Corning Museum of Glass
Thomas Phifer and Partners
Corning, NY, USA
Thomas Phifer and Partners
Guy Nordenson and Associates (Structural Engineer) Altieri Sebor Wieber (MEP and Fire Protection Engineer) Reed Hilderbrand (Landscape Architect)
Iwan Baan James Ewing
The Corning Museum of Glass Contemporary Art + Design Wing provides 100,000 square feet of new space, including 26,000 square feet of spacious, light-filled galleries for its collection of contemporary works in glass. The project also honors the history of glassmaking on the Corning campus with the renovation of the Steuben Glass factory building into a state-of-the-art glass workshop and demonstration theater. The black exterior of the restored Steuben Glass factory building juxtaposes the simple, white glass façade of the new gallery building. The design of the new gallery building is inspired by contemporary glass artwork’s display, largely independent of museum walls. Freed from the role of displaying mounted works, the gallery walls assume a serpentine form, gently guiding museum visitors to contemplate the larger works in glass on the museum floor. The new gallery building also features skylighting with a sophisticated light-filtering system that is integrated with the structural roof beams. The four-foot tall by three-and-a-half-inch thick pre-cast, concrete beams support the roof and direct dappled, natural light onto the glass art. When horizontally illuminated, glass artwork is put into silhouette, but when lit from above, the light honors the material and enhances the visitor’s understanding of the form itself. The more light the artwork absorbs, the more it reveals the depth and richness of the glass. The gallery building is a distilled container for glass and light; a place that serves the art.
The Corning Museum of Glass campus has a remarkable array of modern glass architecture ranging from Wallace K. Harrison’s 1951 International Style office building to Gunnar Birkerts’ 1976 biomorphic, curved gallery space. Our addition of a new Contemporary Art + Design Wing and restored Steuben Glass Workshop and Demonstration Theater was designed to forge a connection with the existing buildings, while clarifying the ensemble. Thomas Phifer and Partners relocated surface level parking and replaced the lot with a one-acre campus green, providing an outdoor gathering place for the public with views into the luminous new gallery and glassmaking workshop. The Contemporary Art + Design Wing, restored Steuben Glass Workshop and Demonstration Theater, and campus green form the new heart of the Corning Museum of Glass campus.
Thomas Phifer and Partners sought to reveal the beauty of glass, as a simple surface, beginning with the outside layer of the building as it simultaneously reflects and holds light. The new gallery building’s exterior glass is white, contemporary and almost devoid of detail. Because the exterior glass is lightly frosted, both from the inside and the outside, the layer of glass is a surface, not a transparency. The façade frames and honors the works inside much like a vitrine. The new gallery building’s gallery experience is punctuated with views of the Corning Museum of Glass campus and City of Corning. The gallery windows utilize a specialized glass system where a single layer of laminated glass transitions from a bright white rain screen to a translucent fritted vision window, and the vision area precisely aligns with the floor and ceiling. The 150-foot-long north porch window provides an outlook onto the campus green and reorients the visitor to the larger landscape. As architect Thomas Phifer explains, “We conceived the new museum gallery as a “building on the green” – a structure that operates both as an organizing element and is also emblematic of its contemporary contents.”