USA - Theatre Projects collaborated on the design of the new Amphitheater Hot Shop at the Corning Museum of Glass, which celebrated the grand opening of the 100,000sq.ft Contemporary Art + Design Wing this past weekend.

From a simple beginning in 1951 as a two-room showcase with two employees and 2,000 pieces of artwork, the Corning Museum of Glass has continually expanded its physical footprint and cultural appeal into what is now a wide-reaching tourist attraction with a menagerie of stunning buildings dotted across a sprawling 10-acre campus, and a collection of more than 50,000 works of art.

Over the past 64 years, the museum has introduced many new and compelling attractions, drawing more and more visitors with each addition. Perhaps the most popular of those additions is the Hot Glass Show, where artisans guide audiences through the process of glassblowing, transforming molten sand into beautiful works of art at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

With the success of these live glassblowing demonstrations, the museum needed a new venue that would let them accommodate larger audiences, provide those visitors with a more dynamic, personal, and intimate show, and at the same time, allow them to transform the room into a suitable venue for live music, banquets, dinners, fundraisers, and other forms of entertainment.

Working with Thomas Phifer and Partners, Theatre Projects designed a space that met exactly those varied needs. The new Amphitheater Hot Shop - built in a renovated historic ventilator building - features a custom-made retractable seating system and a full mezzanine that wraps 360 degrees around the room. The 500-seat theatre - now one of the world's largest facilities for glassblowing demonstrations - was designed to be robust enough to handle a near-constant stream of patrons, while having the comfort and sightlines to satisfy either a glassblowing demonstration or two-hour concert.

"It was a very different type of project, but we brought to it the same consideration we always do, which is the importance of the relationship between the audience and the artist," John Runia, Theatre Projects' project manager and theatre designer, said. "Whether you're watching Hamlet or a glassblowing demonstration, that connection - more than anything else - makes a performance personal, memorable, and visceral."

As well as collaborating on the theatre design, Theatre Projects also provided consulting services for the Amphitheatre Hot Shop's seating and performance lighting systems, helping create a robust, versatile, and intimate facility with agile and dynamic theatre equipment.

(Jim Evans)

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