Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut sees 13,000 visitors each year, but thanks to a new design firm called Revolution, you can now recreate it wherever you might reside.
Revolution, a company from real estate developer Robbie Antonio (who, fun fact, has a home in Manila filled with portraits of himself), creates prefabricated homes and pavilions, in collaboration with designers including Tom Dixon, Marcel Wanders, and the Campana Brothers, among others. His most recent addition to the lineup of pre-crafted properties, and the first to be modeled on a specific, existing building, is a "modular glass house" inspired by the original.
Alan Ritchie, who has carried on the work of Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects since Johnson’s death in 2005, designed the house, which he calls, succinctly, “a clean, simple glass box.”
“You can add modules to make it bigger,” said Ritchie. “Like stacking dominoes or a Lego set in many ways. There’s a lot of flexibility. When you say you’re ‘standardizing,’ or ‘modulizing,’ everyone thinks it’s all going to look too cookie cutter. And I didn’t want that to happen.”
Though Ritchie still works on some of Johnson’s properties for renovations, he felt that the pitch from Revolution was a nice challenge.
“There are a lot of pre-fabricated homes that are quick and cheap to put up in emergencies but not as a designer home,” he said. “I actually felt that there was a need for prefabricating and assembling on site — particularly with the cost of construction today and the time it takes.”
That's the reason Antonio started Revolution in the first place. “I come from the real estate world and I understood the pain points very well of being a traditional brick and mortar developer,” he said. “Meaning, having a lot of inventory, being cyclical and site specific, having to get construction zoning, and really the lack of flexibility in being site specific.”
Ranging from a quarter of a million dollars for a one bedroom to $560,000 for a four bedroom, the pre-fab glass house is a surely a fraction of the value of Philip Johnson’s masterpiece, built in 1949.
“These major Pritzker Prize-winning architects would be selling residences in the millions if not tens of millions,” said Antonio of his roster of designers. “I thought, how interesting would it be to provide to different groups of people at one-twentieth the price.”
Thus far, Antonio and his team have sold over 110 homes and pavilions all over the globe, and at interview time were negotiating a deal for a complex of several hundreds of homes in Asia.
So what would Johnson think of his singular Glass House, which currently features an installation of Yayoi Kusama's polka dots, popping up around the world?
“The Glass House continues to influence design and architecture around the world," said Greg Sages, the director of The Glass House. "As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Glass House as a museum, we are pleased that one of Revolution's new pre-crafted models is inspired by the Glass House." Said like a true diplomat.
But Ritchie, a friend of as well as colleague of Johnson's, added this: “Philip Johnson was very progressive and was always looking for new ideas and new ways to approaching it. I think to see that we’ve been able to create something in the fashion of the Glass House, but do it in a very contemporary, practical, and expeditious way of building, he would be very excited.”
Go behind the scenes of Yayoi Kusama's Glass House takeover: