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Having a Ball in Black and White

More than 12,000 revelers danced the night away during this year's Black and White Ball in San Francisco, a biennial fund-raiser for the San Francisco Symphony. A local tradition, the event spread out over nine venues and included 50 musical acts.

A different design team decorated each venue, but the San Francisco Symphony gave all designers the same guidelines: Stick with a black-and-white color scheme and spend no more than $5,000.

Image Three of Walnut Creek, Calif., took on the task of decorating the newly renovated Beaux Arts City Hall, the venue where the symphony itself would perform.

"Because San Francisco has a large Asian population, we wanted to do Asian-themed decor," partner Bob Gonas explains. One of the company's suppliers got hold of an "enormous stand of naturally black bamboo"-which fit both the event's color scheme and the team's Asian theme perfectly. "We bought every single stalk-at least 1,000 pounds in all," Gonas says.

Image Three assembled the bamboo stalks into 20 42-inch white urns and placed them atop 36-inch pedestals throughout the city hall corridors. Bamboo stalks also served as poles for white banners bearing the names of dances in an Asian-inspired typeface. The banners flanked the columns that lined the three main lobbies. "The decor needed an element that would bring in what the evening was all about-dancing," Gonas explains.

The Image Three team designed the letters by hand, created stencils and then painted in each letter on the banners by hand. "It was the only thing we could do to keep the price down," Gonas notes, explaining that the alternative-silk-screening the banners-would have exceeded the limited budget.

The team also floated nine 20-foot banners adorned with 4-foot Chinese paper lanterns from the building's giant rotunda. "Getting those banners up there was a nightmare," Gonas recalls. "Our crew was quite literally hanging over the edge of the rotunda, eight stories high-it makes me nervous just thinking about it." Light added the final element, with gobo projections of Chinese characters sending bright red patterns across the floor.

The outcome was worth the effort: The banners produced a simple, elegant effect, drawing attention upward without distracting from the massive, vaulted dome.-T.M.

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