Lucas villain ship to Chicago

Proposed design by MAD architects for Lucas museum in Chicago. (Crain's)

Design by MAD architects for Lucas museum, at right, in Chicago. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

It’s hard to imagine how distant filmmaker George Lucas of Star Wars fame must be from his project for a museum displaying his collection of “narrative art.” The phrase “billions and billions and billions,” made famous by the astronomer Carl Sagan, pops to mind. After the rejection of his proposed museum in San Francisco, because of its traditional design I am persuaded, Lucas seems to have fobbed the project off to lesser minds, ignoring his own career full of knowing cinematic references to the symbolism of architecture. Not only does the design pick up on his films’ modernist headquarters for evil rather than imagineering a place for people, but it would be sited so as to do incalculable damage to the city’s lakefront classicism – already under sustained attack for decades.

Mars attacks, indeed!

Edward Keegan brings us all the gorey (oops, I mean gory) details in his piece “Dear Mr. Lucas: No weird architecture, please!,” in Crain’s Chicago Business. An even more lurid take on the proposed museum, by political blogger Greg Hinz, also of Crain’s, is “Lucas museum rolls out a design that R2-D2 would pan.” It compares the architects’ proposed alien spaceship with the one that landed nearby on Soldier’s Field, and unpacks the dislike for the design (by the aptly named firm MAD, of Beijing), including apparent concern about the design from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, or at least his office.

(I’d guess that politicians are more likely than their minions to reflect the public’s admirable distaste for modernism. Minions are less likely to be as concerned about votes as their bosses, and more likely to consider themselves as artist-wannabes.)

“It screams and hoots, and yells and carries on,” writes Hinz, “in its own way defacing the city’s lakefront as much as any teenager with a can of spray paint when they come upon a vacant wall. It tries not at all to honor the greenery and museum spirit around it. Instead, as one wag here immediately dubbed it, it’s Greco-Martian.”

Indeed, it looks like a malevolent volcano, a description that would be redundant in any field but architecture. Keegan refers to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent warning about “weird architecture.” One must wonder if Xi’s diktat has sent China’s creators of alien spaceships scurrying overseas to scare the citizenry of the United States!

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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