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Architecture

TV Series Fringe Displaces Daniel Libeskind

[screenshot of Fringe via fringepedia (already? really?)]

Last night saw the official premiere of J.J. Abrams’ new series, Fringe (which was completely awesome by the way), but any architectural savvy television viewers who saw a “sneak peak” —authorized or otherwise—may have been surprised to see the work of a very familiar architect displaced from Toronto to New York City. The mysterious uber-corporation in Fringe, Massive Dynamic, had apparently built their headquarters right down the street from the Empire State Building in a structure that, as originally included in the pilot episode, can’t be mistaken for anything other than a Daniel Libeskind-inspired design. But it’s more than just inspired! It’s an exact replica of Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum.

The fake-company has also used the building in their fake-website logo. Life Without Buildings fully endorses the fictional use of unbuilt architecture but come on Mr. Abrams! The pilot for your new TV show cost $10,000,000. Did you really need to copy an existing building? We know how well that worked out for Terry Gilliam. There are no unbuilt projects in the annals of Contemporary Architecture (assuming Contemporary Architecture has annals) that could have been used? Although it was probably a wise move to replace the recognizable structure with a more generic building in the final cut, for that kind of money maybe Fringe could’ve hired someone to…oh, I don’t know…come up with an original design! An aspiring young architecture firm, perhaps?

Television shows and movies should start holding architecture competitions inviting young firms to design fictional buildings. Can someone in LA start working on that please?

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Architecture

Future Megastructures, Starship Breaking, and Independence Day 2

As the human race dares to venture further out into space, we’re going to have to adapt our construction methods for large-scale space travel — think starships, space docks, habitable satellites, and other mega-objects too insanely large for construction on this gravity-well we call Earth. In a thought-provoking article, scifi blog io9 takes a look at the far future of construction, because as it tends to do, science fiction will probably inspire many of the eventual designs of real-life galactic monoliths. Among the hundreds of possible examples from the annals of the genre, two of the megastructure construction facilities that I find most compelling are the planet-building factory in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (pictured above) and Star Trek’s Federation shipyards (we’ll avoid the hotly-contested debate surrounding the construction location of the original U.S.S. Enterprise). While the full-scale construction of entire planets is nothing less than awe-inspiring, it’s also of a scale that’s kind of…difficult to comprehend. Off-planet shipyards, however, are entirely within the realm of reason…relatively speaking, of course. And with spaceship construction yards, come spaceship breaking yards.

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Architecture

Rem Koolhaas, Tunisia, and Sandcrawlers

It would appear that the Star Wars Universe owes another debt to architecture. A reader sent in the above image with a note saying that the Hotel du Lac in Tunisia may have served as the inspiration for the Sandcrawlers used by the Jawas to travel across Tatooine. Another visit to Wookiepedia (an increasingly important Life Without Buildings resource) tells us that filming for A New Hope largely took place in Tunisia, so it’s entirely possible that this building did, in fact, have an influence on the production design. BONUS: a little trivia for you Extended Universe fans — “du Lac” was the origin of the “Dulok,” the natural enemies of the Ewoks. But wait, there’s more!

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Architecture

Otto Wagner and the Millennium Falcon

The Millennium Falcon. As Han Solo’s ship, it played a crucial role in the victory of The Rebellion over the Empire in the Star Wars films. Imagine my shock when I saw the infamous smuggling vessel in the pages of an architecture book about banks. A quick visit to “Wookieepedia” tells us that prop designer Ralph McQuarrie based the design of the Millennium Falcon on a “half-eaten hamburger next to an olive on a toothpick held by George Lucas.” However, I’m more inclined to believe he was flipping through the pages of an Otto Wagner book and came across his 1880 design for the central offices of the Vienna Giro und Kassenverein competition. Behold, the first and only piece of evidence to support this theory:

On the left, Wagner’s plan and on the right, a line drawing of the Millennium Falcon. Sure, it could just be a coincidence that a prop designer, inspired by a random grouping of hamburger, olives, and George Lucas’s fingers, recreated an unbuilt design by one of the fathers of the Vienna Secession, but the damning evidence that surely proves otherwise is the off-center cockpit (to the right in the Wagner scheme and on the left of the MF). The rounded-off appendage is just too quirky a design anomaly in both schemes — and so similarly located. Whereas the Falcon consists of multiple hidden compartments and complex passages for a network of hacked-together electrical wiring, Wagner’s design consists of a circular lobby leading to a grand processional route that culminates in a semi-circular bank of tellers’ desks and bank offices. The plan’s unique form was a response to the awkward site, and although the proposal did NOT win, Wagner was able to adapt the plan for use at the Landerbank, also in Vienna:


So now two questions remain: 1) What other proto-modern buildings have inspired starship schematics? 2) If Wagner’s bank was built, could it have made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs?

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Categories
Architecture

Death Star Architecture Around the Globe

It’s a case of life imitating art as Death Stars sprout around the globe and the inevitable struggle between competing Galactic Empires will surely annihilate the planet. Rem Koolhaas strikes first with a new scheme for Dubai. It’s like Manhattan…but way more futuristic and in the desert:

Development for Dubai by OMA

The 44-story sphere is actually a “a self-contained three-dimensional urban neighborhood” containing smaller spheres joined together by a series of tubes. As is their nature, OMA seem to be establishing a new intra-office archetype (quick, call the patent office!), as this scheme is not entirely dissimilar from the one they visited with the RAK Convention and Exhibition Centre…