I just returned from 2 days at Phillip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT, one of our newest historic sites. The Glass House site is one of the world icons of midcentury modern heritage and its 47 acres and 14 buildings present an inspiring setting for the creative process.
InterfaceFlor, a company that develops commercial floor covering, and is known for its commitment to building environmental considerations into its business decisions, sponsored a retreat for “thought leaders” in the sustainable design field entitled, “Making Choices: Designing our Relationship with Community and the Environment”. Given that the mission of the Philip Johnson Glass House is to become a center-point and catalyst for the preservation of modern architecture, landscape, and art, and a canvas for inspiration, experimentation and cultivation honoring the legacy of Philip Johnson (1906–2005) and David Whitney (1939–2005), programs such as this which provide artists with the chance to literally stop and breathe while thinking about design, are becoming the hallmark of the site. After weeks of unusual bleakness for an April in the Northeast, the day the retreat began, the sun brought out crocuses and daffodils on the site; eagles flew over the trees and geese wandered around the pool; the grounds dried up enough to allow 30 people to traipse around it and despite the tragedy of our national airlines falling apart, everyone who planned on it was able to make it to the Glass House.
A Local Dinner – The Responsibility of Pleasure
After an afternoon of guided tours for the attendees, we were shuttled to dinner at Blue Café at Stone Barns, an organic working farm, a sustainable restaurant, a way of life really – located at Pocantico Hills, affiliated with Kykuit, another one of our historic sites in the Hudson Valley. The Stone Barn center's historic buildings are a brilliant reinterpretation of the “barn” by architects Machado & Silvetti. An unexpected meeting of Blue Café’s chef and Interface’s Chairman Ray Anderson, was the highlight of the evening. Ray told us the story of his epiphany after reading Paul Hawken’s seminal The Ecology of Commerce 14 years ago which led him to transform his petroleum-intensive carpeting business into a company whose goal is “Mission Zero” - a promise to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by the year 2020. The Chef came out thrilled to learn that Ray Anderson was in the room, as Ray’s book had impacted the way he thinks and practices. He calls his creation of food, meals, the farm and restaurant “the responsibility of pleasure” - If you can find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands and the mouth – then your carbon footprint can be much, much less. Serendipity met synchronicity...
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Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at email@example.com.