De Monstra

Johnson Estate Gatehouse & Visitor’s Center

Philip Johnson’s extraordinary home in New Canaan, Connecticut, the Glass House, will eventually be open to the public through the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As preparation for this, Johnson designed a visitors pavilion, or gate house, that now sits at the entry to the property. His name for the sculpture-like building is Da Monsta, a reference to the structure’s animal -like qualities. Johnson has described it as having a flank, like a horse, which deserves a pat.

The building contains two rooms. The first is a reception area and waiting room. The second is a video room, where visitors will watch films and videos on Johnson and his work. These straightforward functions are enclosed in a sculpture, painted bright red and black, which Johnson claims is a reference to local New England architecture. The sculpture is a reinforced concrete shell formed using steel mesh, a layer of insulation, sprayed-on concrete, and a waterproof finish of acrylic. The system, which remains sufficiently flexible during construction, allowed for Mr. Johnson to change forms and edges of the shell before it settled into permanent shape.

The only two openings to the shell, the glassy entrance and a small window in the waiting area, are non-Euclidean in shape. Johnson claims his influence here came from German Expressionism and the artist Frank Stella. The interior has white walls and a concrete floor. The little building is nine feet tall at its lowest point and twenty-one feet tall at its highest point. Like all of the pavilions at the Glass House, this building represents Johnson’s artistic exploration of the moment.

Completion Date: 1995

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