a hill, its unassuming doorway flanked by simple red sandstone panes. The tomblike doorway dampens expectations before dramatically revealing vibrant works by longtime Johnson friend Frank Stella, an Andy Warhol print of Mr. Johnson and other notable pieces.
The nearby Sculpture Gallery, built in 1970 and home to an eclectic collection of art forms and themes, was another favorite contemplation spot for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Whitney. Today, guests are limited to viewing the expansive interior from a site just inside the entry rather than traversing the series of stairs that jut at 45-degree angles from the walls.
The tour concludes at the 990-square-foot, black-and-red modernist structure that Mr. Johnson completed in 1995 and deemed “Da Monsta.”
Built in what he called the “structured warp,” it is inspired by Mr. Stella’s work and intended to resemble a sculpture with uneven forms and no continuity to the angles.
The Glass House, the other buildings and the surroundings will be the site of a lecture series beginning in the fall, a fellowship program that is to start in 2008 and other events Mr. Johnson and Mr. Whitney supported in the name of culture.
The property, which sits behind an avant-garde entrance gate flanked by 20-foot concrete forms inspired by medieval monuments, had a 2003 market value of more than $19 million. The bulk of that value, more than $10 million, comprises the portion that includes the Glass House, Brick House and the sculpture and art galleries, according to town assessment records.
New Canaan Assessor Sebastian Caldarella says it includes the value of materials and replacement costs along with an estimate of its unique value as an architectural icon.
“How do you set a value on that?” he says. “There’s no right answer and no wrong answer. It’s irreplaceable.”
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