New York architect Thomas Phifer, FAIA, revealed his design for the 100,000 square-foot Corning Museum of Glass North Wing Expansion earlier this week. The new wing of the Corning, N.Y.–based institution will feature new galleries for the museum’s collection of contemporary works in glass, and calls for the renovation of the Steuben Glass Factory industrial building topped by its iconic Robertson Ventilator.
Home to a collection of 45,000 objects—which span 3,500 years of glassmaking—Corning’s campus also has a stellar architectural history. Harrison & Abramowitz, architects of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall (1962), designed the original Corning Incorporated Building, which opened on the north side of the campus in 1951. Smith-Miller + Hawkinson’s 2001 addition, the Glass Innovation Center, borders the south side. These existing structures and Phifer’s expansion will define a new public park. Designed by the landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand, the park will include a one-acre campus green that will provide views into the new galleries and glass-making studios.
Phifer’s design includes an additional 26,000 square feet of gallery space, specifically engineered to showcase the museum’s growing collection of large-scale contemporary works of art and design in glass. “We began the design process by trying to understand the secrets of glass,” explained Phifer in his presentation. “We gathered clues from the collection—how glass objects absorb, sparkle, and radiate wonder. We discovered that the simpler the space, the brighter the object shines.”
His design for the galleries consists of a series of softly rendered sculptural divisions enclosed in a crisp glass-and-steel shell. The interior walls are hollow cast-in-place concrete slabs, which contain and conceal the mechanical equipment. A white aluminum shell is articulated with ultra-thin, vertical glass blades, occasionally interrupted by expanses of flat vision glass. In particular, a 150-foot-long window wall will provide views from the interior to the campus green and from the green into the galleries, unifying the indoor and outdoor experience.
Phifer’s renovation of the Steuben ventilator building will keep the structure’s unusual profile, while providing a venue for the museum’s live glassmaking presentations. The new space will accommodate 500 people with retractable seating, and a new gallery-level balcony around the perimeter will provide 360-degree views of the glassmaking below.
Ground broke yesterday on the $64 million project. The museum anticipates the new wing will be complete and open to the public in 2014.