You’d never guess a Modernist paradise lies behind the unassuming brick and glass facade of Philip Johnson’s sole private residence in Manhattan. The Rockefeller Guest House sits snugly between two rather typical apartment buildings, but inside is a secret glass house that was the architect’s only New York City residential commission – built near the beginning of Johnson’s career between 1949 and 1950.
Johnson is renowned for marvels from his Connecticut Glass House to NYC skyscrapers. But hidden in Manhattan is a work often overlooked: a guest house built for Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller III, to show off her modern art collection and host gatherings. The house that sits on a 25 by 100 foot plot is a designated historical landmark today, but often goes unnoticed.
Behind the brick and glass facade is a modernist haven. Separate structures are bridged by a courtyard and pond accessible by a series of large stones. Little has been altered in this home, from the ground floor’s white vinyl tiles to the framing. The long eastern wall is unbroken. The space feels clean and open. The small home was designed to display art, but as New York Times writer Sadie Stein said, it is itself a work of art.
Rockefeller donated the house to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1958, which used it as an event space for a time before reselling it. Johnson and his partner David Whitney actually lived in the house for eight years starting in 1971; they leased it from Mrs. Lee Sherrod. In 2000, an undisclosed buyer purchased the home for a staggering $11.16 million – the highest price per square foot in New York history. The New York Times Style Magazine features more photographs and a video you can view here.