Starting April 2, Henry Urbach will make history for the Philip Johnson Glass House as the first director to live on the compound.

"I will be living in one of the historic houses," Urbach said. "It offers the opportunity to really immerse myself into the environment, landscape and also in the community of New Canaan. I want to use that opportunity to strengthen the ties between New Canaan, the Glass House and the surrounding communities."

Previously, Urbach served as curator of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He left the SFMOMA in May 2011 to pursue independent writing and curatorial work, including research toward a project about the Glass House compound as a laboratory for curatorial experimentation.

"I can hardly imagine a place more full of potential than the Glass House," Urbach said. "It has long contributed to culture by bringing together art, architecture, landscape and people in significant and inventive ways. That is exactly what I hope to foster."

Urbach holds a degree in history and theory of architecture from Princeton University, a master's degree from Columbia University's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and a Master of Arts in history and theory of architecture from Princeton University.

"I am delighted that Henry will become a part of our team," Estevan Rael-Gálvez, vice president of Historic Sites, said. "His passion, intellect and skill make him the ideal director for the Glass House at this moment in time. I am confident Henry will work to develop and sustain an environment where creativity, consciousness and community ensure the site's success and future contribution to American culture."

Urbach told the New Canaan News he wants the Glass House to be a real cultural center.

More Information

Fact box

"I feel very honored and thrilled to have stewardship over one of the modernism's most hallowed grounds," he said. "I'd really like to cultivate the site as a place where culture is produced. Broadly speaking, It would love for it to be a center for thought that can contribute to the ongoing development of art, architecture and landscape. I think in that sense the Glass House will be able to perhaps function as a place to see, hear, learn and discover."

Urbach first visited the Glass House in 2001 when Philip Johnson himself sent him an invitation and walked with him on the compound.

"I was awestruck," he said about the first encounter. "It was amazing. He was full of anecdotes and made me feel very welcome. He was also very happy to talk about the work I was doing at the time."

Johnson invited Urbach because he was impressed with some of his work at his gallery back then. Even though he was familiar with iconic Glass House and everything associated with it, he said nothing compares to seeing it in person.

"It is one of those places that is so familiar from photographs, but when you actually get there it takes your breath away," he said. "It is actually startlingly fresh."

Tickets to tour the Glass House are available for sale. Visitors can book tickets for the 2012 season at www.philipjohnsonglasshouse.org or via phone at 866-811-4111. The season launches May 2 and closes on Nov. 30, 2012.

203-972-4413; pjha@bcnnew.com; www.twitter.com/pjhancnews