CORNING – Thomas Phifer and Partners’ reinvigoration of the Corning Museum of Glass exudes tranquillity. The project included the restoration of the original museum buildings designed by modernist architect Wallace Harrison in 1951 and an additional expansion. Wallace’s simplistic and angular glass and steel structures give rise to the exterior form of the New York-based firm’s addition which seeks to create harmony on the eclectic site whilst establishing a contrast between the distinct structures.
The black cladding of Harrison’s Steuben Glass factory museum building sits in juxtaposition to the luminous white façades of the new Contemporary Art and Design Wing. By utilising glass as the main building medium, the building honours the masterpieces contained by it. Lightly frosted on both sides, glass curtain walls demonstrate how the complex material can be manipulated to evoke simplicity. The firm explains: ‘We wanted to reveal the beauty of glass, as a simple surface, beginning with the outside layer of the building as it simultaneously reflects the light, holds the light, and absorbs nature’.
Curving walls flow through the interior space to express an air of harmony, a contrast from the angular exterior. The sinuous panels remove boundaries between rooms, connecting circulation through the gallery to create a singular, flowing collection of art pieces. A glass roof spans the entire structure – allowing natural light to penetrate the gallery spaces from above. Shutters filter the light to minimise intensity, resulting in a soft ambiance. The white scheme creates a stark backdrop which becomes decorated by the vivid artworks’ rich colours and diverse forms.