National Geographic's first annual "Evening of Exploration" begins with the 400 guests enjoying cocktails in a tent in the courtyard of the society's headquarters. Bar-height black mirror tables are topped with cascades of succulents and abstract florals in bulbous glass containers filled with milk, to look like jellyfish washed ashore.
The event team creates a "beach" atmosphere; the handmade back bar is decorated with seahorse-like creatures made from old CDs and DVDs.
A platform spans the courtyard's fountain, bordered by giant boulders, creating a place for guests to mingle on white leather furniture groupings.
The white Lucite bar glows with blue light.
Another view of the cocktail area.
Guests follow a Caribbean blue carpet into the main building, where they are greeted with oversize images from National Geographic explorers' undersea expeditions.
Lucite columns flank the entrance to the "sea floor."
The columns are filled with sparkling crystals and mirror pieces, like bubbles underwater, flanked by Morning Glory creatures, fabric jellyfish and free-standing undulate forms.
Another view of the entrance to the "sea floor."
The "before": The society's plain Jane cafeteria, which the event team transforms into ....
... the stunning sea floor.
The event team creates an aquarium-like experience with decor cascading from the ceiling, enveloping the perimeter and "growing" from dinner tables.
Hand-cut fabrics suspended from the ceiling mimic sea grasses.
Custom screens, 180 feet wide and 14 feet tall, cover the cafeteria's windows and enable the event team to project videos of sea life--filmed by National Geographic explorers--throughout the evening.
Tables--a mixture of rectangles, squares and rounds in translucent, transparent and reflective surfaces--create a sense of movement and mysterious light.
Centerpieces resembling coral reefs seem to "grow" out of center of the table and up to the ceiling, adding to the guests' sense of being on the ocean floor. Custom Manzanita branches are dusted in blue and green and encrusted in shells and "coral," which was actually made from resin.
Centerpieces incorporate shells, "coral," moss, eucalyptus and horse-tail fern, accented with candles.
A longer view.
Clear glass tables with chrome bases feature hanging arrangements of foliage unwinding from the ceiling canopy.
Custom lighting replicates the effect of changes in daylight underwater. The ceiling and tables are washed in cool blues, greens and purples while the perimeter of the room is uplit in both stagnant and color-changing LED fixtures.
Some 6,000 yards of different fabrics were hand-cut by the event team to create the undersea stalactites and sea grasses.
A glowing table.
The back wall is decorated with a "reef"--made from paper plates and coffee filters--decked with sea urchins, barnacles and coral in a collage with National Geographic images of sea life. Tiling CDs created a reflective surface that gave the appearance of fish scales.
The mix of reflective table surfaces helps bounce light around the room, giving guests the sense of being on the ocean floor.
A long view.
For more examples of beach-theme events, click here. For more beautiful Photo Galleries, click here.