06 March 2008

Home again, home again in the Glass House

I've visited the Glass House a couple of times in my life, and passed by it since I was a child at school a half mile down the road, either on bike or in car, probably thousands of times. My most recent visit was in 2001, when it was included on the New Canaan Historical Society's Modern House Day Tour. It was a crystal-clear, deep blue-skied, but definitely chilly, day. It was October, and the trees on the facing ridge – High Ridge, in Stamford, CT – were just starting to turn color. In the G.H. itself, a small fire had been built in the fireplace which is a concave scoop from the only solid volume in the house - the cylindrical, dark brown brick bathroom enclosure. The fireplace was shallow and the fire was built of thin logs in teepee shape - converging at the top and fanned out at the bottom. The smell and the warmth of the fire and the way the house integrated with land and the brilliant day was such an inviting pull I didn't want to leave. . . But I did because we were allowed to walk all over the property, and go into the main house, the library and the brand-new visitor's center which Johnson designed and had built in anticipation of the property being turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Library was completely enchanting, due to it's intimate size and situation, out in a field and reached by a path through the high grass. The conical volume on it's top with glass at the narrow top, funnels light right down onto the reading desk is also a bit like a thinking cap. . . really the perfect place for concentration, pastime and contemplation.

Well – OK. Thanks for putting up with my dreamy little digression . . . Here's what I intended posting about: In the house there is one painting. It is "Burial of Phocion," attributed to Nicolas Poussin (1599-1665), and it sits, because there are no walls to hang it on, on an easel in the middle of the living area. Here is a story from the New Canaan News Review that explains why a 17th C. classical painting was chosen and beloved by Johnson and his companion David Whitney, and how it lives so comfortably in the most iconic of Modernist houses. I can tell you first hand that although the easel is a little confusing and a bit of an obstacle to get used to, the painting is right at home. – GF

Friday morning note: Interesting story (and I don't say that just because you're my wife). There's a big and no-doubt mobbed Poussin show at the Met. The Times has a slide show of some of his paintings, if you're not familiar with his style, here.

On a related note, the Glass House has produced three short films giving people's impressions of the place. Most of it is very serious and solemn (the music is a giveaway that this is important stuff), and I watched it all and found only two things that were slightly funny (Frederick Noyes, Eliot's son, remembers visiting as an 8-year-old and wondering where you go to the bathroom, and someone else who I didn't recognize says that his impression of the Glass House was, "Nice wallpaper"). But they're worth looking at if you have an extra 20 minutes, here. -- TA

1 comment:

Katherine said...

Hi All,
I thought you may be interested to know that I live the the home that Gates designed for his family. We bought the house in 1992. My husband is an architect, as are his parents. One of our three children, Daniel is working on his Masters in Architecture at Yale. There was an aritcle in the New Canaan Advertiser last Thursday 1/15/2009.
My husband won the CT AIA award for new construction design for an apartment he did which is attached to our home for his parents to live with us.
I searched Frederic Taylor Gates on the internet and discovered he was very involved with The University of Chicago. Our other two children are studing there, Christopher now working on a PhD and Alexandra is in second year. Is he a relative?