The California Academy of Sciences’ Masked Ball was made especially magical by DaVinci Fusion’s transformation of San Francisco’s City Hall. The Northern California event production company turned the City Hall rotunda into a dazzling planetarium and the North Light Court into a lush rain forest for the special evening.
Since the Academy of Sciences is in temporary quarters while its earthquake-damaged building in Golden Gate Park is reconstructed, the California Academy of Sciences chose City Hall as the site of its 2004 gala. The Academy’s goal was to make guests attending the ball, which had always been held in the Academy’s halls, feel at home in the municipal space. "The idea was to bring as much of the old Academy to City Hall as possible," says DaVinci Fusion’s president and lead designer, Solomon Rosenzweig, "So we created a planetarium in the rotunda and a rain forest in North Light Court. All that was missing was a meteor show and rain."
"DaVinci Fusion did a fabulous job. The ball was one of the most beautiful events ever seen at City Hall," declares Deidre Kernan, special-events director for the Academy. The evening began with cocktails in South Light Court, where projected images of the old Academy building and entertainers such as stilt walkers, magicians, and face and henna painters got the festive evening underway.
Then guests moved to the rotunda for dinner. DaVinci Fusion projected a full-color moving nebula onto the surface of the rotunda’s interior dome, which rises 90’ in height and crowns a sweeping triple-wide staircase. The second, third, and fourth floor levels of the rotunda were bathed with deep space-blue light and covered with gently moving stars 360 degrees around the dome. A magenta glow punctuated with white stars was reflected onto the dining tables on the main floor.
DaVinci Fusion achieved the look with a complement of Mac 2000 Profiles, Mac 500’s and Mac 600 Wash fixtures controlled by a Whole Hog® II system. The Whole Hog II also interfaced with four ETC ellipsoidal spotlights and a customized Litho gobo of the Academy’s Starmaker planetarium projector so the lighting simulated the output of four Starmakers covering the vast dome. DaVinci Fusion also met the challenge of adapting to the changing exterior light, seen through the window-pierced dome, as the hours elapsed and the event moved from dusk to nighttime splendor.
"I’ve seen a lot of people light the dome, but DaVinci Fusion’s moving lights really made it feel like a planetarium," notes Dan McCall who heads San Francisco’s McCall Associates, a full-service catering company. "The blues and pinks at the different levels of the dome created the most special lighting I’ve ever seen in the rotunda."
Because City Hall is a busy public space, a maximum of three hours was allowed for DaVinci Fusion’s set up. "We had to plan very carefully," Rosenzweig says. "We pre-hung all the lighting on rolling racks so we could go in and out of small elevators and onto the floor in short order and hook things up without creating hardware stands."
Just as dramatic as the rotunda’s transformation was the metamorphosis of North Light Court, which during business hours houses the City Hall gift shop and coffee shop. DaVinci Fusion turned the space into an African rain forest and one of two areas dedicated to dancing (South Light Court being the other). DaVinci Fusion draped the skylit court’s white marble walls with aniline-dye painted backdrops reminiscent of natural history dioramas. With the creative use of theatrical lighting and special effects like flickering Flame Bowls atop bamboo poles, live palm trees and lush floral displays, the guests felt as if they were thrust right in the middle of the diorama.
"The backdrops were light and airy and wonderfully lit," says Dan McCall. "DaVinci Fusion created a total rain forest experience without taking away space from the dance floor. Throughout the evening DaVinci Fusion achieved the effect the client wanted: a strong identification of the event with the Academy as an institution."