Exploring the Architecture of Star Wars: In a Galaxy Far Away, Using the Tangible for Futuristic Visualizations
Depicting architectural visualizations of the future is no easy feat, so it makes much sense for designers to use aspects of our existing architecture as a foundation for these fictional worlds. Despite recent advancements in terms of animation technologies and CGI, there is still substantial use of existing architecture to provide tangible structural elements in film.
In terms of recycling architectural aesthetics, elements of the past and future are often integrated to create a hybridized style, an amalgamation of Retro, Dystopian, Modernist and Futuristic themes. From the resurgence of ancient pyramids and temples, to skylines reminiscent of the city of New York, visualizations vary depending on different notions of what our future may look like.
Perhaps the most varied Sci-fi movies in terms of architectural visualization is the Star Wars saga. On George Lucas’s fictional desert planet of Tatooine, a location lacking natural resources, the architecture presents itself as unrefined, modest and unornamented. Ghorfa’s were predominantly featured in the film Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, from multiple locations in Southern Tunisia including the Ksar Hadada. Used as rooms to store grain, these simplistic earth forms have been transformed into high-density dwellings. Primitive forms in contrast with the high-tech.
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In Episode II, Attack of the clones, contrary to the modest quarters on Tatooine is the architecture of the planet Naboo. With Utopian cities built by advanced civilizations, the city of Theed can be seen envisaged using the Plaza de España in Seville, Spain. Designed by Architect Anibal Gonzalez for the 1929 World exhibition in Seville, it is built in the traditional revival style. The ornate pavilion, colonnade and fountains offer a magnificent setting for this prosperous metropolis.
The city of Coruscant, the capital of the old republic and the home of the Jedi temple, portrays a dense ecumenopolis. As a cosmopolitan city and galactic capital, visually it is as futuristic as conceivable. With a skyline based upon those of streamline Moderne New York and the contemporary cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, it depicts architecture of the future to be densely populated, a hive of activity dominated by urban sprawl.
Ancient themes still saturate visions of the future, the temple of the Jedi presents itself within the typology of a Mayan temple. Designed as both a stronghold and a place of worship, it presents cladding for extra defensive strength. With five spires, including the ‘tranquillity’ spire, they offer similarities with the minarets at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.
Modelled upon the historic long room library of Trinity College, Dublin (1712-1732) is the Jedi archives. As one of the most impressive libraries in the world it’s not hard to see why there are echoes of influence between the library in the movie and that of real life. A very similar arched barrel vault runs the entire length of the room and a selection of busts and figures mirror those seen at Trinity College. It suggests the timeless nature of library design, how it can continue to evolve yet remain the same at its core. Traditional architectural elements that can be transferred into future visualizations.
Jabba the Hutt’s palace, an exotic temple with rounded Brutalist forms and Byzantine influence presents a monumental yet unconventional approach to palace architecture in stone and steel. With influence from the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul and perhaps the Śneżka Meteorological Observatory in Poland (1974) it combines both traditional and Modernist themes to create an innovative perception of futuristic palaces.
That is scarcely what I would call a palace, Artoo. It looks more like an iron foundry – C-3PO to R2-D2 as they approach Jabba’s Palace
Ron Herron’s ‘A Walking City’, as part of the Archigram movement of the 1960’s, bares striking resemblance to the ‘All terrain armoured transport (AT-AT) walkers’ seen in the franchise. As an Avant-Garde and Neo-futuristic architectural movement that based much of its work upon the ideas of a dystopian future, it drew inspiration from technology to create a new reality with architecture that would be both mobile and dynamic. The ‘Walking City’ (1964) vision proposed a city that could walk across both water and land; a nomadic city that would remain adaptable to its environment. The AT-AT also presents these adaptable qualities, at a height of 22.5 meters this incredibly intimidating war machine could face combat in an array of diverse planetary environments.
To depict the stark contrast between the republic and the galactic empire, the saga used heavy influence from Brutalism to represent the brutal nature of the empire itself. The austere and dehumanizing qualities of the heavy materials and forms in the Brutalist style create menacing overtones, setting the scene. The Death Star embodied much of these qualities with further influence form the idea of Suprematism, an abstract movement originally defined by the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich in the 1910’s. This concentrated ideas of block colour and geometric forms floating in space, much like the space station suspended in space.
The future of architectural visualizations in Star Wars will continue to use influence from a diverse array of existing architectural sources to provide a feasible portrayal of the future, since the franchise does not have a unique architectural style. It has to narrate a broad area of the galaxy, with each planet with its own history climate and civilization; varied architecture for varied worlds. As a movie that is shot in our own world and not entirely animated/with virtual sets like Avatar, the producers have to use real locations whether they be historic sites, cities, desert dwellings or temples to create an enchanting depiction of the future. Hybridization of existing styles to remain compelling, plausible and most importantly of all striking, for cinematic effect.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: The Future of Architectural Visualizations, proudly presented by Enscape, the most intuitive real-time rendering and virtual reality plugin for Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, Archicad, and Vectorworks. Enscape plugs directly into your modeling software, giving you an integrated visualization and design workflow.
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