Corning Museum of Glass
Architect: Thomas Phifer and Partners
Owner: Corning Museum of Glass
Location: Corning, New York
Welcoming nearly 500,000 visitors annually, the Corning Museum of Glass is one of New York’s most popular museums. The museum surveys nearly 35 centuries of glass, from ancient to contemporary works, and since opening in 1951 has seen five major expansions. Each has included innovative glass architecture, and this new 100,000-square-foot Art + Design Wing is no exception.
The new wing adds 26,000 square feet of exhibition space and is the museum’s largest space dedicated to the display of contemporary glass art. In addition, it provides new offices for museum staff, a community room for community and school programming, a retail shop, and a renovated hot glass workshop for live demonstrations.
Its crystal white façade contrasts with Corning Incorporated’s original dark office building. A layer of laminated glass that seamlessly transitions from rain screen to translucent window provides views onto a campus green. At 150 feet long, the viewing area aligns precisely with the floor and ceiling. Within the rectangular building, curved concrete walls eschew museum norms of straight walls required for paintings and works on paper.
The project’s architectural heart is found in the fully daylit gallery, which showcases the museum’s large collection of contemporary works. The ambient lighting is completely natural, entering the space through insulated skylights above and fritted windows along its perimeter. When needed, high-efficiency LED and fluorescent lighting strictly controlled through external daylight sensors provide complementary lighting. In the museum’s generally overcast environment, this light-filled space is uplifting for both visitors and museum staff while illuminating and honoring the works of art.
Though the museum was already a popular cultural destination, the new wing has prompted an increase in visitors and summer program participants. By changing the gallery viewing experience, it has also injected the campus with a new sense of vitality.
"The design is a dialogue between the owner's identity being glass, creating a journey through the space with simple planes. It allows the beauty of this clean, slick surface to be expressive of the journey." - Jury comment