Exploration of Star Wars Architecture: In a Galaxy Far Away, Using the Tangible for Futuristic Visualizations

Exploration of Star Wars Architecture: In a Galaxy Far Away, Using the Tangible for Futuristic Visualizations

Depicting architectural visualizations of the future is no easy task, so it makes sense for designers to use aspects of our existing architecture as the basis for these fictional worlds. Despite recent advancements in animation and CGI technologies, the existing architecture is still widely used 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 hybrid style, an amalgamation of retro, dystopian, modernist and futuristic themes. From the resurgence of ancient pyramids and temples to skylines reminiscent of New York City, visualizations vary based on different notions of what our future might look like.

Anakin's house on Tatooine.  Image via Star Wars, The Phantom Menace/George LucasThe Planet City of Coruscant.  Image via Star Wars, The Phantom Menace/George LucasPalace of Theed, Naboo shot in Plaza de España in Seville, Spain.  Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George LucasThe Jedi Archives.  Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George Lucas+ 13

Anakin's house on Tatooine.  Image via Star Wars, The Phantom Menace/George Lucas
Anakin’s house on Tatooine. Image via Star Wars, The Phantom Menace/George Lucas

Perhaps the most varied sci-fi film in terms of architectural visualization is the Star Wars saga. On George Lucas’ fictional desert planet Tatooine, a place devoid of natural resources, the architecture comes across as crude, modest, and unadorned. The Ghorfa were primarily featured in the film Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, from several locations in southern Tunisia, including Ksar Hadada. Used as rooms to store grain, these simplistic forms of land were transformed into high-density dwellings. Primitive forms in contrast with high-tech.


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Theed Palace, Naboo.  Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George Lucas
Theed Palace, Naboo. Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George Lucas
Palace of Theed, Naboo shot in Plaza de España in Seville, Spain.  Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George Lucas
Palace of Theed, Naboo shot in Plaza de España in Seville, Spain. Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George Lucas

In Episode II, Attack of the Clones, unlike the humble quarters on Tatooine is the architecture of the planet Naboo. With utopian cities built by advanced civilizations, the city of Theed can be envisioned using the Plaza de España in Seville, Spain. Designed by architect Anibal Gonzalez for the 1929 Universal Exhibition in Seville, it is built in the neo-traditional style. The ornate pavilion, colonnade and fountains provide a beautiful backdrop to this thriving metropolis.

The Planet City of Coruscant.  Image via Star Wars, The Phantom Menace/George Lucas
The Planet City of Coruscant. Image via Star Wars, The Phantom Menace/George Lucas

The city of Coruscant, capital of the ancient republic and seat of the Jedi temple, presents a dense ecumenopolism. As a cosmopolitan city and galactic capital, it is visually as futuristic as it is conceivable. With a skyline based on those of Modern New York and the contemporary cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, it depicts the architecture of the future that will be densely populated, a hive of activity dominated by urban sprawl.

The Jedi Temple, Coruscant.  Image via Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith/George Lucas
The Jedi Temple, Coruscant. Image via Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith/George Lucas
The Jedi Temple, Coruscant.  Image via Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith/George Lucas
The Jedi Temple, Coruscant. Image via Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith/George Lucas

Ancient themes still saturate visions of the future, the temple of the Jedi presents itself in the typology of a Mayan temple. Designed as both a fortress and a place of worship, it features a revetment for additional defensive strength. With five spiers, including the “tranquility” spire, they offer similarities to the minarets of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

The Jedi Archives.  Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George Lucas
The Jedi Archives. Image via Star Wars, Attack of the Clones/George Lucas

The Jedi Archive is modeled after the long historic library of Trinity College Dublin (1712-1732). As one of the most impressive libraries in the world, it’s not hard to see why there are echoes of influence between the movie library and the real-life one. A very similar vaulted barrel vault runs the 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 while remaining the same at its core. Traditional architectural elements that can be transferred to future visualizations.

Jabba's Palace, Tatooine.  Image via Star Wars, Return of the Jedi/George Lucas
Jabba’s Palace, Tatooine. Image via Star Wars, Return of the Jedi/George Lucas

The Palace of Jabba the Hutt, an exotic temple with rounded Brutalist forms and Byzantine influence, presents a monumental yet unconventional approach to stone and steel palace architecture. Influenced by Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, and possibly the Śneżka Meteorological Observatory in Poland (1974), it combines both traditional and modernist themes to create an innovative perception of futuristic palaces.

Entrance to Jabba's Palace, Tatooine.  Image via Star Wars, Return of the Jedi/George Lucas
Entrance to Jabba’s Palace, Tatooine. Image via Star Wars, Return of the Jedi/George Lucas

It’s hardly what I would call a palace, Artoo. Looks more like an iron foundry – C-3PO to R2-D2 approaching Jabba’s Palace

AT-AT walkers on Hoth.  Image via Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back/George Lucas
AT-AT walkers on Hoth. Image via Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back/George Lucas

Ron Herron’s “A Walking City” as part of the Archigram movement of the 1960s bears a striking resemblance to the “all-terrain armored transport (AT-AT) walkers” seen in the franchise. As an avant-garde and neo-futurist architectural movement that based much of its work on ideas of a dystopian future, it drew inspiration from technology to create a new reality with architecture at the both mobile and dynamic. The “Walking City” vision (1964) proposed a city that could cross both water and land; a nomadic city that would remain adaptable to its environment. The AT-AT also exhibits 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.

The Death Star.  Image via Star Wars, Return of the Jedi/George Lucas
The Death Star. Image via Star Wars, Return of the Jedi/George Lucas

To portray the stark contrast between the republic and the galactic empire, the saga used a heavy influence of brutalism to portray the brutal nature of the empire itself. The austere and dehumanizing qualities of the heavy materials and forms of the Brutalist style create menacing overtones, setting the scene. The Death Star embodied many of these qualities with additional influence on the idea of ​​Suprematism, an abstract movement originally defined by Russian artist Kazimir Malevich in the 1910s. block color and geometric shapes floating in space, much like the space station suspended in space.

Entry on the Death Star.  Image via Star Wars, A New Hope/George Lucas
Entry on the Death Star. Image via Star Wars, A New Hope/George Lucas

Future architectural visualizations in Star Wars will continue to use influence from a wide range of existing architectural sources to provide a realistic representation of the future, as the franchise does not have a single architectural style. It must tell a vast area of ​​the galaxy, each planet having its own history, its climate and its civilization; a variety of architecture for a variety of worlds. As a film set in our own world and not fully animated/with virtual sets like Avatar, producers must use real locations, be it historical sites, cities, desert dwellings or temples to create an enchanting representation of the future. Hybridization of existing styles to remain convincing, plausible and above all striking, for a cinematic effect.

This article is part of the ArchDaily topics: The Future of Architectural Visualizations, proudly brought to you by Enscape, the most intuitive real-time rendering and virtual reality plugin for Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, Archicad, and Vectorworks. Enscape connects directly to your modeling software, giving you an integrated visualization and design workflow.

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