You know what they say about people who live in glass houses—but what about plastic bubbles? For the next ten days, a British artist named Alex Schweder is occupying this teensy inflatable home—that attaches to a van via scissor lift—at the site of Philip Johnson's famous Glass House in the name of art.
For over 50 years, architect Philip Johnson’s Glass House has been a beacon of minimal beauty nestled amongst the idyllic rolling green of New Canaan, Connecticut. The transparent pavilion has views for days—there’s nothing but clear panes standing between inside and out—but the adjacent Brick House is pretty much its polar opposite, with only a few circular windows along one side.
Now, this new temporary structure entitled Rehearsal Space has been added into the mix. It's part pope-mobile, part Arrested Development stair-car, part David Blaine-suspended-over-London-in-a-Perspex-box, part Tilda Swinton sleeping at MOMA.
Schweder aptly describes his work as “performance architecture,” but that implies a kind of sit-back-and-watch passivity on the part of the viewer/inhabitant. In fact, most of his projects encourage physical participation and a kind of active engagement, whether it’s asking visitors to step onto a massive latticed see-saw or squeeze through a blow-up door frame. In a way, it's just enhancing the basic relationship we have with all the "standard" buildings we interact with everyday, simply by making us consider our surroundings from a new perspective. This piece actually popped up as part of the Denver Biennial of the Americas festival a few months back as a rentable hotel room (for quite a fee).
In this instance, the effort is part of Glass House director Henry Urbach’s plan to build up the “cultural centre” identity of the site, as opposed to it simply being viewed as a museum (though it does already host regular conversations and a pretty extensive events calendar). Schweder’s project is a bit of a precursor to a creative residency program that Urbach hopes to establish in the next few years, as the National Trust for Historic Preservation raises funds to fully rehabilitate and restore Johnson’s lovelies.
The Glass House in all its glory.
An interior of the Brick House.