A World of Light and Glass

Businessweek.com reported that there are a lot of things you can say about lower Manhattan: It's the capital of global finance, the cradle of New York City, or the site of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

But James Carpenter prefers to talk about the quality of its light. "That's the thing about downtown," he explained recently, sitting at a conference table in his sunny Tribeca studio. "The light down here is amazing, because there's all this atmospheric moisture."

It's an unusual and quiet observation, characteristic of a man who's made a career out of making visible the invisible. He is an artist who shares an office with engineers, an architect who works like a sculptor, and a glass craftsman who often uses steel. When the MacArthur Foundation awarded him one of their "genius" grants in 2004, it termed him a "glass technologist." He may be hard to pin down -- even his collaborators never seem sure of how to describe his role -- but this spring, Carpenter's work is defining the character of two of the most anticipated new office buildings opening in Manhattan.

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