Press Release

Reopening an iconic modernist landmark, The Glass House in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation,® completes restoration of the historic Brick House (1949) after a 15-year closure

The comprehensive $1.8 million plan, developed by Mark Stoner, AIA, Senior Director of Preservation Architecture | Graham Gund Architect, and executed by general contractor, Hobbs, Inc., celebrates an unveiling for the 75th anniversary of The Glass House

NEW CANAAN, Conn. (May 10, 2024)  – The Glass House, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announces the completed restoration of the historic Brick House originally designed by Philip Johnson in 1949. The Brick House, constructed just months before The Glass House, was an integral part of the architect’s original plan for the site, offering two essential halves to a single composition. Closed to the public since 2008 due to ongoing damage from water infiltration, its closing left half of the property’s core architectural story untold. The National Trust has invested $1.8 million to restore, renovate and conserve the Brick House and its collections. The restoration of The Brick House, as part of this National Historic Landmark has been completed in time for the 75th anniversary of The Glass House.

The Brick House, aka the “Guest House,” is an essential foil to the glass pavilion it faces. Clad in iron spot brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern, the structures are linked by a grassy court, and offer a lesson in contrasts. The Brick House served as both a guest house and a retreat for Johnson and his partner David Whitney until their deaths in 2005. Given the vital role of the Brick House in the site’s composition and social history, it is one of the most important and central assets of the 49-acre historic site. Restoration of this building will significantly expand the site’s interpretation and programming, allowing it to engage new visitors, and preserve and advance understanding of 20th Century architecture and LGBTQ cultural heritage.

“Today marks a milestone achievement in our mission to preserve and celebrate The Glass House property. I am delighted with the results of the Brick House restoration and congratulate the construction team, the conservators, and the artisans on such beautiful work. This iconic landmark, spanning architectural styles from the 1940s to the 1990s, now stands proudly open to the public, offering an immersive experience into our past which will inspire and inform our interpretive and education programs to come,” says Kirsten Reoch, executive director of The Glass House.

Predicated on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s idea for a “courthouse” that surrounds a central court, Johnson’s home splits the two wings apart: one opaque and private, the other, transparent, and exposed. Although both structures are 56-feet long, the 860-square-foot rectangular Brick House is only half as deep as The Glass House. Their fundamental connection is underscored by the fact that the Brick House contains the mechanical equipment for both buildings and is connected by underground pipes and wiring necessary to support The Glass House itself. Philip Johnson spent his first night on the property in the Brick House.

As a guest house, the Brick House accommodated prominent overnight visitors, including Phyllis Lambert and Andy Warhol. But beginning in the 1950s, the house was used by Johnson and Whitney as a retreat from the exposure of The Glass House, affording Johnson the privacy to relax and the freedom to modify the interior décor in a way The Glass House rarely provided. Originally, the Brick House contained three rooms of equal size, each with a porthole window. In 1953, two of the rooms were combined into a single large bedroom. Adjacent to the bedroom is a reading room and bathroom, both of which were redecorated in the 1970s through 1990s. Unlike The Glass House, this structure was a creative canvas where Johnson could experiment with new styles and materials as he made successive changes over the decades.

Built at the base of a slope, the building had been susceptible to water infiltration since its conception. And, with failures of the flat roof and skylights, the building damage had been extensive. The interior had experienced deterioration of plaster, mold growth, and rusting mechanical systems. Beginning in 2022, Graham Gund Architect for the National Trust, Mark Stoner, AIA NCARB, utilized extensive conservation studies and surveys completed by Li/Saltzman Architects, PC in 2010 to develop a thorough architectural restoration and mechanical renovation plan for the Brick House. The scope included sustainable improvements to site drainage, exterior masonry and metal cleaning and restoration, replacement of the roof and skylights, restoration of interior plaster and finishes, restoration of the building’s three distinctive portal windows and entrance door, full replacement and upgrade of the mechanical and electrical systems serving both the Brick House and Glass House, and the conservation and reinstallation of artwork, furniture, and books.

