The house’s original owner and designer was John Black Lee, an architect affiliated with the so-called Harvard Five — a group of architects that included Philip Johnson and Marcel Breuer who began settling in New Canaan starting around 1940, transforming the town into a hotbed of Modernism. Lee’s axially symmetrical, one-story structure, completed in 1956 and published in RECORD as part of a collection of rectangular houses, featured a large open space, about 30 feet square, which contained a central fireplace, a living room, and a compact island kitchen. This main room had a perimeter clerestory and two all-glass exterior walls, on the north and south, providing views of the wooded 2-acre property. Bedrooms, two each on the east and west, flanked the main space, with a veranda and a generous overhanging roof surrounding the house on all four sides.
The current owners, a finance executive and a lighting designer, bought the property from Lee in 1990. Soon afterwards they commissioned New York City-based Toshiko Mori to renovate the house. Mori, who has since renovated or added onto several buildings by some of Modernism’s giants, made subtle but significant alterations that included raising the central roof by about 18 inches, thereby enlarging the clerestory, and replacing deteriorated wood columns with stainless steel. The changes helped make the already elegant structure seem even more delicate and graceful. Even Lee, who now lives in another house he designed a few miles away, approves. “It was one of the most sensitive remodelings in New Canaan,” he says.
Glass/Wood House, New Canaan, Connecticut, by Kengo Kuma & Associates,
via: Architectural Record