Featured, Preservation

Sculpture Gallery Restoration

Completed in 1970, Philip Johnson designed the Sculpture Gallery to house his growing sculpture collection. Inspired, in part, by the Greek islands and their many villages marked by stairways. Johnson remarked that in these villages, “every street is a staircase to somewhere.” The building’s plan comprises a series of squares set at 45-degree angles to each other. Staircases spiral down past a series of bays, which contain sculptures in the following visual sequence: Michael Heizer, Robert Rauschenberg, George Segal, John Chamberlain, Frank Stella, Bruce Nauman, Robert Morris, and Andrew Lord.

A tubular steel skeleton from which a cold cathode lighting system is suspended supports the building’s aluminum and glass skylight. Sunny conditions reveal an extremely complex pattern of light and shadow in the building’s interior five levels. The structure so pleased Johnson that he seriously considered moving his residence from the Glass House to the Sculpture Gallery. However, he did not, stating, “Where would I have put the sculpture?”

The passage of time and effect of the elements dictated that restoration occur in 2015. The major push for the replacement of this skylight system was dictated by the amount of water infiltration received during wet weather events since the gaskets and all of the seals in the ceiling system were beyond there functioning life.  In addition, the original skylights were single pane. They have been replaced with double pane glass which is safer, more energy efficient and cuts down the UV light hitting the artwork housed in the building. A generous gift from Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® covering materials and delivery of the skylight system enabled the Glass House to undertake the restoration at this time.

Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® continues their ongoing commitment to architecture and the arts with their support of the restoration of the Sculpture Gallery, one of 14 structures of the Glass House, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This project marks the largest and most complex preservation project at the Glass House to date and is the latest in a long-standing partnership between Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® and the Glass House. “As a company that has played an important role in some of North America’s most prominent architectural projects, we are delighted to support this restoration project, which furthers our mission to support cultural institutions and projects with imagination, ingenuity, and vision, creating environments conducive to innovation and thought leadership. The Glass House is a shining example of this.” —Edwin B. Hathaway, Chief Executive Officer of Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®

The complete restoration of the Sculpture Gallery began on May 6, 2015. The project team includes the design team at Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® and Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects. Project management was provided by Nicholson & Galloway. Franklin Glass was selected as the glazing installer and Camsan Electrical as the electrician. Some of the sculptures housed in the gallery were sent out on loan to the Frank Stella retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum and The Modern in Fort Worth. Several pieces from the collection were put on display on-site and others remained protected in place. An engineered scaffolding system was erected around the exterior of the building and a work platform was installed inside the structure. Field verifications were made by Franklin Glass.  The exterior coatings were removed using a micro abrasive process and then reapplied.  The cold cathode lighting system was removed in entirety and all of the interior steel was sandblasted and painted with a 3 stage paint system. The replacement cold cathode lighting system was procured from the original supplier and reproduces the exact lighting characteristics and effects Johnson designed in the original construction of the Sculpture Gallery. The new skylight system generously supplied by Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®, The original skylight system was then removed and the new aluminum extrusion was installed. Once all of the aluminum was secured the new glazing was put in place. The last phase of the project includes sub-grade waterproofing.


The Sculpture Gallery restoration project was made possible in part by Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® and by a grant from the Historic Sites Fund. The Historic Sites Fund is endowed in part by grants from the National Park Service and the National Trust’s Gifts of Heritage Program.

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