New Canaan, CT Day Trip

Go Modern at Philip Johnson's Glass House

Photo by Melody Kramer

Celebrated modern architect Philip Johnson chose New Canaan as his weekend retreat and designed an iconic glass house here in 1947. The one-room masterpiece shows incredible restraint in letting the landscape reign. But that's not the only reason to visit this 47-acre estate: Johnson created a dozen more buildings on the rolling grounds beyond the house's see-through walls. From a subterranean art gallery to a lake pavilion, architecture buffs have loads to explore.

Note: This is not a spur-of-the-moment day trip. The estate can only be seen on a guided tour, and slots can fill up quickly, especially on weekends. Advance bookings are a must.

What to Do

Photo by dige

Philip Johnson Glass House

199 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT; (203) 594-9884; www.philipjohnsonglasshouse.org; $30–$150

Hidden from the main road, but fully exposed to the elements of his 47-acre campus, Johnson's glass house is a remarkably spartan affair furnished with leather Barcelona chairs and a single Poussin landscape painting. Imagine a monk's cell, modernized.

Photo by dj mark dean

Painting Gallery

Philip Johnson Estate, New Canaan, CT

What's left of Johnson's discerning painting collection is accessed by a somewhat daunting, bunker-like entranceway under a grassy mound. Inside, large, contemporary artworks by Stella, Rauschenberg, and Schnabel hang on pivoting floor-to-ceiling panels, much like posters in a head shop.

Photo by diametrik

Sculpture Gallery

Philip Johnson Estate, New Canaan, CT

Dramatically lit, full of angled steps, and capped with a raftered, glass ceiling, the whitewashed sculpture gallery is meant to evoke the brightness of a Greek island. It succeeds. The only shame is that visitors can't clamber up and down the M.C. Escher–worthy stairways.

Photo by bee721

da Monsta

Philip Johnson Estate, New Canaan, CT

One of the last buildings Johnson designed here, this 1990s duochrome gatehouse was originally conceived as the estate's visitor center. Apparently, the town of New Canaan had other ideas, and it's since been relegated to an occasional performance space, thanks to its memorable accoustics.

Where to Eat and Drink

Photo by John Mariani/Virtual Gourmet

Harvest Supper

15 Elm Street, New Canaan; (203) 966-5595

Grace and Jack Lamb, who own the fantastic Jewel Bako, Degustation, and Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar restaurants in the East Village, run this excellent, casual eatery on New Canaan's main drag, a short walk from the Philip Johnson house. The seasonal menu highlights local produce, like Hudson Valley foie gras. Lunch is served until 2pm Wednesday to Friday; dinner starts at 5.30pm on weekends.

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