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Excellent Conversations ensue at the Glass House

June 23, 2013

For decades Philip Johnson’s landmark Glass House in New Canaan, CT, was a setting for design discussions orchestrated by Johnson himself. Now the custodians of this National Trust property are conducting a series of “Conversations in Context” at which attendees can tour the site and enjoy talking with some of today’s most noted architects.

Some of the discussion leaders, such as Robert A.M. Stern, featured in a 2012 conversation, have had long associations with Johnson and his house. (In fact, you can listen to his insights in this Glass House-produced video.) But what insights could architects with less obvious associations contribute? At the Conversation on the evening of June 6, the team of Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio were able, in fact, to share some very interesting observations with a group of about 30 design enthusiasts.

Scofidio spoke of the impact of the house on him when he and fellow architecture students made an impromptu visit decades ago. Believing that Johnson was there only on weekends, they entered the property unannounced on a weekday. To their surprise, they could see Johnson through the famous glass, and he spotted them. Inviting them in, he spent hours conducting a kind of seminar with them. Diller spoke thoughtfully about how the house had functioned from the outset as a setting for Johnson’s unique architectural salons, so had always combined characteristics of a home and a cultural institution. There was discussion of how this house and Mies’s Farnsworth House were tests of how much privacy one could give up to be immersed in the beauties of nature.

The early June foliage was splendid that evening, and a light rain—also contributed by nature—didn’t deter the umbrella-toting group as it visited various facilities on the site. The underground art gallery accommodated seating for a more extended talk with Diller and Scofidio. Some of it involved their firm’s ongoing work at Lincoln Center, and now at the Museum of Modern Art, both places that include works by Johnson and reflect his broader influence as a design arbiter.

Held on Thursday evenings, the Conversations are supported in part by Oldcastle Building Envelope. Limited numbers of tickets for each event are priced at $150. More information here.

Guests scheduled for the remaining 2013 dates:

July 18: Peter Eisenman of Eisenman Architects
September 12: Bjarke Ingels of BIG Bjarke Ingels Group
October 10: James Welling, photographer, of UCLA
October 24: Peter Brant, art collector, president of the Brant Foundation
November 7: Annabelle Selldorf of Selldorf Architects

Architects Diller and Scofidio lead the June 6 Conversations in Context at the Philip Johnson Glass House. Photo by Michael Hall. Courtesy of the Glass House.