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Philip Johnson’s sculpture gallery gets renovated at the Glass House site

A complete restoration began in 2015, 45 years after the building first opened

Renovation has wrapped for Philip Johnson’s sculpture gallery, one of 13 buildings and pavilions that complement his Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. Johnson built up his 49-acre property between 1949 and 1995; the sculpture gallery was completed in 1970. According to Design Boom, it was built after Johnson’s growing sculpture collection "began restricting the viewing of the canvases hanging in the adjacent painting gallery."

Johnson designed the original gallery with a series of squares, set at 45 degree angles to one another. Staircases then spiral down past bays which are carefully situated to present sculptures in a particular sequence. (Sculptures include work by artists Michael Frank Stella, Bruce Nauman and Andrew Lord.) The building’s glass ceiling is then supported by tubular steel rafters that contain cold cathode lighting. When the sun comes out, the five-level interior is awash in a complex pattern of light and shadow.

The restoration project marks the largest and most complex preservation project at the Glass House property to date. According to the Glass House, "The major push for the replacement of this skylight system was dictated by the amount of water infiltration received during wet weather events since the gaskets and all of the seals in the ceiling system were beyond there functioning life." The reno started in May of 2015 and was taken on by the team of Oldcastle Building Envelope, Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects, and the contractor Nicholson & Galloway.

The team had to remove and replace the skylight roof system, which is a series of glass panels set in anodized aluminum extrusions. The original skylights, which were single pane, have been replaced with double pane glass which is more energy efficient and cuts down the UV light hitting the artwork housed in the building. The team also painted the structural steel, replaced the cold-cathode lighting system, and refurbished the electric heating units. The interior and exterior walls were also repainted, and the building was waterproofed.

Although construction has wrapped, the building won’e re-open as a gallery—with all its sculptures back in place—until the spring of 2017.