Glass House Prepares for Future Renovation
by Megan Headley
Philip Johnson's Glass House, the monument to modernist architecture
built in New Canaan, Conn., in 1949, opened to the public for the
first time in its 50-plus year history in April-but already plans
are being made to close the tourist site for extensive renovations.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation site will close late
next year as it is prepared for a major renovation next winter,
including the full replacement of its glass.
A 1996 Conditions Survey Report by Philip Johnson, Ritchie and
Fiore Architects and an extensive conditions survey in the summer
of 2006 by Glass House preservationist Sandy Cross revealed that
the house's steel framing system has become corroded and needs to
|The Glass House has faced at least five instances
of glass replacement in its 58- year history. Photo by Eirik
"The corrosion of the steel (severe in several locations)
was contributing not only to the degradation of the steel itself,
but also was affecting the glass-the glass is cracked in a few areas
due to the pressure placed on it by the expansion of the steel caused
by oxide jacking," Cross says.
The renovation will aim to prevent moisture infiltration problems,
which has led to much of the deterioration. To reach the source
of the problem, contractors will need to go through the house's
"In order to access and address the steel corrosion, the
glass will need to be removed and some steel components will need
to be disassembled," Cross says, "so some glass breakage
may be inevitable, thereby requiring glass replacement anyway."
While the glass supplier has been selected, a glazing contractor
has not as yet.
The biggest concern of the renovation effort is to maintain the
original design intent of the Glass House. However, professionals
within the glass industry can't help but note that numerous advances
have been made in the glass industry over the last 58 years since
the structure was completed. Several professionals offered their
advice on the products they'd recommend if the Glass House were
to be completed today.
To read those recommendations and learn more about the National
Trust for Historic Preservation's plans for renovating the Glass
House look for the September issue of USGlass magazine.
-Megan Headley is an assistant editor for USGlass magazine.