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In over 140 years of making glass, from chimney globes for kerosene lamps to Gorilla Glass for smartphones, Corning Inc. has also established a reputation for commissioning first-rate works of architecture at its home base in this small city in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
The building spree kicked off in 1951 with the International style Corning Glass Center by Wallace K. Harrison, better known for his work at Rockefeller Center, the United Nations, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Renamed the Corning Museum of Glass, there followed an organically curvaceous addition from 1976 by Gunnar Birkerts, a protégé of Eero Saarinen and Minoru Yamasaki. Then came an expansion and renovation in 2001 by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson with a new library by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, famous for developing the glass cube prototype for Apple stores everywhere.
And now there’s a Contemporary Art + Design Wing by Thomas Phifer and Partners. Mr. Phifer is a New York architect whose intensely crafted minimalist sensibility comes as close as any American architect has to a Japanese aesthetic. The new wing opened to the public late last month.
This roster of design talent would be impressive for any city, much less one with a population under 12,000 people and over 250 miles from New York City. Even more intriguing—according to Corning, the Corning Museum of Glass is the first-ever or nearly first museum experience for about half of all visitors. That’s a serious responsibility. […]