Using Chicago skyscrapers as inspirations for spaceships

“Jupiter Ascending” may not be very good but some of the spaceships are based on Chicago architecture:

When Hull came to Chicago, the Wachowskis began peppering him with reference photographs of Chicago buildings, facades, landmarks, ornamental detail and infrastructure. “Of all the directors I have worked with, they are by far the most architecture-minded,” he said. “They wanted a very decorative vision for the ships, almost Louis XIV-like in places, existing alongside this other aesthetic, far more gothic and less feminine.”

Indeed, the Wachowskis, who started a small construction company and worked as carpenters before becoming filmmakers, wanted the two warring ships at the center of “Jupiter Ascending” to somewhat reflect Chicago itself. “I like how the great curling femininity of the Frank Gehry (Pritzker Pavilion) is juxtaposed against the weight of those harsh, more severe buildings on Michigan Avenue,” Lana said. “I liked that tension in Chicago, that something as elegant as a big river can curl through so many grandiose statements. When we were looking at the design of the ships, we kept exploring this, placing almost baroque, exuberant levels of detail on one end, while on the other, contrasting a rigorous, rational logic.”…

“But also I really love the top of the Carbide & Carbon Building (on Michigan Avenue),” Lana said. So its lighthouse peak informs the back of Titus’ ship, while the front is, well, a play on the flying buttresses that shape the top of the Tribune Tower. “But I often wasn’t flamboyant enough for the Wachowskis,” Hull said. So the gold-green design along the facade of the Carbide building is mirrored on the outside of the ship. And inside: The ceiling of the ship’s loading dock is reminiscent of the dense mosaics in the Chicago Cultural Center ceilings; the long, vaulted chapel is vaguely similar to the reading room of the Newberry Library. “Which was a sanctuary for me as a kid,” Lana said, “where I went when I cut school.”

Balem, played by Eddie Redmayne, is the imperialist, the severe, ominous bully. His ship, therefore, is gothic, less curvaceous than Titus’ ride. The front end, its T-shaped bow, has some inspiration in the terra-cotta faces that watch from the facade of the old Tree Studios building on Ontario Street. And there are hints of the former Midway Gardens entertainment venue in Hyde Park, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (torn down in 1929). “His ship is more of a towering, hard-looking, Albert Speer-ish brutalism,” Hull said, “but it would be too on the nose for his designs to just reflect that, to not suggest Balem wouldn’t want some ornamental embellishment to his world.” So, his boardroom has touches of the latticework beneath the Loop “L” tracks.

An interesting source of inspiration for objects – spaceships – that we might typically think are otherwordly or something completely different. Additionally, buildings are pretty static, even if they are involved in dynamic social settings, while spaceships have incredible mobility. But, as noted in this earlier post about The Hunger Games, it is difficult to make something completely new. Human creativity rarely involves completely innovative ideas that have never been expressed before but rather often involves taking existing forms and objects and doing new things with the mix. So, in trying to imagine the future, why not draw some on the past while also adding potential changes?

This is also a reminder that Chicago architecture is influential. If we do get to an age of large spacecraft, would Chicago still be a major inspiration? Could we have competing fleets based on different global cities?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s