Study Tour

Philip Johnson’s New Canaan

Visit five significant houses designed by Philip Johnson in New Canaan, CT on an exclusive one day study tour in celebration of the 110th anniversary of Philip Johnson’s birth and the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Glass House to the public. The tour will visit the Hodgson House (1951), Alice Ball House (1953), Wiley Speculative House (1954), and Boissonnas House (1956) culminating with an evening tour of the Glass House property + festive reception. Tickets include tours of each house, shuttle transportation, and refreshments throughout.

Program Itinerary
12:30 – 1:00pm – Arrive to Glass House Visitor Center (199 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT 08640).
1:00pm – 5pm – Board shuttles and tour houses. Tour groups will stop at the Landis Gores Pavilion, a site of the New Canaan Historical Society in Irwin Park for light refreshments.
5pm – 7pm – Tour of the Glass House property + festive reception in the Painting Gallery.

The Glass House, built between 1949 and 1995 by architect Philip Johnson, is a National Trust Historic Site located in New Canaan, Connecticut. The pastoral 49-acre landscape comprises fourteen structures, including the Glass House (1949), and features a permanent collection of 20th-century painting and sculpture, along with temporary exhibitions.

The Hodgson House is sited on a slight knoll on a property that has both wooded sections and grassy fields. It is a one-story, flat roofed, brick and glass-walled building constructed in two phases per the designs of Philip Johnson. The house was designed for Richard and Geraldine Hodgson. According to William Earls, author of The Harvard Five in New Canaan, Johnson received the commission for the house after introducing himself to a couple who was looking at the site across the street from his Glass House. The Hodgson House won the first prize in residential design at the 1954 International Exhibition of Architecture in Brazil and the 1956 First Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. The house is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is protected by easements administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Alice Ball House was commissioned by Mrs. Ball in 1953. Philip Johnson, in the tradition of Mies van der Rohe’s courtyard homes, designed the Ball House as a modest one-story, two-bedroom home with an offset axial plan, a flat roof, symmetrically arranged terraces with slate paving, and pink stucco wall surfaces relieved by linearly grouped and symmetrically arranged painted entrance ensembles. A 1951 New York Times article regarding the Hodgson House mentions that Johnson’s next project would be a “pink palace with a hanging fireplace,” most certainly referring to the Ball House.

The Wiley Speculative House was designed by Philip Johnson for the Wiley Development Corporation of New Canaan. It was Johnson’s first speculative design. The one-story house is of post-and-beam construction on a concrete block foundation with plywood exterior sheathing. Because the house was designed as a prototype, it needed to be private as well as versatile. Johnson achieved this privacy by designing an L-shaped plan sheltering a terrace with a separate garage enclosing the third side of the terrace. One wing of the house contained a den, living room, dining room, and kitchen, while the other wing contained a master bedroom and bath, and two children’s bedrooms. The Wiley Development Corporation offered to build the prototype anywhere in Fairfield County for $45,000, but the Wiley Speculative House was never reproduced.

The Boissonnas House was designed by Philip Johnson for Eric Boissonnas and his family. Boissonnas was a geophysicist and an executive at a French engineering firm based in Ridgefield, CT. The property was acquired in 1954 and the house was completed in 1956. The original house was designed as a series of pavilions constructed of steel, brick, and glass. The house plan was zoned into three areas: a bedroom wing containing four bedrooms, three full baths, and a half bath; a service wing containing the kitchen, two maid’s rooms, and a bath; and a social wing containing the living room and dining room. All three wings were joined by an entry foyer. The two-story living room contained an organ and was described in 1957 in the New York Times as an “acoustical chamber.”