Oct 172013
Take an interactive excursion through total darkness at the Tactile Dome, which reopens on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, at our new home at Pier 15. Crawl, slide, and bump your way through the pitch-dark Dome using your sense of touch as your only guide through its chambers and mazes.


Originally created in 1971, the Dome was designed and built by August Coppola (father of actor Nicolas Cage and brother of film director Francis Ford Coppola) and was rebuilt for Pier 15. Reservations are required.The Tactile Dome, a geodesic experience designed and built as a cooperative effort by TaffGoch, Gerry Toomey, and Dome Inc., announces its Grand Opening on October 30, 2013. This is a bold and interactive experience, and is the feature exhibit in the new $375 million dollarExploratorium Museum on Pier 15, San Francisco.


Tactile or sense of touch is enhanced by this three story experience of hundreds of different textures, from diamond plate and sandpaper, to polycarbonate, a bed of nails and foam. There is even a slide to take you from one floor to the next. The tour takes the better part of an hour, and the most amazing feature of the exhibit is it takes place completely in the dark! The guests must feel their way through the exhibit in total darkness.


The dome required a specific diameter for the display, but the steel beam rafters on the pier required the dome be oblate, or squished to fit. This is a 4 frequency, 7/12, 33′ diameter, oblate geodesic dome built to Kruschke standards.



To make a reservation, please call (415) 528-4444 (select option 5), or make a reservation on site. Please note: Advance reservations are strongly recommended due to limited capacity and high demand. Tickets are nonrefundable and nontransferable to another person, date, or time.

For opening, please note that the reservations phone line opens October 22.



Dome sessions are at 10:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 4:45 p.m. on days when the museum is open. The Dome is also operated on a drop-in basis during adult-only After Dark events; tickets for these events are sold on site only on a first-come, first-served basis.

Each excursion lasts about an hour. During that time, you’re guaranteed one trip through the Dome. If time and operations allow, we’re happy to offer a second turn.


In addition to the cost of admission, Tactile Dome visits are $12 for members; $15 for nonmembers.


*Please Note!

Due to the nature of this experience, certain restrictions apply. Children must be at least seven years old to participate. Guests who are afraid of the dark; claustrophobic; or have back, neck, or knee injuries should not participate. Guests wearing casts are prohibited, and women in their third trimester of pregnancy should not participate. The Dome is an active experience; please wear comfortable clothes.


Tactile Dome: Original 1971 Press Release

The Tactile Dome is an interactive experience through total darkness. It was created in 1971 and is still a popular stop for people visiting the Exploratorium. We thought you might like to read the original press release, which provides a peek into the Tactile Dome’s history.

An internal sculpture exhibit which people will feel but never see goes on exhibit September 9, 1971 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts.

The exhibit, called the Tactile Dome, is encased in a geodesic dome about the size of a large weather balloon. Visitors enter through a light-lock room into a totally dark maze (path). Then, for an hour and fifteen minutes, they feel, bump, slide and crawl through and past hundreds of materials and shapes which blend, change and contrast.

The purpose is to disorient the sensory world so that the only sense the visitor can rely on is touch. The sensation is so outside ordinary experience that a few people panic. An attendant in a control panel can reach every part of the ant-hill like maze almost instantly.

Pre-opening visitors have compared the experience to being born again, turning yourself inside out head first, being swallowed by a whale, and inevitably, being enfolded in a giant womb.

Seemingly the tactile equivalent of a light show, the tour is actually a carefully planned and structured succession of shapes, temperatures and textures which require the full range of the touch sense to perceive.

The idea is to make people aware of what a complex. sensitive and under used sense touch is, and to train them to use the astonishing range of its perceptions, which include detection of pressure, pain, temperature and kinesthesia, as well as cutaneous, internal body and muscle awareness.

Dr. August F. Coppola, whose brainchild the exhibit is, became interested in perceptual prejudice while directing interdisciplinary studies as head of California State College’s Honors Program. He gradually came to realize that philosophy, physics and even psychology have always relied overwhelmingly on visual evidence to interpret the world.

“Yet the irony is that touch is still the test of reality,” said Coppola. It’s the tangible, the concrete, what you can put your finger on when your feet are on the ground.

Coppola believes people are actually prejudiced against the touch sense. “It’s development gets off to a bad start,” he said, “for as soon as we’ve stopped chewing our toes, the first commandment in life is given: “Don’t touch”. The Exploratorium is one of the few museums in the world where visitors are encouraged to touch and even manipulate the exhibits.”

One result of the touch taboo, Coppola believes, is that people become leery of physical contact with each other and the environment and that this leads to a sense of isolation and loneliness. As evidence of our overly-visual values, Coppola points to the overemphasis on fashionable clothes and the benefits of tourism. “This route leads to passive, non-participatory activities like TV watching” he said. Coppola and Carl Day, co-developer of the Tactile Dome, and gallery director at California State College in Long Beach, are leaders in an art revolution which uses people as participants in art experience rather than as targets at which to hurl artistic messages. They believe the revolution, if successful, will greatly affect not only art, advertising and industrial design but even life styles and basic beliefs.

Both claim that improving your haptic powers also increases your visual skills.


Pier 15, San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 528-4444

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