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Juliette K. & Leonard S. Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass
Corning, N.Y.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

A renovation of a tired 1960s office box gives it a new life as an archive and library

© Matt Wargo

For more photos click on 'photos & drawings' above.

To see the people and products behind this project click on 'people & products.'

By John E. Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA

At first glance, a mundane, boxy 1960s building of brick and metal siding is not the most ideal setting for the world's preeminent resource on the history and technology of glass. Although the Corning company considered building a facility when the Corning Museum of Glass needed a new home for its library, the more attractive option was to renovate the banal warehouselike building that was once home to the company's housewares division. The former prosaic box with two floors of office cubicles, which would easily have been forgotten if demolished, has been transformed into the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library.

In the original building, fenestration was minimal. The designers therefore decided to leave the windowless east wall and the glazed north wall intact. An entrance and two-story-tall window was placed in the west wall. The most distinct exterior alteration was a glass brise-soleil affixed to the south wall. The brise-soleil, with 6-by-12-foot panels of 5/8-inch-thick tempered glass on steel masts about 5 feet from the existing facade, acts as an environmental sculpture that celebrates the full range of the material's properties: clarity, translucency, opacity, refraction, and structural strength.

A ceramic frit is on the side of the brise-soleil glass that faces the building, with acid-etched lines on the front. Its top panels filter light from summer sun, and lower panels protect the reading room from winter sun angles.

Most of the renovation occurred on the interior. For heavier load requirements on the second floor, another row of columns was added. The extra floor space allowed the architects to open a portion of the second floor for a double-height atrium with a glass ornamental stair as the centerpiece. The ample space allows for the archive and valuable materials to be kept on the second floor, protected from the floodplain below. A seminar room, staff offices, and mechanical equipment, which is insurable in case of a flood, are on the ground floor.

For an optimal archive space, chemical agents must be minimized. Finishes were selected to avoid volatile compounds that give off odors, and a slate floor in the reception area is a natural cleft that does not require sealant.

See the November 2001 issue of Architectural Record for full coverage of this project.

Formal name of Project:
Juliette K. & Leonard S. Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass

Corning, N.Y.

Gross square footage:
43,500 sq. ft.

Total construction cost:
$ 4.8 million

Corning, Inc./Corning Museum of Glass

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
307 Fourth Avenue, Suite 1300
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-2113
Phone: 412-765-3890
Fax: 412-765-2209



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