Work began last week to renovate the iconic ventilator building of the former Steuben Glass factory adjacent to The Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, NY. The building will become the largest space in the world for public glassblowing demonstrations. The renovation is part of a 100,000-square-foot North Wing addition to The Corning Museum of Glass, designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners and opening in 2014. The expansion also includes a new 26,000-square-foot contemporary glass gallery space.
Visitors will be able view the Museum’s daily live Hot Glass Show glassblowing demonstrations and other special glassmaking activities from many angles. The space will accommodate 500 people and offer 360-degree views of the glassmaking show. The venue will have retractable banked seating, and a gallery-level balcony running around the perimeter of the hotshop.
“The design of this new glassmaking venue allows the beauty of the original ventilator structure to shine through,” Phifer said. “The new seating, balcony and hotshop are detailed to never touch the exterior walls. The ceiling has been cleared of pipes so that the original roof truss is fully exposed. When you walk into the space, it will feel as if you are entering an industrial cathedral.”
During the year-long renovation of the ventilator building, the exterior cladding is being removed to expose the underlying steel structure, and the building’s distinctive claw-like shape on the roof of the building (designed to efficiently ventilate massive amounts of heat) will be temporarily removed. The structure, which was built in 1951, will then be reinforced to bring it up to modern building codes, designed to withstand wind, snow loads and earthquakes.
Windows, exterior cladding, and the roof -including the claw- will be rebuilt using modern, insulated, energy-efficient building materials. The building is designed to be LEED-certified.
“The ventilator building is an icon of mid-century glassmaking factories,” said Karol Wight, the Museum’s executive director. “We are pleased to continue the tradition of glassmaking that has occurred in that space since 1951: to showcase the art of glassmaking to our 400,000 visitors that come to The Corning Museum of Glass each year and to provide international glass artists with one of the best hotshops in the world in which to work.”
The glassmaking facility will include a highly capable hotshop with energy-efficient glassmaking equipment built by Spiral Arts in Seattle, including a 32-inch glory hole, a 1,000-pound furnace for colorless glass, two furnaces for colored glass and four 83-cubic-foot annealers. The glass melting and reheating furnaces are designed to use waste heat to reduce energy consumption.
The hotshop will be supported by a fully equipped cold shop with sandblasting, cutting and engraving capabilities. In addition to the main demonstration space, there will be a smaller, private hotshop for behind-the-scenes activities such as training and private sessions of the Museum’s glass design program, GlassLab.
“We wanted to build a hotshop that any artist would want to work in, so we turned to the glass community for advice,” said Steve Gibbs, senior manager of Hot Glass Programs. “Their dream became our objective: to build the best hotshop in the world in a light-filled, temperature-controlled environment. The large space and equipment will provide our staff and guest artists the capacity needed for large-scale contemporary glassmaking.”
The space will be highly configurable to accommodate special events and demonstrations. The banked seating can retract and additional equipment can be set up to allow for multiple demonstrations to occur at the same time or provide floor space for events. For indoor/outdoor events, the north and south walls can open to adjoining outdoor spaces designed by Reed Hilderbrand Associates.
The live, narrated, Hot Glass Show glassblowing demonstrations have been offered all day, every day, year-round at The Corning Museum of Glass campus in Corning, NY, since 1996. The demonstrations have become one of the Museum’s most popular attractions. Currently, the Museum has a new 150-seat Hot Glass Show theatre, as well as a 141-seat capacity seasonal outdoor demonstration area; both will remain open during construction of the North Wing. The Museum employs almost 40 glassblowers annually who provide glassblowing demonstrations at the Museum, on the road and at sea on Celebrity Cruises.
To learn more about the North Wing expansion project, visit cmog.org/expansion.