November 1, 2006
A Shifting Landscape
To create points of interest throughout their 47 acres,
Johnson and Whitney perpetually modified the grounds. This evocative photo essay captures key moments of a walk through the estate.
The property’s tiers of rolling terrain, tall grass, and dense mysterious woods all appear to stretch endlessly into another century. But the grounds of the Glass House are neither an untamed paradise nor an act of land conservation. Quite the opposite: these 47 acres are as meticulously determined as a landscape painting. The Glass House, after all, functions as a viewing box, the scenery surrounding it a perpetual work in progress. As such, Philip Johnson and David Whitney were ruthless about sculpting it to meet their exacting and ever-changing aesthetic needs. “We kept trying to defend the trees,” Vincent Scully says. “We wanted Johnson to stop cutting the trees, but he was opening it up and getting down to the bones. You have to remember that all the Con-necticut woods are second growth. In the nineteenth century it was all farms. Then everybody moved west, stopped farming, and the trees grew back. So in a curious way, he was cutting back beyond the suburb, below the suburb. It may be the greatest monument to the Connecticut landscape that we have.” Here photographer Sylvia Plachy documents the tour of the grounds, and the 11 buildings embedded within, that visitors will be invited to take once the property officially opens next April.