The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Philip Johnson Glass House, and the School of Visual Arts MFA in Interaction Design have launched glasshouseconversations.org, a website that extends the signature Glass House Conversations program, an invitational held at the Glass House during 2008 and 2009 with cultural, business and educational leaders sponsored by Oldcastle Building Envelope.
The goal of the new site is to reach an international audience of people with design-related interests and provide them with an on-going forum and new community for insightful conversations.
The site has been in development since last fall through an inventive partnership between the MFA Interaction Design Department at SVA and the Philip Johnson Glass House. Its goal is to adapt the intimate Glass House Conversations series to an expanded digital forum, and build on the legacy of architect Philip Johnson’s home in New Canaan, Connecticut, a place that architectural historian Vincent Scully called the “longest running salon in America.” It was at the Glass House that Philip Johnson and longtime partner David Whitney brought together people like Andy Warhol, Frank Stella and Robert. A.M. Stern, for discussions that shaped the cultural dialogue of the 20th century. This project engages a new, online audience and expands the conversation into the 21st century.
“The challenge was two-fold: first, how to engage a broader audience in the design leadership conversations that occurred at the Glass House and became a branded program; and then how to stay true to what Philip Johnson and David Whitney did best— always staying on the cutting edge of innovation,” said Christy MacLear, Executive Director for the Philip Johnson Glass House. “SVA was the perfect partner to envision how a meaningful dialogue could occur in a digital forum, examples of which were limited to date. The students’ work is truly groundbreaking.”
Each week on glasshouseconversations.org, a host puts forth a provocation in the form of a question or a debate topic, and members of the public worldwide have up to five days respond. Alice Rawsthorn, the design critic for the International Herald Tribune, hosts the question for the week of July 19, and upcoming conversations will be hosted by leaders in cultural fields, including John Maeda, Ralph Caplan, and John Lilly.
Six students from SVA—Clint Beharry, Derek Chan, Kristin Graefe, Katie Koch, Russ Maschmeyer, and Eric St. Onge—developed the site from the fall of 2009 through the spring of 2010 in the course Continuing the Conversation. “Glass House Conversations was a dynamic opportunity for our students to extend the learning from the classroom, and work in a creative collaboration with clients who care deeply both about design and the community at large,” said Liz Danzico, chair, MFA Interaction Design Department at SVA, who directed the project with Jason Santa Maria, mentor, and Dorothy Dunn, former Director of Visitor Experience for the Glass House. In the MFA Interaction Design Department, students work both individually and collaboratively to learn the concepts and methods of interaction design, starting with an understanding of people and the environments that drive their needs, goals and experiences. Course materials consider these social constructs and human experiences as the basis for approaching problems across media.
SVA will continue to be involved through the site’s launch as two students from the MFA Design Criticism Department—Emily Leibin and Molly Heintz—have been named fellows at the Glass House to help shape content for the site, inviting moderators and designing questions to inspire on-line exchange and use. Initial audience use has been targeted to the 120 leaders involved in the 2008 and 2009 Conversations and will expand to include the 100 participants of Modern Views, a project for which contemporary artists, architects, and designers created and donated works of art and written statements, capturing their thoughts and inspirations about the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House (1945–51), the Philip Johnson Glass House (1949), and the architects who created them.