Home to Luke and Leia’s mother Padme, the planet Naboo was first properly introduced in “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999). The peaceful Earth-like idyll from space was a mishmash of European architectural styles on the ground, often informed by the sensibilities of Frank Lloyd Wright.
“Wright was a massive influence on Lucas,” says [David] Reat [director of postgraduate studies in architecture at the University of Strathclyde]. The American’s organic style, designing in harmony with his buildings’ surrounds, was a good match for the nature-loving people of Naboo.
One Wright project in particular inspired Naboo’s architecture. Marin County Civic Center, in San Rafael, California, was the last commission undertaken by the great architect. It was a building Lucas was familiar with; the Lucasfilm campus Skywalker Ranch is an 11-mile drive away, and the director used the center’s interiors in his 1971 directorial debut “THX 1138.” We see shades of Marin’s blue roofs in Naboo’s patina domes and semi-circular cut outs, combined with myriad Classical elements.
“There’s a real Byzantine flavor to (the Naboo capital of) Theed,” says Reat. “A real crossbreed of Italian, Baroque and Turkish mosque architecture.” The royal palace exterior is modeled on two great monuments: the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Its Baroque and Rococo interiors were shot in the Royal Palace of Caserta, in southern Italy, home to 18th century Bourbon kings. But these imposing structures were toned down by concept artists like Chiang, who imagined the palace clinging to the side of a cliff, with waterfalls flowing through it.
Naboo’s non-human inhabitants, the reptilian Gungans, lived underwater in “a kind of Art Nouveau, Jules Verne bubble city,” says Reat. Its curvilinear forms and flourishes echo the metalwork of European architects Hector Guimard and Victor Horta, he adds.
“One of George’s original edicts was for the designs to not call too much attention to themselves,” says Szostak. Part of that was to make everything “completely relatable to 20th and 21st century humans.”
The idea was to evoke an age of innocence at the turn of the 20th century, before the First World War and the hyper-industrialization of the Western world — or in Star Wars parlance, before the robots of the Trade Federation invade.
Coruscant, the capital of the Galactic Republic, made its debut in 1997 in the special edition of “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” but like Naboo, it had a stronger presence in the prequels (1999-2005).
The city planet was partly inspired by 1940s science fiction, Reat explains, and the world of Trantor, dreamed-up by author Isaac Asimov. The concept was built on further by 20th century Greek city planner Constantinos Doxiadis: “He devised a term called ‘ecumeonpolis,’ a planet completely encrusted in cities,” Reat adds.
That idea has remained unchanged since Ralph McQuarrie’s first sketches. The buildings that populated it, however, have evolved drastically.
McQuarrie’s paintings from the time of “Return of the Jedi” (1983), when the planet went by the name of Had Abbadon, show pyramids dotting the landscape and the Imperial Palace rising above all in the distance. The Emperor’s domain features Gothic touches and a silhouette somewhere between the Prambanan Hindu temple, in Indonesia, and the facade of Milan cathedral — a radical departure from anything seen in the Star Wars universe. But technological limitations and plot changes meant the planet and the palace never featured in the theatrical cut, and Luke never got to duel his father in a throne room surrounded by a lake of lava (really).
Our first extensive look at Coruscant came in “The Phantom Menace,” by which point the cityscape was composed of supertall skyscrapers. “When Lucas was describing it (to concept artists) he was describing Manhattan,” says Reat. “He admired two skyscrapers in particular: the Empire State and the Chrysler Building.” The latter’s Art Deco metallic curves would inform much of Coruscant’s CGI vistas, transforming the planet into a “1930s New York on steroids.” […]”