Gearhouse SA in the TATA Driving Seat


Gearhouse South Africa – via its specialist set, dressing and temporary venue companies Sets, Drapes and Screens (SDS) and In2Structures – custom built both indoor and outdoor stands for Indian automotive giants Tata Motors at the 2008 Johannesburg International Motor Show at the EXPO Centre, Johannesburg.

This project – noted for its visual impact - was managed for Gearhouse SA by Robyn Mulligan.

The indoor stand, designed by Leon Erasmus from Leg Studios in Cape Town, measured nearly 800 square metres and was finished in white Harlequin flooring for an overall clean, clear and very contemporary look. This was used to showcase TATA's newest passenger vehicles and the build was co-ordinated by SDS's Craig Pretorius.

The outdoor stand consisted of a 3 arch MaxiDome structure, used as a roof configuration with 3 straight bays, closed at one end via a spherical dome, with a curved cantilever at the open end. This was used to display TATA's various commercial vehicle ranges, with the build overseen by In2Structures' Otto Wijnberger.


This was the largest project to date for GSA's newest company, SDS.

Leon Erasmus has worked with Gearhouse on many previous projects, and this was his first for TATA. He received a functional brief from the client that included the number of vehicles on display and the operational and branding requirements of the space throughout the show.

Once his daring less-is-more design had been accepted, it was down to Craig Pretorius and the SDS team to realise and build. The stand featured a seating area, information counters and two 6 metre high cabins left and right, carefully ensconced in the infinity curves that were an integral element of the overall stand architecture. The cabins were fully furnished and air-conditioned, and used extensively for meetings, a boardroom, admin/technical areas and kitchens.

A major challenge was sourcing a suitable covering for the entire stand, achieved after considerable research when Pretorius found the Arctic White Harlequin. They needed something durable that would maintain the fluidity of the design. Harlequin dispatched two flooring experts from the UK to assist the SDS team in laying the material.

Gearhouse's Hugh Turner designed the lighting, using Power PARs supplied by UK-based Static Light Company to light the vehicles; plus standard ETC Source Four PARs to highlight selected areas and 400W Metal Halide floodlights to create an overall mood - all of which were rigged on trussing flown in the ceiling above.

Two custom-made circle trusses were hung over the vehicles which carried 12 Martin Professional Mac 2K profiles for the reveal. The lighting accentuated the stand's cool white colours, complimentarily highlighted the products and enhanced the general ambience.

The stand took 6 weeks to build in the SDS workshop in Johannesburg, and 12 days to erect on site.


The main criterion here was to make an impression, which the eye-catching shape and construction of the IN2's hugely flexible 2000 square metre MaxiDome certainly did.

This version of the Dome incorporated a hexagonal mezzanine level for VIP hospitality, with a lounge bar on the upper level accessed by a double staircase, and a cocktail area on the lower deck. This specific Dome stand concept was originated for TATA by Gearhouse's Tim Dunn for Auto Africa in 2006.

The front pair of arches created the braced bays needed for the structure, leaving the remaining two bays with no base details, allowing vehicles to be located in the openings.

Gearhouse supplied all lighting, sound and AV requirements inside the Dome which took a 6-day site build and was used to launch TATA'a new Ace mini truck.

Both TATA stands created a major talking point of the show in terms of design and presentation and were constantly busy. Dickie Khambatta, TATA's Assistant General Manager of Communications comments, “We work with Gearhouse South Africa because of their expertise, commitment to quality, co-operation and fantastic team of people”.

Robyn Mulligan agrees, adding “Gearhouse have been working for TATA since 2006, but this year's assignment was particularly challenging because we were building the Passenger stand (indoors) for the first time. Mr Khambatta has an extraordinary eye for detail and as TATA exhibits at all the major international motor shows, we wanted to deliver a world class stand that would honour the TATA brand. I believe that we did this very successfully due to our fantastic team.”

“Craig, Leon and everyone worked tirelessly to perfect all details. I knew we had got it right when Mr Gupta, Chairman of TATA Sons and TATA International asked me if we could ship the boardroom that was designed especially for him, to India as he would love to have it in his home! As always, Otto and his team from In2Structures built a stand that everyone spoke about with admiration. The sheer size of it was a sight to behold. Otto's structure, combined with all the design elements proved that you can deliver a sophisticated outdoor exhibition stand that aligns itself to the client's brand as well as their need to host their clients in comfort and privacy.”

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