Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Case Study: The Glass House; Philip Johnson

Philip Johnson’s New Canaan house of 1949 involves a concept for not just a house, but a monumentally scaled multi-purpose space set gently upon a carpet of grass. A transparent open-framed structure initially designed with the intent for his own home was achieved through the less striking frame providing a visual framework for a series of spatial experiences of greater subtlety and complexity. It felt sealed, but not separate form its surroundings. Viewing from the inside out, its already generously proportioned space expands outward embracing the park like setting. Viewing from the exterior under certain lighting conditions, the glass cube seems to dissolve leaving the surrounding landscape undisturbed. The resulting statement of Johnson’s Glass House is ambiguous and perhaps even suggested with a quality of mock seriousness. The use of glazed walls to create new visual, spatial, and textual effects is one of the contributions to that of the International Style. The Miesian idiom of the 1940’s and in it Johnsonian development, the variety and articulation of the buildings’ mass were replaced by a determined regularity and cubic simplicity of outward form. Meis’s Farnsworth House and Johnson’s Glass House represent both a logical and an illogical extreme growing out of the International style, while reasserting some of the unique values of the earlier architecture of the 1920’s. Farnsworth House has an authentic constructive rationale surviving as a reflective habit from the work of veteran designer Mies. The Glass House is a historical and critical theme upon that style, infused with an air of objective detachment.


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