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Building an Empire

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Building an Empire

Moriah Chang, Staff Writer

How do you build a fantasy universe like Star Wars? Well, the answer lies close to home. George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away might appear to be fantastical, but its carefully designed planets are actually home to a myriad of architectural styles that are sourced from here on Earth. Let’s take a closer look with the help of experts to unravel the architectural inspirations behind various Star Wars planets, and discover how their design has come to influence architecture in the real world.

In January 1973, George Lucas produced his first draft for the Star Wars franchise. The script did not come easily to the director, who always considered himself to be more of a filmmaker than a screenwriter. However, the universe in his mind was already bulging at the seams. Having failed to secure the rights to science fiction serial “Flash Gordon”, Lucas set his sights on creating his own type of galaxy. However, movie bosses were skeptical. According to the creative art manager at Lucasfilm, Phil Szostak, “From the beginning, George and production illustrator Ralph McQuarrie grounded the world of Star Wars in an Earth-bound reality.”

Overall, the visual language of Star Wars takes symbols and landscapes from a multitude of different cultures and faiths around the world to carefully create and depict an alien universe. According to the Lucasfilm executive creative director Doug Chiang, “Episodes I, II, and III were grounded in the [designs of the] ‘20s and ‘30s … episodes IV, V, and VI were grounded in the heavy manufacturing of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The current sequels,” he added, “reflect our times.”

The journey through Lucas’ galaxy takes place in Mayan ziggurats, examples of Baroque, Art Nouveau, Modernist and Brutalist architecture, the Classical era, the early Middle Ages, and even the aesthetic of the Third Reich. After eight films and $7.7 billion in box office receipts, this bricolage was expanded in Episode VII: The Last Jedi.

The planet Naboo, home to Luke and Leia’s mother Padme, was first introduced in Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999. The peaceful earth-like environment was inspired by a mixture of European architectural styles on the ground and was heavily influenced by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright was a massive influence on Lucas. Wright’s American, organic style proved to be a good match for the nature-loving citizens of Naboo. The Gungans dwelling on Naboo were criticized by Star Wars fans, but their underwater home was one of the most complicated in the galaxy. The intricate metal work echoes that of Art Nouveau, a school of architecture that emphasizes natural forms.

Whether you’re familiar with the Star Wars franchise or not, I hope you’ve now gained a greater understanding of the unique architecture behind Star Wars!

Graphic courtesy of UPLOAD.WIKIMEDIA.ORG

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