Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

Inside architect Philip Johnson's Dh28m Alice Ball House

The home is part of the Wall House plot, which has architecture buffs in a tizzy

The Wall House, in New Canaan, Connecticut, tells the story of two architects: American modernist Philip Johnson, one of the famed Harvard Five, and Postmodernist designer Reja Bakh, who is known for creating spaces that blend the boundaries between indoors and out.

The Harvard Five, which also included John Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores and Eliot Noyes, were known for spearheading a move away from the overdesigned Victorian-inspired style of the time towards a more minimalist aesthetic, with sharp edges, clean lines and, in Johnson’s case, plenty of glass. His philosophy was that great architecture is “the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts or stimulates the persons in that space”. And instead of homes that emphasised privacy, the builder prioritised the outdoors, with inspiring views, sociable patios and visually vanishing thresholds.

Johnson, who died in 2005, built his famed Glass House in the 1940s with the intention of using it as his personal residence. The award-winning architect later decided to build the Alice Ball House nearby to live in, and used the Glass House for the lavish parties he was famed for throwing. Currently, the Glass House is a museum listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but its more liveable version is on the market.


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When Bakh bought Alice Ball in 2015, allegedly to save it from being demolished, he went on to design a new 1,000-square-foot residence, Wall House, influenced by German-American architect Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. This new, as yet unbuilt structure will sit on a 2.2-acre compound that will incorporate both homes, linking them through a series of long vistas and walls – with some connected and others appearing to be free-floating. Bakh has said he wants the future owner of Wall House to display “a similar appreciation of modern architectural history in collecting a piece of work by a master”.

As shown through renderings, the unification of Alice Ball and Wall House will provide a large living room, three bedrooms, an indoor pool and spa, a 14-car underground garage with skylights and a cellar, plus a Johnson-design sculpture garden. Bakh envisions the 1,500-square-foot Alice Ball space as being repurposed as a collector’s gallery. The living and dining areas of the new all-white residence will be surrounded by glass walls, which will look directly out on to Alice Ball House, while the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen will offer more privacy.

While the plans and basic masonry are in place, the new house has not been erected, which gives potential buyers the chance to tweak and furnish the layout to suit their preferences. Once it sells, Bakh has a team ready to oversee the building of Wall House and make minor updates to Alice Ball House. According to the architect, the project has the full support of the Glass House foundation, with the museum itself located a five-minute drive away.

The Wall House plot is listed with Sotheby’s International Realty for US$7.7 million (Dh28.3m).

Updated: November 4, 2018 04:17 PM



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