Much of the magic of the Star Wars films derives from the fantastic landscapes and exotic built environments that serve as backdrops for its intergalactic tales of empires and rebellions. But when world-makers like George Lucas create these places, they often draw on real architects and architecture for inspiration, including the last and largest work of starchitect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Located north of San Francisco, the Marin County Civic Center consists of a massive rotunda housing a public library, offset by a strong vertical spire and long Hall of Justice (a classic Wright move to emphasize and juxtapose both horizontals and verticals). These same features can be found in the heart of Naboo, a Mid Rim world (near the Outer Rim Territories) featured across a series of Star Wars films.
As with their cinematic counterparts, Wright’s structures for Marin were designed to relate to the landscape – curved blue roofs pick up on the tones of the sky above while beige/pink walls tie into the earthen surroundings. Arched supports and the voids they create at different scales are also immediately recognizable as similar between the original Terrestrial architecture and its echos in Star Wars scenes.
For Wright as well as Lucas, there is an underlying idea at work in the design: a combining of grandeur worthy of civic architecture but also an aspiration toward something democratic, beautiful but accessible. The settings are also similar: complex and lush landscapes, fitting a similar vision found in both the architect’s and filmmaker’s works: a focus on working architecture into natural settings rather than envisioning dense cities. Lucas has directly acknowledged a debt to Wright for inspiring the architecture found in the Star Wars franchise, but has yet to announce whether he will be working on a sequel story: some of us are still waiting on Starchitecture Wars.