Glowing Glass

Mussolini got me thinking about the whole glass house concept.

A book I’m re-reading at the moment is Deyan Sudjic’s The Edifice Complex, How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World.

Sudjic has a very interesting thing to say about glass houses. “Fascism was once described as a house of glass, words that contemporary architects would do well to remember before making facile attempts to suggest that transparency – and so by implication, glass – is inherently democratic.”

This led me to one of the most famous glass houses, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan USA. Here are a couple of images from a book I’ve treasured for years, Great Buildings of the World, Modern Buildings, by John Winter.

| Philip Johnson, Glass House, 1949, top photo Ezra Stoller, bottom photo Alexandre Georges|

I’m also reading No Place Like Utopia by Peter Blake. It’s a gossipy, biographical book, both historically and personally. Good read. So instead of going into Johnson’s early fascistic ways, I’ll keep it bright and breezy.

Blake loved Johnson describing him as “arrogant, insulting, cutting, bitchy, devastatingly nasty, but never boring.” I’m a real sucker for a personality, so sounds good to me.

Blake tells a lovely anecdote about a group of serious-minded intellectuals visiting Johnson’s Glass House. Trying to think of profound things to say, one of the visitors asked, “What is the heat loss on a typical December day?” Philip, who didn’t think much about things like that, threw his hands up in the air in delight saying, “The heat loss is absolutely tremendous!”

Dick Kelly, described by Blake as a lighting genius, worked with Johnson for many years on the lighting of the Glass House and the above image shows the effects perfectly. Kelly came up with the phrase “focal glow.”

Julia Ritson

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