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  1. ArchDaily
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  5. Philip Johnson
  6. 1949
  7. AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson

AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson

AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson
AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson

AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson +16

  • Architects

  • Location

    199 Elm St, New Canaan, CT 06840, United States
  • Architect

    Philip Johnson
  • References and and
  • Project Year


From the architect. Inspired by Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, the Glass House by Philip Johnson, with its perfect proportions and its simplicity, is considered one of the first most brilliant works of modern architecture. Johnson built the 47-acre estate for himself in New Canaan, Connecticut. The house was the first of fourteen structures that the architect built on the property over a span of fifty years.

Completed in 1949, the Glass House was the first design Johnson built on the property. The one-story house has a 32'x56' open floor plan enclosed in 18-feet-wide floor-to-ceiling sheets of glass between black steel piers and stock H-beams that anchored the glass in place. The structure, however, did not impress Mies when he visited the house. It is said that the brilliant mentor to Philip Johnson stormed out in fury because of what he interpreted as a lack of thought in the details of the house.

Library Plan
Library Plan

Nonetheless there are still many features that contribute to the beauty of the house. The clear glass panels create a series of lively reflections, including those of the surrounding trees, and people walking inside or outside of the house, layering them on top of one another creating everchanging images with each step taken around it.

The interior of the Glass House is completely exposed to the outdoors except for the a cylinder brick structure with the entrance to the bathroom on one side and a fireplace on the other side. The floor-to-ceiling height is ten and a half feet and the brick cylinder structure protrudes from the top. 

The floor is also made of red brick laid out in a herringbone pattern and is raised ten inches off of ground level. The only other divisions in the house besides the bathroom are discreetly done with low cabinets and bookshelves, making the house a single open room. This provides ventilation from all four sides flowing through the house as well as ample lighting.

Although the house is the primary attraction on the site, Johnson used the expansive land around it to allow his imagination to run and build thirteen more structures that include a guest house, an art gallery, and a sculpture pavilion. 

The guest house, connected to the Glass House with a stone path that lays over the expansive lawn immediately surrounding it, is a heavy brick structure, contrasting the extreme lightness and transparency expressed in the Glass House. 

The art gallery is buried underground in order to not take away attention from the house, making it windowless which is uncommon for a gallery. Wright's other notable experiment on the site included a sculpture gallery which is "an assymmetrical white-brick shed with a glass roof...conceived as a series of interlocking rooms that step down around an open, central space."

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997, the Glass House is still considered a modern marvel. The beauty in its composition along with the rolling landscape have people travelling to visit and experience it firsthand everyday, and with the lines of the Glass House and the other buildings smoothly blending in with the lines of the horizon and the surrounding landscape, one can feel a breathtaking sensation of endlessness.

Cite: Adelyn Perez. "AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson" 17 May 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


dlspace · March 11, 2015

There is a description in the article about the sculpture gallery in which the name 'Wright' is given so is this a reference to someone else in the article or should it be 'Johnson'?

Mihir Mehta · October 28, 2014

Very good architecture with perfect proportions
and its simplicity. Good use of Glass since Glass House is still considered a
modern marvel. The interiors are structured properly to give a modern look.
This is one of the examples of modern architecture. Thanks.

Jannita Bolin · November 20, 2013

Like Mie's Farnsworth House. the Glass House by Philip Johnson was one of example of 20th century homes that defined the

vocabulary of Modernist architecture characterized by simplicity of form, application of modern materials and construction,

and the idea of open plan and free facade with continuation of interior to exterior space. The Glass House was
one of the glass architecture that suggests designer's attempt to redefine architecture proposing an ideal world that is free of

any historical and political context and unnecessary clutter.

However, one could argue that through using modernist architectural language as a way to reform of the society and the way

we perceive domestic space, modernist homes embodied
a space that lacks consideration of the domestic life and the notion of privacy.

Alejandro · July 05, 2013

How was Johnson influenced by the Farnsworth House? The Farnsworth House was finished in 1951 and the Glass House in 1949. Is it possible that Johnson was impressed by the Farnsworth project before the construction was finished? Maybe in Mies' studio?

Lauren Cherry · November 29, 2012

The most shocking fact for me is how Philip Johnson was part of the original trio who began the International Style movement, which, in simplicity was the beginning of modern architecture. When he designed the Glass House, Johnson was trying to break away from what was seen as ‘normal’ at the time, and used a style that brought in the International Style into residential architecture in America. Between the materials and its integration with the surrounding landscape, I believe that Johnson created a masterpiece of purity and perfection.

Deniz · July 24, 2012

AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson

federica barile · July 09, 2012

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ArchiSAFE · July 09, 2012

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Jordi Noguera · April 05, 2012

AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson vía @archdaily

OwnerBuilderNetwork · March 28, 2012

Bringing the outside in! designed and built by architect, Philip Johnson in the 1950’s #homeimprovement #DIY #build

ppriolo · February 06, 2012

@ArchDaily Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson (1949).

vemaybay,ve may bay · November 10, 2011

Its such as you read my mind! You seem to grasp a lot about this, such as you wrote the ebook in it or something. I think that you simply could do with a few p.c. to power the message home a little bit, but instead of that, that is great blog. A great read. I'll definitely be back.

jason house · October 19, 2011

Inspired by Farnsworth, Philip Johnson completed the Glass House on his 47-acre New Canaan, Connecticut estate in 1949:

Heesh Assi · October 12, 2011

#architecture #classics. The Glass house by philip johnson #
Via archdaily

Limkokwing Uni · September 24, 2011

Recap: The Glass House by Philip Johnson #architecture

Limkokwing Uni · September 22, 2011

#Architecture Classics: The Glass House by Philip Johnson

André Amaral · July 09, 2011

Um dos maiores clássicos modernos > The Glass House / Philip Johnson | ArchDaily via @archdaily

ahrenhp · January 14, 2011

AD Classics: The Glass House / Philip Johnson | ArchDaily via @archdaily

Takeshi Ito · August 31, 2010
Xx??? · May 18, 2010

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francesco · May 18, 2010

the most annoying un-talented wannabe in architecture history.

tDA · May 18, 2010 06:27 PM

no he's not.
I am.

Benjamin · May 18, 2010

"Wright’s other notable experiment on the site included a sculpture gallery..."

Just a typo thought I'd let you's know! FLWright has enough to his name, better not steal Johnson's thunder as well!

e. monaghan · May 18, 2010

I had lunch there in the 80's when an artist traded David Whitney(Phillip's partner)a drawing for one of his cars. Phillip was in NYC that day and I absorbed and observed as much as I could. We had unlimited access then. Glass house worked well, and the hidden bathroom in the pillar was a challenging problem solved.

roberto · May 18, 2010

Mies = Master
Johnson = Imitator

Tomás · May 18, 2010

Doesnt even measure to farnsworth house...

- · May 18, 2010

It is not talked loud but the glass house of Johnson was inspired by his trip around East Europe during II world war (he was an Nazi supporter those times). As he said it he had been impressed by burned down houses.

Esthetically this building can be stunning however I always have a lot of doubts when I come across Johnsons works.


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