28 June 2010

Modern history can be yours for a cool two million



Philip Johnson's Booth House is in Westchester County, New York and it's been on the market since April. The Booth House was Philip Johnson's first private commission and the house was completed in 1946, three years before his iconic Glass House in New Canaan, CT. Johnson lived in the Glass House until his death at age 98 in 2005. He was survived by his longtime partner David Whitney. Upon Whitney's death a few months later, the Glass House was left to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is now open to the public.

Philip Johnson's Glass House

Philip Johnson was the face of 20th Century American architecture. I'm sure some of my architect pals would love to argue that point but in my mind he was. His list of friends, foes and collaborators reads like a who's who of the last century. He collaborated with Mies van der Rohe, offended Frank Lloyd Wright (I think everybody did), and introduced such notables as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier to the American public. In 1930, he founded the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art and it was at that museum in 1932 he mounted an exhibition called  "The International Style: Architecture since 1922."

International Style and Modernism were American architecture for the next four decades. Like Modernism, International Style believed in simplified form and a rejection of ornament. Johnson's Seagram Building from 1956 is a brilliant example of the International Style.


It's easy to dismiss International Style today but it was very much a product of its time. The Internationalists rejected everything that symbolized pre-war Europe. Ornament and artifice represented the tribal conflicts that plunged the world into first one and then a second World War. The level of disruption of those two events cannot be overstated. In its way, Johnson's Seagram Building is a repudiation of that conflict and an attempt to usher in a new era of cooperation and peace. What happened to Beaux Arts? It rode off on death's pale horse, that's what happened.

Johnson and his contemporaries began to see the Internationalist Style as a dead end and the Post-Modernism that followed began to embrace stylized ornamentation and symmetry. Johnson's AT&T Building from the early '80s with its Chippendale pediment shows his his take on Post-Modernism well.


Johnson was a cultural force in ways beyond his buildings, through his position at MOMA he promoted such artists as Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and many more. Philip Johnson brought world culture to the US and in just as many ways brought US culture to the world.

And just think, for a mere two million dollars you could own a piece of modern history.

16 comments:

  1. Seems like a bargain for such a beautiful house.

    Especially given what a faux-Tuscan monstrosity goes for here in Denver.

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  2. It's also surrounded by land that been preserved as is through Bedford's zoning laws. It cannot be encroached upon and it's private leafiness is there for keeps. Despite it being out of my range by a mile, I still think it's a value proposition.

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  3. Thanks, Paul. It's nice to be educated by friends who are passionate about a wide variety of things! That said, I would be naked in that house as often as possible.

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  4. It'll be all over the Blogoshpere: "Paul Anater launches new, architecturally inspired nudist movement - famous glass houses and the naked people that live in them".

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  5. I see a lot of Windex in someone's future

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  6. It would be an honor to clean windows by Philip Johnson.

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  7. Is it weird i want to live in that glass house and run around naked? Must be the heatwave taking...
    -Mel

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  8. Kathy was struck with the same impulse, so it's not just you.

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  9. I had no idea this glass house existed, but I want one. I absolutely love it! I read and article in the NYTimes a few months ago about a house in Costa Rica that was completely open to the elements and had no walls. I thought that was my dream house, but this glass home may have taken its place. I'd really like to live in a place in which all the entertainment and decorations were woodland.

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  10. Did you see the modern house in Puerto Rico I wrote about last week? Glorious!

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  11. Two thumbs up for the glass house! -Brenda-

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  12. If you follow the link to the Glass House's website, there's a photo of the Glass House's guest house. It's the complete opposite of the Glass House and makes me love the Glass House all the more.

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  13. I followed the link. The Guest House is such a contrast and reminds me of the Power Utility sheds that dot our city landscape.
    -Brenda-

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  14. ooops...shud have read "reminds me of the Power Utility sheds that dot our city landscape minus the High Voltage and No Trespassing signs".
    -Brenda-

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