“For such a seemingly simple structure, the work required to preserve, protect, and restore the Brick House was extensive,” says Stoner. He continued, “Damage caused by decades of water intrusion into the building from above and below took a serious toll on the building. And yet, now that the project is complete, most visitors will be completely unaware of the vast amount of exterior and interior restoration efforts that went into this project. This is a testament to the fantastic work of our construction team, our engineering consultants, and site staff that worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this project. I am extremely pleased that, finally, visitors can experience The Glass House site as Johnson intended it.”

The Brick House has now been restored to its design during Johnson’s lifetime as reflected in the documentary film Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect (1996). The bedroom interior is opulent and luxurious with low, sleek, white vaults based on the breakfast room of the Sir John Soane House in London (completed in 1824) and harbingers of the elements later found in Johnson’s design of the 1954-56 Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Port Chester, New York, and the 1964 New York State Theater (now David H. Koch Theater) at Lincoln Center. The walls are covered in Fortuny’s Piumette pink, aquamarine, and gold patterned cotton fabric. The Italian textile company generously donated replacement fabric for this restoration which matches the 1953 original, using the same methods and techniques devised by Mariano Fortuny over a century ago. The fabric is stretched on a series of wood frames, some fixed to the plaster walls and some sliding to reveal a dressing area, door or window. The floor features a new champagne-colored carpet donated by Edward Fields Carpet Makers, who supplied the original flooring to Mr. Johnson. The Clouds of Magellan, 1953, a sculpture by Ibram Lassaw, once more hangs prominently on the wall above the bed, where dimmer switches (a novelty in 1953) are placed to control indirect lighting, further enhancing the spare yet exotic sleeping area.

In the 10-foot, 8-inch tall, white corridor connecting the bedroom to the reading room and bathroom, a collection of etchings by Brice Marden, collected by Johnson and Whitney, are now re-installed after being in storage since 2009. They are illuminated by three round skylights that have been retrofitted with new UV filtering glass. The Reading Room has been restored to its 1980 and 1990s design with soft mint green walls and yellow linen curtains contrasting to a deep purple carpet custom made by Edward Fields Carpet Makers. Johnson and Whitney’s furniture has been reinstalled including two Feltri chairs (1986) by Gaetano Pesce. The curatorial team at The Glass House have chosen a selection of works from the Johnson and Whitney collection for display in the Reading Room which includes works by David Salle, Brice Marden and Vija Celmins. One wall of the room is dedicated to built-in shelving where Johnson’s personal library of almost 1,000 books on philosophy, history, art history and fiction is now re-shelved after cleaning and stabilization by J. Baldwin Conservation, LLC.

In addition to Mr. Stoner, the project design team includes Landtech (Civil Engineering), Altieri Sebor Wieber (MEP Engineering), and RSE Associates, Inc. (Structural Engineering). Hobbs, Inc., is the general contractor for the project. Replacement material was generously donated by Fortuny, Inc., Edward Fields Carpet Makers, and Cobble Court Interiors (Reading Room Curtain).

Approximately 13,000 people visit The Glass House each year, and reopening the Brick House is critical to providing visitors with a complete experience of The Glass House campus. This project was completed and unveiled on April 30, 2024 opening to the public on May 2nd. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of The Glass House and the Brick House, both completed in 1949. In celebration, The Glass House will host a series of special events, featuring notable artists and exhibitions.

Opening the Brick House provides new and exciting avenues for The Glass House site to expand its interpretation, continue to preserve and advance an understanding of LGBTQ heritage, and deepen its impact on new and diverse communities.

The Glass House, built between 1949 and 1995 by architect Philip Johnson, is a National Trust for Historic Preservation site in New Canaan, CT. The pastoral 49-acre landscape comprises fourteen structures, including The Glass House (1949), and features a permanent collection of 20th-century paintings and sculptures, along with temporary exhibitions. The campus serves as a catalyst for the preservation and interpretation of modern architecture, landscape, and art and a canvas for inspiration and experimentation. The tour season runs from mid-April through mid-December, and reservations are required.

Hobbs, Inc. Brothers Scott and Ian Hobbs are committed to honoring Hobbs’ heritage of integrity, quality, and customer service. Hobbs, Inc. has maintained the highest standards in building custom homes for nearly seventy years. Hobbs’ approach for the Brick House Restoration is to join forces with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Glass House teams to learn what is most important to them about this project, to analyze the site, and to work with them together to deliver the best results for this legacy project for present and future generations. Ted Hobbs, who founded the company in 1954, and Mike Hobbs, who ran the company for 25 years, constructed many modern houses designed by the Harvard Five in New Canaan and surrounding areas during their careers. Over the last 25 years, Hobbs, Inc. has been involved with the historic restoration of numerous architecturally significant residences in Fairfield County, Westchester County, and the Hamptons. They also recently completed the restoration of Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, New Jersey.

