BUILDING A HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG
Since its completion in 1949, Philip Johnson’s Glass House has captured the views of the New Canaan property in carefully curated vignettes, much as a videographer might. While the building, with its minimal structure, geometry and proportion, ushered the nomenclature of the International Style into American residential architecture, people who spend a day or an evening at The Glass House experience it first-hand as a personal paean to the natural world.
Some 60-plus years later, it’s not hard to imagine Johnson and his longtime partner, David Whitney, issuing orders to groundsmen from walkie-talkies. As the property expanded from its initial five- acre parcel into the 49 acres now maintained by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, work toward creating a cohesive Edenic landscape began. Existing vernacular 18th and 19th century stone walls, barn foundation and mature trees served as the organizing principle, but much of the second growth forest was cleared to reveal views and shape vistas. Johnson added structures to play with the viewer’s perception of scale. And in many subtle ways, he sought to dramatize “events on the landscape.”
So it seems marvelously fitting that the current director, Henry Urbach, should enlist the artist Fujiko Nakaya in a major installation that promises to move Johnson’s efforts into the realm of metaphysics.
Nakaya is the world’s foremost fog sculptor, with an affinity for the land and conceptual art movements, but still considered radical in her own explorations of the natural world. Long fascinated with natural phenomena that “repeatedly form and dissolve themselves,” Nakaya came into view on national and international stages with Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), an organization dedicated to facilitating and promoting collaborations between engineers and artists.