The stories behind some of New Canaan, Connecticut’s treasure trove of modernist homes have been less than uplifting. In addition to Philip Johnson’s famous Glass House, the wealthy enclave boasts dozens of homes by Johnson and his colleagues known as the Harvard Five. An ongoing battle simmers between some of the town’s wealthy residents who favor sprawling McMansions and a passionate contingent of modern architecture fans. At least 20 of the homes, built in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s–have been torn down, usually to build larger houses on the property. One embattled example is a lesser-known Johnson house known as the Alice Ball House. The 1,700-square-foot home, built in 1953, has been referred to as a “livable version of the Glass House.” And it’s now for sale for $7.7 million–along with approved plans by the current owner, an architect who has envisioned a companion property on a much grander scale, including an indoor pool and a massive skylit underground garage.
The house, which the New York Times called a “Tiny Masterpiece,” has surfaced in the news several times in past decades. It narrowly escaped demolition in 2008 when its owner, Cristina Ross, was stymied by town ordinances and environmental activists in her attempts to make it into a pool house for a sprawling new home, as the new plan coincidentally involved paving about 3,000 square feet of wetlands. Ross, who had purchased the property for $1.5 million in 2005, renovated instead, and the house changed hands again–after being featured in Architectural Digest–in 2015 for $2.3 million according to the New Canaanite.
Big visions for the property (or at least for the proceeds from its sale) didn’t end there. The current owner, architect Reja Bakh of Bakh design, has put the single-story house and surrounding grounds on the market for the aforementioned $7.7 million. That price includes not only approved designs by Bakh himself but, according to Mansion Global, construction costs for much larger house on the 2.2-acre property. Bakh specializes in “modern design with a contemporary vision.”
According to the latest listing, the “spectacular new companion structure” was “inspired by the Barcelona Pavilion.” The structure shown in the accompanying renderings is a three-bedroom house that will “harmonize as one composition with minimal structure, transparent walls, a floating wall, and long vistas that help blur the borders between inside and outside.”
The newer structure will bring the total livable space to a whopping 11,000 square feet and will feature a sky-lit underground garage with enough space for a collection of cars or a huge studio. Landscaping will include native grasses and wild flowers, stone walls, tumble gravel. Pervious pavers will help the newly-created courtyard space bridge the two structures.
Plans also include an indoor pool, a spa, a wine cellar and a home gym.
The current owner lives in Manhattan with his family and uses the house as a weekend getaway. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bakh had originally planned to overesee the $3 million design and construction project but has apparently decided to sell the property instead.
This 2014 video shows the Ball house, one of five Philip Johnson houses in New Canaan. Johnson built the home for his friend, Alice Ball.
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Images: Bakh Architecture.
Neighborhoods : New Canaan