“Illuminique” Holiday Historic Dome Architectural Projection Mapping

Last Friday saw the primiere Illuminique, a free holiday show projection mapped to the 102-foot-wide historic “Emporium” dome situated at the top level of the Westfield mall in San Francisco. This is another project I worked on in conjunction with Obscura Digital to bring a 103-year-old landmark to life with a playful video presentation of toys and trains and winter cheer.

Westfield’s iconic dome will come to life each night with this one-of-a-kind animated 3D light spectacular that promises to capture the imagination of young and old. Illuminique Under the Dome is a magical story set in a 19th Century toymaker’s workshop. Old meets new, as the Centre’s elegant 1908 glass dome is transformed into a state-of-the-art surround theater exhibiting the latest in projection mapping technology.

A lively cast of holiday characters including sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers, and gingerbread men are brought to life under the Dome. They twirl, drum, and dance in unison creating festive melodies that contribute to a dynamic mechanical orchestra. The 4-minute show crescendos as more toys join the brigade and the entirety of the 102-foot dome becomes one gigantic holiday music machine. The production is an unrivaled “must-see” experience for Bay Area locals and visitors from around the world.

The mapping of this structure presented an unbelievable set of challenges for the entire team. The dome is a San Francisco historic landmark, originally part of the Emporium department store that was completely torn down for the Westfield mall renovation. The whole structure was completely raised to fit on the new mall, and now sits grandiosely atop the upper floor. Like most historic landmarks there are huge restrictions on what can be done to the structure in terms of hardware setup on the facade.

The whole surface of the dome is mostly glass, making it extremely unideal for projection. After considering several solutions the most unobtrusive and easiest to swallow from the preservationist perspective was covering all the window panes with vinyl. This was an enormous task, both because of the number of window panes and the size of the dome. At over 120 feet this is a very large structure. The job was completed with an long crane, and countless hours from our heroic vinyl technicians. Without this step the projection to follow wouldn’t have been possible.

The dome is canvassed by 9 projectors situated in 360 degrees on the floor around the exterior of the structure. The dome’s interior surface area of 11,781 square feet makes it nearly three times the size of a standard IMAX screen. There were several major technological improvements to our 3d mapping and video playback systems developed specifically for this job to be able to deal with the unique requirements of the dome.

The 4-minute show debuts November 25 at 5pm and runs nightly November 25 – December 31, every half hour, from 6 – 8:30 p.m., except for Sundays, when the Centre closes at 8 p.m.