Fortuny is a world-famous luxury textile design and manufacturing company known for their exquisite and elegant fabrics since 1921. Fortuny fabrics are still produced exclusively in the original factory on the small island of Giudecca in Venice, using the original machinery and methods established by founder and inventor Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) over a century ago. Using proprietary dyes and applications of metallic patterns, the company continues their deep-rooted tradition of art and alchemy to create handcrafted textiles and products that are each a unique work of art.

Edward Fields Carpet Makers is a vanguard of American design that has created heirloom-quality rugs and carpets for almost 90 years. From its inception through the present, the company embodies the essence of a contemporary brand. In the mid-1930s, Edward Fields developed the first multi-directional tufting tool, known as the “Magic-Needle,” which would define the company’s signature hand-tufted quality and forever change carper production. Edward Fields coined the term ‘area rug.’ He pioneered innovative design, collaborating with notable visionaries, including Raymond Loewy, Philip Johnson, Van Day Truex, Marion Dorn, and George Nakashima. In 2005, Edward Fields Carpet Makers joined the House of Tai Ping. In keeping with the brand’s legacy of mid-century modernist aesthetics, Edward Fields Carpet Makers continues collaborating with inspiring creative contemporaries.

Cobble Court Interiors Inc., located in New Canaan, Connecticut, is a full-service design firm for residential and hospitality projects world-wide. With a focus on heritage craftsmanship, they have built a reputation for delivering well designed unique spaces that embody a blend of informal elegance and natural authenticity. Cobble Court Interiors blends creativity with practicality to co-create a space tailored to their client’s needs and design aesthetic. This collaborative approach ensures that both aesthetic and functional aspects are carefully considered and result in a stunning and cohesive environment.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places to enrich our future, reimagining historic sites for the 21st century. The guiding principle of this initiative is that historic sites must be dynamic, relevant, and evolving to foster an understanding of history and culture that is critical, sensory, and layered.

Brick House Restoration Project Team

Design Team
Architect: Mark Stoner, AIA, Senior Director of Preservation Architecture | Graham Gund Architect
Civil Engineer: LANDTECH, Westport, CT
M/E/P Engineer: Altieri, LLC, Norwalk, CT
Preservation Consultant: Li/Saltzman Architects, PC
Structural Engineer: Liam O’Hanlon, PE, Principal, RSE Associates, Port Washington, NY

Construction Team
Carpets: Fabricated and donated by Edward Fields Carpet Makers, installed by Tai Ping Carpets
Concrete: B&M Concrete, Inc.
Curtains: Cobble Court Interiors, Inc., including fabric donation
Demolition: Concrete Cutting Co.
Electrical: Chestnut Electric Corp.
Exterior Caulking: A&J Caulking Company, Inc.
Fabric Panels: Fabricated and donated by Fortuny, Inc. and installed by Jouffre
Finish Carpentry and Windows: High Edge Construction, LLC
Framing Carpentry: JF Carpentry Services, Inc.
General Contractor: Hobbs, Inc.
HVAC: Encon Heating & AC
Marble & Granite Restoration: Merolle Brothers Tile & Marble, Inc.
Masonry: Cobuzzi Masonry and Nature’s Way Landscape
Paint: Donald Kaufman Color, The Color Factory
Painting and Plaster: Polart Group, Inc.
Plumbing: Rudolph Biagi & Sons
Roofing and Skylights: Landmark Exteriors, Inc.
Site Work: Amaxx, Inc.
Steel: Artistic Iron Works, LLC
Waterproofing: Dri-Tec Waterproofing
Window UV Filters: Millard Enterprises

Art and Object Conservation Team
Art Handling: SRI Fine Art Services
Book Conservation: Jean Baldwin, Conservator, J. Baldwin Conservation,
Furniture Conservation: Roger Griffith, Conservator, Two Sticks, Inc
Marian Carpenter, John & Neville Bryan Senior Director of Museum Collections

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