Corning Museum of Glass Extension - A Celebration of Contemporary Glass | The Plan
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Corning Museum of Glass Extension - A Celebration of Contemporary Glass

Thomas Phifer and Partners

Corning Museum of Glass Extension - A Celebration of Contemporary Glass
By Michael Webb -

In 1951 Corning Glass celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding by opening the Museum of Glass on its corporate campus in upstate New York. Thomas Phifer and Partners’ Contemporary Art + Design Wing is the third distinctive addition to the original Harrison & Abramowitz building. A shimmering white box, looking out to a new green, it is a quiet yet powerful presence that unifies the disparate complex. It’s a triumph of simplicity that contains many surprises. Within, curvilinear concrete walls support deep roof beams and define five toplit galleries. Visitors enter a “porch” that leads on to the Amphitheater Hot Shop, which Phifer created within the old Steuben glass factory as an auditorium for glassblowing demonstrations. 

Phifer was a long-time partner of Richard Meier, where he honed his skills in creating art museums and houses for art collectors. As head of his own practice, he has won acclaim for a succession of houses, institutional buildings, and a new federal courthouse that all share the qualities of purity, materiality, and meticulous detailing. In contrast to Meier, his work doesn’t have a consistent signature, and the Corning commission has liberated him from the usual constraints of displaying artworks. Though his North Carolina Art Museum won acclaim for its airy, luminous interiors, it had to conform to the rules governing all such institutions: lots of straight walls for hanging art and tightly controlled natural light to protect the collection. 

In contrast, glass is unharmed by strong light and is free-standing, on the floor or in a display case. During the design process, Phifer carried an Aalto flower vase from his office in lower Manhattan into the street and saw how it came alive in the sun. But he also discovered that the glare from windows can reduce glass objects to a silhouette. As in the street, overhead light brings out the depth of color and...

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