Philip Johnson, Rockefeller Guest House, New York (USA), 1950

Philip Johnson, Rockefeller Guest House, New York (USA), 1950

Philip Johnson, Rockefeller Guest House, New York, 1950


The Rockefeller guest house was designed by Philip Johnson in 1950 and is located in the 52nd Street in Manhattan. The house was commissioned by Blanchette Rockefeller as a place for her art collection and as a guest house. It is one of New York’s first buildings reflecting the modern movement in architecture as Johnson was inspired by the work of Mies van der Rohe. Filling a gap between late nineteenth century buildings the two story building stands in sharp contrast with its surrounding.

The ground floors design is based on an open floor concept trying to create a flow of space. Therefore the living area in the front is one open room with a compact kitchen which can be hidden by folding doors. The space is defined by clean white brick walls to display the owner’s art collection and flows into an interior courtyard only limited by a floor-to-ceiling glass facade. The courtyard, dominated by a water basin, separates the public area from a bedroom and bathroom in the back and adds infinity by its reflections and openness. The private area in the back can be hidden by light white curtains allowing light to shine through. By using only glass, brick and steel in its construction Johnson followed a minimalist idea also reflected in the modernist interior. Here you can see again Johnson’s admiration for Mies van der Rohe by choosing his Barcelona Collection as furniture.

To achieve a two story façade Johnson added a second floor with guest rooms. The facade following the modernist idea lacks all ornamentation and reveals its structural elements. The clear division into brick and glass actually is a translucent glass front in the second floor and overhead windows in the ground floor providing light but no insight.



Reviewed by Estève P.