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Tour Connecticut's Glass House

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People who live in glass houses. . . should let other people explore those houses.

And that's what will happen beginning this Thursday, Mayday, when visitors to Philip Johnson's legendary Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, will be able to linger on self-guided tours of this, one of America's most important architectural landmarks.

Beginning May 1 visitors can choose between the guided tours offered and the unique new opportunity to tour at their own pace, spending as much time as they wish in the house and several other Johnson-designed buildings on the 49-acre grounds. The sites include the underground painting Gallery, the Sculpture Gallery, the Library, "Da Monsta," a collection of sculptures, and the lower landscapes Pond Pavilion and Lincoln Kirstein Tower.

Glass House guides will be available to provide background and answer questions.

Visitors this year also will experience a special event, "Veil," an installation by Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya. A veil of mist will periodically enclose the house and gradually disappear to reveal the landscape.

Philip Johnson was the founding director of the Department of Architecture at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, where his 1932 exhibition, The International Style, introduced modern architecture to the American public. An associate of Mies van der Rohe, Johnson worked with the modern master in the 1950's on the design of the Seagram Building and its famed Four Seasons Restaurant. Among his many other important works are the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at The Museum of Modern Art and New York's AT&T Building (now Sony Plaza).

The all-glass,one-room house that Johnson built as his weekend retreat in 1949 was remarkable as a pioneer in the use of materials such as glass and steel in home design and in its use of the landscape as "wallpaper" completely surrounding the house, which is located at the edge of a crest overlooking a pond. Living, dining and sleeping areas are divided by low walnut cabinets so as not to obstruct the views. A brick cylinder containing the bathroom is the only tall structure. The landscaping designed by Johnson and David Whitney, his long-time companion, features manicured areas of gravel or grass and trees grouped in what Johnson called "outdoor vestibules."

The house was named a National Historic Landmark in 1997. Johnson turned the house over to the National Trust before his death in 2005 and it was opened to the public in 2007. Tours will be held Thursday through Monday until November 30. They begin and end at the Visitor Center in downtown New Canaan, where shuttles transport small groups to the site.

In addition to the new self-guided tour, offerings include a one-hour guided tour of the house and two temporary art exhibitions or a two-hour guided tour adding a 3/4-mile walking tour of the grounds and visits to the Painting Gallery, Sculpture Gallery and Da Monsta. More extensive tours are also available Advance reservations are required for all tours. For information and reservations, see www.theglasshouse.org of telephone 866-811-4111.

For information about lodging and other activities in the area and a free copy of UNWIND, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in Fairfield County and the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, 860-567-4506 or visit www.visitwesternct.com.

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