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Ever since American architect Philip Johnson’s Glass House was opened to the public in 2007, people have had the chance to inspect, close up, the house and its plot — which includes some traditional buildings, an artificial lake, and an art museum. Inspired by the Glass House, a beautiful conversation about modern versus contemporary styles was recently hosted online by John Hill, a blogger, architect and professor based here in New York City. One of the commentators, architect and preservationist John Montague Massengale, grew up in the New York suburbs, near the Glass House. So did I. Massengale wrote about an experience rather idiosyncratic to our little corner of the world — an adventure also mentioned in the radio piece below.
After I got my driver’s license, I used to sometimes go peer over the wall at the edge of the property, and once or twice Johnson came out and shook his fist before I drove away.
It was sort of a rite of passage for kids in the area who cared about architecture to have Philip Johnson’s fist shaken at them. Massengale has since argued trenchantly that a lot of suburban corporate architectural components are now being incorporated into new New York business headquarters — like the World Trade Center complex — and this is a development of which, perhaps, he’s not particularly fond.
…they are purposely isolated and apart form the surrounding city like a suburban, gated community … from the look of it, it will be a monstrously scaled landscape of foreboding spaces, underground shopping, and bland skyscrapers landing on bare concrete. The quality of the area is typified by Tower One: the 1,776-foot-tall boring and bland middle finger to the rest of the city.
The audio below is a segment for the Fairfield County Business Showcase, a weekly series I produced for WSTC/WNLK in 2007. (My General Manager required me to use this cumbersome name for the program, but I preferred just to call it, The Showcase, because, well, it wasn’t just about business.) A group of Darien High School music students provided the a capella jingle at the beginning.
Here’s the audio, and the transcript is pasted below.
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WSTC/WNLK: The Gala Civic Opening of Philip Johnson’s Glass House (Air date: June 23, 2007)
Erik Campano: Right now, on Ponus Ridge in New Canaan, the Glass House is holding its inaugural gala picnic. Members of the inviting committee include the great painter Frank Stella, and groundbreaking architect Robert A. M. Stern. One of the tour guides at the Glass House, Peter, says the celebration includes one very big act.
Peter: …the Merce Cunningham dance troupe, who actually performed here and they’re gonna’ perform their exact same routine as they did in 1967.
Campano: Are they the same —
Peter: It won’t be the same people. [laughs] I knew you were gonna’ ask that!