Protecting historic windows can present unusual challenges, especially when the location is a national monument like Alcatraz where rules prohibit any modifications to the original structures. This historic site is an iconic part of American history and folklore. Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Robert Stroud, a.k.a.“The Birdman of Alcatraz,” all spent time at the former federal penitentiary in the San Francisco Bay designed with the intention that no criminal could ever escape. Preserving it intact is vital to our historical record.
The need for window protection arose when the acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei wanted the audience to view his work from a gun gallery full of broken windows where guards once trained their weapons on prisoners below as they did laundry and made clothing. The windows had many broken panes so there was a need to protect the windows from further damage and to protect viewers from getting cut.
Ai Weiwei, known for his work on freedom of expression and human rights, was once under house arrest and even now can’t leave China. That was just one of the many challenges of putting together the show.
But that meant opening a part of Alcatraz off-limits to the public. FOR-SITE, the foundation organizing @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, had to carry out this powerful vision without putting a single nail or screw hole in this National Historic Landmark.
FOR-SITE asked Indow to custom engineer a solution that would shield visitors from Alcatraz’s broken gun gallery windows without leaving a mark. And so we did. Working collaboratively Indow developed a removable window mullion that used a pressure fitting to stay in place. Up to two of these removable window mullions were used to subdivide each window.
Visitors will view Ai Weiwei’s work through transparent Indow window inserts, which will protect them from broken glass (and help them resist the temptation to snap off a piece of Alcatraz as a souvenir!)
Indow Windows’ unique window inserts press into place using our patented Compression Tube without screws or any other damaging changes to the existing structure. Indow’s innovative cleantech product is one reason FOR-SITE managed to put together this exhibit at one of America’s most popular tourist attractions just nine months after receiving State Department approval.
The gun gallery is in the two-story New Industries Building, constructed between 1939-1941, where inmates did laundry for the military and manufactured clothing, shoes and brushes. It replaced the nearby Model Industries Building, which was the site of several attempted escapes.
@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz runs from September 27 – April 26. Let us know if you go to see it!