Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 10.16.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

FT Weekend: People in glass houses




Usually it feels churlish, biting the hand that feeds, to draw back the curtain on reporting. But in the case of my story, “People in Glass Houses,” for FT Weekend, every step of the process of spending the night in two National Trust properties was such a contrast to my assignment to experience living in a glass house and an 18th century plantation, I just can't help it. If the lovely women who organized my tours are reading this, be assured, I enjoyed my nights thoroughly. But I couldn't turn the irony off.

Food, for example.

At Belle Grove the dining room, faux-finished with a mahogany burl, is set with pearl-handled knives and plaster food: a roast, haricots verts, spiced apples. Meanwhile I microwaved a frozen dinner in the real kitchen just adjacent and ate it standing up. I would have gone to the porch, but I was afraid to carry sticky food across the Venetian stripe carpet.

Philip Johnson also had a cook and used the Glass House kitchen (gray Formica counters) as a bar. I brought my own sandwich to New Canaan and the caretaker practically sighed with relief when I said I would eat outside. It was lovely to sit on the warm stone ledge by the pool, watching the sun set. But it would have been nice to do so with a martini.

Breakfast in Connecticut was a Connecticut Muffin. In Middletown, a McDonald's sausage biscuit with egg also eaten al fresco. It was kind of the caretaker to bring it to me, but hearing of its passage to me, destroyed the 2010 pastoral illusion. He lives five minutes from Belle Grove and the Golden Arches are on the way.

Also, bathrooms.

Belle Grove has a period bathroom (circa 1900, when it was an inn), but the dried-out green fields outside were dotted with blue port-a-potties for a weekend shepherding event. I had to erase them from my imaginary rich person's view.

I was asked not to use the Glass House bathroom. I stood in Philip Johnson's bathroom (leather ceiling tiles!). I lay on his bed. I peeked in his medicine cabinet. But I did not flush his toilet.

Or people.

It was spooky as hell to be at Belle Grove by myself. After it got dark I could not wait to get in to the canopy bed, which felt like a refuge and thought better of taking a shower. It would have been different for the original owners, the Hites, who always had at least four children asleep across the hall and guests who stayed for weeks. Johnson hoped most of his visitors would take the last train back to New York; the Hites held them close, probably needing the company.

Which is all a long way of saying what I suspected all along. What I really wish is that I could have gone to one of Philip Johnson's parties in the 1960s. The house today is lovely, but houses are more than just architecture.
|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>

RELATED POSTS


Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).

The Astrodome and the Challenges of Preservation
The Astrodome and the future of preservation.

Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.

Genzken and the City
A review of Isa Genzken's current retrospective on view at the MOMA.

Premature Demolition
The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.