The Edge of Danger: artificial lighting and the dialectics of domestic occupation in Philip Johnson's Glass and Guest Houses

Petty, Margaret Maile (2013) The Edge of Danger: artificial lighting and the dialectics of domestic occupation in Philip Johnson's Glass and Guest Houses. In Occupation: negotiations with constructed space: Proceedings of the 2009 Conference, University of Brighton, Brighton, pp. 1-11.

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In the first half of the twentieth century the dematerializing of boundaries between enclosure and exposure problematized traditional acts of “occupation” and understandings of the domestic environment. As a space of escalating technological control, the modern domestic interior offered new potential to re-define the meaning and means of habitation. This shift is clearly expressed in the transformation of electric lighting technology and applications for the modern interior in the mid-twentieth century. Addressing these issues, this paper examines the critical role of electric lighting in regulating and framing both the public and private occupation of Philip Johnson’s New Canaan estate. Exploring the dialectically paired transparent Glass House and opaque Guest House (both 1949), this study illustrates how Johnson employed artificial light to control the visual environment of the estate as well as to aestheticize the performance of domestic space. Looking closely at the use of artificial light to create emotive effects as well as to intensify the experience of occupation, this revisiting of the iconic Glass House and lesser-known Guest House provides a more complex understanding of Johnson’s work and the means with which he inhabited his own architecture. Calling attention to the importance of Johnson serving as both architect and client, and his particular interest in exploring the new potential of architectural lighting in this period, this paper investigates Johnson’s use of electric light to support architectural narratives, maintain visual order and control, and to suit the nuanced desires of domestic occupation.

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ID Code: 95074
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
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ISBN: 978-1-905593-73-6
Deposited On: 20 Apr 2016 03:38
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2016 06:15

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