It’s Star Wars Day, did you hear? You’re probably already familiar with the unofficial holiday and you might be planning a socially distant evening of Star Wars streaming of your own, tonight. The ever-growing sci-fi series has been a cult classic since it first debuted in the 1970s and, unsurprisingly, it’s inspired architects and designers, alike. But, did you know that many of the places in the movies also drew inspiration from real-world locations? To bring a little more Star Wars to your day, we’re looking at some of the places that inspired the landscape of the franchise, bear a resemblance to it, or took pointers from the movies. And of course, “May the Fourth be with you.”
The Planet of Naboo
First appearing in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Naboo is a small, lush, and seemingly utopian planet. In the planet’s capital city of Theed, the architecture is old, and somewhat familiar, with flowering vines crawling over almost every surface. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright is most commonly associated with the planet’s aesthetic as it is largely believed that the Marin County Civic Centre, drafted by Wright in 1960, served as inspiration for the blue domed buildings of Theed. The structures are also reminiscent of mosque architecture like that found in Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. In fact, David Reat, of the University of Strathclyde, once described the Theed Palace as a “fusion between Marin, the Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul.”
Spain is also closely tied to the bountiful fictional planet as it was integral in the creation and filming of scenes for the movies. The Plaza de España designed by architect Aníbal González in Seville, served as a filming location for parts of Episode I, II, and III. Many locations were heavily altered in production during the movies, and the Plaza de España was no exception; however, the plaza’s concept shines through in the Star Wars movies. Ultimately, the Seville semi-circle complex is completed as a tweak between reality and fantasy while the signature Wright-inspired blue domes adorn the Seville-inspired location to create the final Star Wars landmark.
The Republic Executive Buildings and Senate Office Building
Located on the planet of Coruscant, the Senate building is a central component to the Star Wars saga, particularly the prequels. It’s alien half-saucer shaped structure becomes less sci-fi when you know where to look.
The lower dome of the Senate building has an Earthly counterpart that can be found in Switzerland. Built in 2014 and designed by Bernard Tschumi Architects, the Carnal Hall at Le Rosey shares many similarities with the fictitious building. Head over to Brazillia, Brazil’s capital city, and you’ll find the Brazilian National Congress, inaugurated in 1960 and designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. The long, white building features an upturned bowl, two central towers, and low dome. A shining example of modernist architecture in the city, the dome houses Brazil’s senate and might have served as the muse for the Senate building on Coruscant.
Jabba The Hutt’s Palace
The infamous, slimy crime lord who held Princess Leia, clad in her iconic gold bikini, captive also had a pretty impressive palace on the planet of Tatooine. The structure boasts three main buildings of sand-blasted metal, each bearing a ring of windows and domed roof. Nestled amongst the rocky desert landscape, the palace feels at home when set against a horizon with setting suns. Jabba’s home, though, might have drawn inspiration from the Śneżka Meteorological Observatory in Poland and when compared side-by-side, their similarities are easy to spot. Built in 1974, just a few years before Star Wars hit the silver screen, the observatory was designed by architects Witold Lipiński and Waldemar Wawrzyniak. On its own, the Polish observatory feels other-worldly as it was inspired by a fascination with UFOs that gripped the world during the 1950s. Controversial at the time of construction, the observatory now feels like the cold weather answer to Jabba’s desert abode.
On the topic of Tatooine, the desert planet and home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, the low lying, arched dwellings found there bring to mind real world sites for good reason. Much of the scenes from Tatooine were shot on location in Tunisia, where you can also find store houses, called ghorfas, similar to the homes shown on the fictional planet in the Star Wars movies. Ksar Ouled Soltane, for example, is one of the Berber communities in Tunisia’s southern city of Tataouine that hugely resembles the cities found on Tatooine. The famous igloo-like structure where Luke Skywalker was raised, is in fact a real building that can still be reached today from Chott El Jerid, a dried-up salt lake in Tunisia. Additionally, Tataouine lended its name to the fictional planet in addition to its architecture and climate.
A beastly mash up of architecture and transportation, the Jawa Sandcrawlers make appearances from the earliest Star Wars episodes to the most recent series The Mandalorian. Home to the Jawas, the Sandcrawler slowly makes its way across a landscape providing shelter and defence for its inhabitants. While the Sandcrawler isn’t a real creation, it bears a striking resemblance to new architectural feats.
One place you’ll find a Sandcrawler-esque building is in Porto, Portugal. The Casa de Música, home of the National Orchestra of Porto, was constructed in 2005 and designed by OMA. Made of white concrete, the building looks as though a Sandcrawler got a massive facelift and was dropped in the centre of a city. Thousands of miles away in Singapore, is another Sandcrawler-inspired structure. Created by Aedas architect Andrew Bromberg, this building was purposefully modeled after the Jawas’ rolling fortresses. Sheathed in glass, the building opened in 2013 as the Singapore headquarters for Lucasfilms and is fittingly called The Sandcrawler.
The Death Star
Finally, we come to one of the most iconic structures of the entire Star Wars franchise: the Death Star. As the Empire’s “ultimate weapon,” the spherical space station had the power to destroy an entire planet and has made its way to Earth through the form of a few different architectural concepts.
OMA, the architectural firm who created Porto’s Casa de Música, finds their way into this list twice with a design concept for the RAK Convention and Exhibition Centre for the United Arab Emirates. The moon-like structure of the design even features a crater similar to that found on the Death Star. Another Dark Side-inspired creation comes from Heerim Architects who, in 2007, proposed plans for a hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan. The hotel, dubbed Full Moon hotel, would sit across Baku’s bay from Crescent Hotel and would be composed of a disc shape with a sleek hole near one edge. Though it wouldn’t be spherical, when viewed from certain vantage points, the design recalls the Death Star’s infamous form. Neither design has come to fruition, yet, but if and when they do, they’ll certainly have the attention of Star Wars fans.