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Collins, B. (2018). Tutter: Dream House: an Intimate Portrait of the Philip Johnson Glass House (B. Collins). Psychoanal Q., 87(4):880-885.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 87(4):880-885

Tutter: Dream House: an Intimate Portrait of the Philip Johnson Glass House (B. Collins)

Review by:
Bradley Collins

The only task harder than psychoanalyzing architecture is psychoanalyzing music. In either case you do not have the clear human content one finds in painting and literature, which have attracted vastly more psychoanalytic attention. This makes Adele Tutter’s accomplishment in her Dream House: An Intimate Portrait of the Philip Johnson Glass House all the more impressive. In what is the first psycho-biographical study of an architect’s relationship to his creations, she has provided a rich and nuanced meditation on one of the most famous buildings in post-war America.

Johnson’s Glass House was inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s plans for the Farnsworth House in Chicago, but Johnson’s building was completed before Mies’s. The name “Glass House” is misleading because it can refer as well to the other structures that Johnson subsequently built on his five acres in New Canaan, Connecticut. These include the Brick House, Painting Gallery, Sculpture Gallery, Lake Pavilion, and Study. A patron did not commission the Glass House complex. Johnson designed everything by himself and for himself. This allows Tutter to treat the Glass House as more of a direct reflection of Johnson’s psyche.

Johnson’s personality as it emerges from Tutter’s portrait involves several contradictions: confident and ambitious yet deeply insecure, inventive yet ambivalent about originality, grandiose yet self-effacing. One doesn’t have to look far for the sources of insecurity in Johnson’s childhood and adolescence. He was born in Ohio to a wealthy lawyer and a cultivated mother. But she disliked children, traveled when they were born, and left them with nannies. His father disdained him as a “mama’s boy” and only had contempt for his artistic interests. Adding to these difficulties was the death of his five-year old brother, Alfred, when Philip was two.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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