A Moment in Time: Digital Printing Brings the Past, Present and Future to Glass

A phenomenal feat for technology, transportation and glass is a testament to what it means for the public and private sectors to come together and construct a physical representation of the marriage between the past and present with also a consideration for the future.

A place to permanently display a modern medium of art—because not all art comes in the form of oil on canvas dated 1500 AD.

The Moynihan Train Hall in New York City is a structure that was decades in the making. Architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) was assigned the project in 1997. The task was to convert the early 20th-century James A. Farley Post Office into a 21st century transportation hub. The new hall is located across from Penn Station, and ultimately cost $1.6 billion to renovate the space.

The station, which opened to the public January 1, 2021, is the busiest in the nation and sees more visitors than the three major airports that service the New York City area combined, according to the office of the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Inside the 255,000-square foot development, visitors and passersby can see one of the most significant decorative glass installations the city has to offer.

New Jersey-based General Glass International (GGI) took the images from photographer Stan Douglas and digitally printed them onto 80 feet of glass.

In his photography, Douglas pays homage to the original Penn Station with his series, “Penn Station’s Half Century.” Douglas created nine different photos depicting seemingly forgotten moments that may have taken place in the original Penn Station before the structure was dismantled in the 1960s. Using old blueprints, imagination and an assembly of about 400 people, Douglas was able to digitally transform an empty hockey arena in Vancouver into the original Penn Station to bring his vision to life.

GGI printed the sets of photos using its Alice® direct-to-glass digital ceramic printing technology powered by its Dip-Tech equipment.

“Commissioned by the New York Public Art Fund, the artist, Stan Douglas, chose GGI because of the large format printing and resolution requirements needed for this project. Douglas required numerous samples and mock-ups of our Alice direct-to-glass printing of his images to ensure we were achieving the truest representation possible of each photograph—in both color and detail,” says Muhammad Arif, decorative glass manager for GGI. “Unlike decorative glass produced for building facades, direct-to-glass printing for public art displays typically involves working directly with the artist and various government officials and/or public art fund organizations, and the exactness required takes on a new meaning,” he adds, noting that public art displays, and those of large scale, are not new to GGI.

“The challenges presented by the Moynihan Train Hall project were more specific to the COVID-19 pandemic and the timeline in which we had to accomplish all that was required. Especially with the project being in New York, the artist being based in Vancouver, combined with staffing issues, the pandemic resulted in restrictions that we had never experienced before but were able to successfully navigate and complete production of the glass on schedule,” he adds.

Yariv Ninyo, the head of business development at Dip-Tech, has worked for the company for nearly 14 years. He has seen the differences these specialized systems can make. The unique quality of the ink, he says, is that it is made of ceramics. They are “inks that contain glass … inside and basically melt, cure to the glass surface,” Ninyo says. “Using inorganic pigments … the firing process of our inks into the glass basically gives, or provides, a color layer which is very, very resilient.” This means that if the glass is up against UV light or battered by elements for hundreds of years, the image will not scratch or fade, he explains.

The art display was installed by Genesis Architectural, based in Willow Grove, Pa. JT Melching served as the project manager for the installation, and says the company handled the task of installation to ensure the project would be completed on time.

“It went in pretty straightforward, actually, one of our easier installations for the job,” he says. “So once all of the material was on site, unpacking and putting it in, it was between three and five days.”

Glass printing technology, like every other technology used in day-to-day life, is ever-evolving. The ability to transfer partially computer-generated images into glass, ensuring preservation, helps make the art in the station exemplary of the possibilities when we’re not limited to one sector, waiting in the present or imagining the future.

Luly Hernandez is an assistant editor of USGlass magazine. She can
be reached at lhernandez@glass.com.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.