Project Description

Printed glass panels for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Monument, San Francisco

45 double-sided Stratum Image Glass panels, depicting text and graphics on an onyx background

Abraham Lincoln Brigade Monument printed glass panels

Spanlite were originally contacted by the Architectural Resource Group San Francisco (ARGSF) in 2011, in relation to the printed glass panels in the existing monument at the Embarcadero Plaza. The original panels consisted of 20mm thick real onyx, printed on both sides and held in place with clamps on the top and bottom horizontal edges of each panel.

Over time since the installation in 2008, weathering and erosion had damaged a number of panels, with cracks appearing and instances of ink delamination and deterioration on the surface of the onyx. Damage from graffiti and erosion from chemicals used in the graffiti clean-up also contributed to the damage.

The monument itself is forty feet long and eight feet high, comprising 45 printed glass panels each 2 feet by 2 feet. Every day, hundreds of people pass by this dramatic reminder of the Lincoln volunteers. The monument stands as the only US national monument and permanent outdoor structure to commemorate a remarkable act of bravery.

Between 1936 and 1938, responding to a military coup in Spain led by General Franco, almost 3,000 US anti-fascists joined over 35,000 volunteers from around the world to form the International Brigades. The American volunteers would later become collectively known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. As the coup evolved into a bloody civil war, the International Brigades volunteered to fight for the defence of the legitimate government. They risked and often gave their lives for the idea that democracy should triumph.

Building a monument to this legacy was a great achievement. Years of discussions and controversy among the veterans preceded its completion. Hence there was a distinct requirement to sensitively restore the panels to their former glory, but this time with added protection from the elements, both natural and nefarious. An adaptation of Spanlite's Stratum Image Glass provided the ideal solution.

Abraham Lincoln Brigade Monument onyx glass panels

The design process primarily focussed on replicating the effect of the existing panels. Working closely with ARGSF, we undertook a series of tests to recreate the semi-transparent nature of the genuine onyx; to include the opaque text and/or graphics to both sides of a laminated glass panel. This was ultimately achieved using a two-panel glass laminate, reverse-printing the stone and text/graphics imagery onto each panel in the laminate. In between the two panels we added a diffuse white ink interlayer to provide the desired translucency to simulate the effect of natural onyx. 

Using low-iron toughened glass, we enlisted the help of GX Glass in Folkestone to print the panels from our artwork using a ceramic-ink printer. This provided a unique degree of quality and colour-accuracy, not to mention safety – as when the panels are toughened via an intense heating process, the ceramic ink becomes permanently bonded to the glass itself. This ensures against delamination between the glass panels in the sandwich, and ensures panels won't shatter if unforeseen damage does occur.

printed glass panels for San Francisco monument
printed glass panels for San Francisco monument

The background onyx imagery for the 90 front and backs was made using colour-corrected images from Spanlite's marble and onyx high-resolution image library. ARGSF supplied the Spanlite studio with halftone photographic images and corresponding text for the reverse of each panel.

This digital artwork route allowed for specific retouching to the background onyx imagery where necessary. This ensured it was in keeping with the original stone panels with regards to colour and texture, and also suitable for all the text to be easily readable. Spanlite combined the imagery, added texture to the text to simulate the original panels, and supplied artwork to GX Glass for print.

The panels, including a number of blanks for emergencies, were sent to ARGSF who oversaw the installation. The result is a powerful and iconic monument, restored and refined a fitting state via an innovative, artistic route. A monument that is once again a fitting tribute to those it remembers.

printed glass panels for San Francisco monument


Time-lapse video of the printed glass panels installation

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