Modern style house in low lighting

The Glass House, New Caanan - Harf Zimmermann

By CT Humanities Staff

Architect Philip Johnson’s Glass House is considered a masterwork of modern American architecture. Built between 1949 and 1995 in New Canaan, the house is an important example of International Style architecture, which is characterized by a complete lack of ornament, simple geometric forms, flat surfaces, and the use of mass-produced, industrial materials.

Philip Johnson was born in 1906 in Cleveland, Ohio. During his undergraduate studies at Harvard University, Johnson traveled to Europe where he encountered the architecture of modernists such as Mies van der Rohe, Gropius, and Le Corbusier. In 1932, Johnson became first director of the Department of Architecture at the new Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. In 1934, he left MoMA and entered politics and journalism. Johnson spent part of that time traveling through Europe as a correspondent for Father Charles Coughlin’s pro-fascist, anti-Semitic newspaper Social Justice. Abandoning right-wing politics and journalism shortly before the United States entered World War II, Johnson returned to Harvard’s School of Design to study architecture under Bauhaus’ Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

After graduating from Harvard, serving in the US military, and returning to work at MoMA, Johnson began work on the Glass House, which became his home for nearly 60 years. Designed from 1947 to 1948, Johnson completed the two main structures in 1949, becoming part of the Harvard Five—a group of architects influenced by Gropius who settled in New Canaan.

The kitchen, dining area, and sleeping area are one open room; the bathroom is enclosed in a brick cylinder. The exterior walls are made of glass and steel; Johnson referred to the view as his “wallpaper.” In addition to the house itself, the 47-acre estate encompassed thirteen other buildings and structures, including a guest house and sculpture gallery. Johnson’s life partner of 45 years, art curator David Whitney, influenced the landscape and collections of the Glass House. Philip Johnson died at his estate on January 25, 2005, at the age of 98, and willed the Glass House property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

This article was adapted from CT Humanities’ ConnTours Project.

Learn More


National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The Glass House,” n.d. Link.


“The Glass House,” n.d. Link.

Sign Up For Email Updates

Oops! We could not locate your form.