Location: San Francisco | Year: 2013/14 | Size: 100m x 18m



Dreamforce is the world’s largest software conference. Held annually in San Francisco, this most unconventional convention features keynote addresses from some of the most influential tech industry leaders such as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Headline entertainment also includes artists such as Green Day, Blondie, Huey Lewis and the News and the Beach Boys.

Hosted by Salesforce.com, a global cloud computing company based in San Francisco, the Dreamforce event is staged at the Moscone Conference Center and much of the surrounding area including Howard Street which is closed to traffic for the duration of the extravaganza. 160,000 attendees have the opportunity to choose from 1,250 sessions at multiple venues and to visit an expanded Cloud Expo, featuring more than 350 cloud computing companies.

Dreamforce had traditionally been held in the summer but the organisers decided that the 2013 event would be held in November. The focal point of the event, the Dreamforce Plaza on Howard Street, had always been an uncovered area but concerns about the potential for bad weather at this time of year led the organisers, experience marketing specialists George P Johnson, to approach Tectoniks to provide a solution.

The Brief

The brief was to cover Howard Street with a structure measuring over 100 metres (330 feet) long with a span of 18 metres (60ft). It also included the requirement that the structure should provide shelter from bad weather whilst maintaining an open and airy feel. It should also reflect the high-tech nature of the event, be totally unique, and satisfy the stringent safety requirements of the local authorities.

Since the structure would have no ‘back-of house’ area, there could be no visible inflation equipment, hoses, anchors, cables or any equipment that could present a trip hazard or detract from the aesthetics and impact of the structure.

Our Solution

We proposed a structure comprised of high pressure inflatable tubes interspersed with low pressure hexagonal pillows – a technology it has been developing for a number of years. The result is akin to the bubble architecture of iconic buildings such as the Eden Project Biomes and the aquatic centre at the Beijing Olympics, but without the need for a rigid metal framework.

A combination of translucent and transparent materials for the pillows permitted the amount of light entering the structure to be tailored to the client’s requirements whilst providing ideal surfaces for gaining the maximum impact from lighting.

In order to fulfil the brief for a clutter-free installation, Tectoniks designed a bespoke set of concrete ‘shoes’ on which the structure would sit. The shoes not only served as kentledge (ballast) which could secure the structure in wind speeds up to 70mph, but they also contained all the inflation equipment, hoses and valves required to pressurise the structure. They could also be used as benches during the event thanks to their low profile design and smooth finish.

To simplify transportation and handling, the structure was manufactured in six sections. Five of these would be joined together on site to form one long structure covering the length of Howard Street in front of the Moscone Center. The sixth would be used as a stand-alone entranceway to the street and the event as a whole.

The Outcome

Working to a tight delivery deadline, Tectoniks designed and manufactured the structure at our factory in Shropshire. Each completed section was test inflated and inspected before packing. One of the major advantages of inflatable structures are their small packed size. The entire structure complete with inflation equipment was loaded into a single ISO container and delivered to the site in San Francisco on time.

Since staging the event involved the closing of Howard Street, one of the main roads through the heart of San Francisco, the installation had to be performed in a single night to minimise disruption to the city. Once the road had been closed by city officials (and a couple of traffic lights removed), Tectoniks crew worked through the night, with additional labour provided by the client, to complete the installation on time.

“The best Dreamforce ever!”
Marc Benioff
CEO, Salesforce.com


2014 IFAI Outstanding Achievement Award

Images of this project on Flickr