Those lucky enough to get tickets for Saturday’s inaugural gala picnic celebrating the first public viewing of Philip Johnson’s famed Glass House will have an aesthetically pleasing moveable feast.
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company performed in 1967 at the pastoral 47-acre site in New Canaan, Conn. This time around, the troupe will dance to a composition created for the event and one they have never rehearsed. Fourteen unitard-clad dancers will dash and lunge across two platform stages connected by a walkway on the emerald lawn. Organizers hope the setup will prompt guests to mill about, taking in the hour-long show from different perspectives. Johnson, one of the most influential architects and designers of the 20th century, who died at age 98 in 2005, was said to have used his house as a “viewing platform” that looked out at the landscape.
The house’s quarter-inch-thick glass walls are supported by black steel pillars, with the interior divided by low walnut cabinets and a brick cylinder that contains the bathroom. The cylinder and the brick floors are a polished purple hue. Johnson, a Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, once said of the hallmark of International Style that he completed in 1949, “Good or bad, small or big, this is the purest time that I ever had in my life to do architecture. Everything else is tainted with the three problems: clients, function and money. Here I had none of the three.”
Cunningham’s performance at the 1967 event was followed by a jam session with Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground. Among the 500 guests this weekend who will mark the opening of the National Trust Historic site will be: Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Robert A.M. Stern, Adele Chatfield-Taylor, Richard Meier, Eames Demetrios, Stephanie Seymour, Peter Brant, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams.
Aside from the landmark structure that was inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Illinois, guests will get a glimpse of the Brick House, Painting Gallery, Sculpture Gallery and Da Monsta, which are among the 10 buildings on the property that were designed by Johnson at different points in his career. Three other older structures were renovated by Philip Johnson and David Whitney, a renowned art collector and museum curator, and Johnson’s longtime partner.
This story first appeared in the June 22, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Johnson gave the Glass House, which was completed in 1949, to the National Trust as a life estate in 1986. Tours of the site on Elm Street, across from New Canaan’s train station, are already sold out through the end of this year. Proceeds from Saturday’s picnic will go toward the purchase of four acres to the north to prevent future development and protect the Glass House’s view.
And no one will be traipsing around with a garish neon admission bracelet. Designer Ryan Kundrat was tapped to create an entrance ticket — a handmade, rubber and sterling silver band that can be worn as a necklace or a bracelet. The limited edition accessory is available at Kundrat’s Web site, with some sales earmarked for Preserve the Modern, the Glass House initiative to drum up resources for the preservation of modern architecture, art and landscape.