A Few Days Visiting Philip Johnson Houses

We've had Philip Johnson on our minds for the past few days, first because of a tour of the Glass House on Thursday and then because of an open house held by the Damoras, who have put the Johnson-designed house that they own in Bedford, New York, on the market.

The Damoras held an open house yesterday. It was a busy event that featured a talk by John Johansen, a chance to see the house, and an exhibition of some of the late Robert Damora's terrific architectural photos. You can see more details about the house here.

Our tour of the Glass House was fantastic. One of our guests, an architect from Munich, told the tour guide that it was the best architectural tour she had been on anywhere.

We were there on Thursday, a warm, sunny late afternoon, spring turning into summer. Our guide emphasized that Johnson was a landscape architect as much as an architect of buildings, and the land was as beautiful as the buildings. A small part of the property is maintained as lawn but most of it is meadows, copses, streams, stone walls in a near-natural state that present different textures, shadows and shades of color where ever you look.

It was a beautiful way to spend a late afternoon. We thank Christy MacLear and the staff of the Glass House for accommodating us.

The photos here are of the Glass House from above, showing the swimming pool; the living room; the painting gallery; two shots inside the sculpture gallery, with its incredible shadows; and the Glass House from slightly downhill. - ta

Visit Johnson's First House, May 23, in Bedford, New York

Note that I corrected the date: It's Sunday, May 23

The Damora family, which owns and is trying to sell the first house that Philip Johnson designed on commission, in Bedford, New York, have put together an event to drum up interest: they're holding an open house on Sunday, May 23, from 1 to 5 p.m., and have lined up John Johansen to do a talk and take questions, at 2:30.

Johnson and Johansen, of course, knew each other when they were designing houses in New Canaan, after leaving Harvard. Johnson died in 2005, at age 98; Johansen has got to be nearing 140 by now (that's not actually true -- he'll be 94 next month, although he does sport a Methuselah-like appearance).

If you go, you'll also get a chance to see photos taken by the late Robert Damora, a renowned architectural photographer (that's his photo, above, and you can see more at robertdamora.com). Walter Gropius, in fact, called him "the best photographer of modern architecture in the country." (Johansen is married to Gropius's daughter, coincidentally.)

I called the event an open house but because space is limited, they'd like you to RSVP, to the William Raveis agent who is trying to sell the house: anthony.ardino@raveis.com.

The house, by the way, is next to the 36-acre Tobias Preserve, a nature preserve that the organization I work for, Westchester Land Trust, owns. There are no trails but if you go to the Damora house you might want to check out the preserve too. -- ta

Falling Prices

What a difference a year makes: this house in New Canaan, designed by Victor Christ-Janer, was listed at a shade under $3.5 million a year ago (it was on the New Canaan Historical Society's Modern House Day tour last May). The property is beautiful, there's a cottage and a garage with an apartment (if I recall correctly), and the house itself is nice though not spectacular.

Now it's being offered at $2,199,000. That's a 37 percent discount, if I did the math right. Is that because of the recession or because of an inflated view of what the house was worth? Probably a bit of both. -- ta