Lucas, return to Light Side

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Theed, capital of Naboo, painted by Jacob Charles Dietz. (

George Lucas, having been rejected in efforts to build a museum with his own money first in San Francisco’s Presidio and then on the lakefront of Chicago, is back in the Paris of the West with a third proposal, but the same architect – MAD, a Japanese firm – that did him dirt in the Windy City.

Does the creator of Star Wars not learn? His plan for a classically designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in the Presidio unravelled when the city’s culture leaders refused to accept the Beaux Arts as a legitimate museum style in the 21st century – that’s my interpretation, which relies on what I read between the lines in 2014, including a piece in Metropolis by the normally reliable critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, John King. Here’s my post, “SF rejects free museum.”

Then Lucas went to Chicago, where land in historic Burnham Park on the coast of Lake Michigan beckoned, but he hired MAD’s Ma Yansong to design what seemed like a set of aluminum mountains along the lakefront. The public was nonplussed, a friend-of-the-park group sued, Lucas dug in his heels, but this week he pulled the plug.

Before he oopses all over the place yet again, Lucas, who is now considering Treasure Island off the coast of San Francisco (plus an L.A. site in reserve), should check to see if the Force is with him. His Star Wars saga has always seemed to house evil in places like the modernist Death Star, headquarters of Darth Vader and his Dark Side, and the good guys (or at least the victims) in places like Tatooine. Get the drift? The saga’s human refugees live in Naboo, amid the adorable classical vernacular of its capital, Theed. Is this accidental or is it a deeply intuitive recapitulation of good vs. evil? That matters less than that its lessons be heeded by Lucas, as they have apparently long been subconsciously internalized.

Learn from your creation’s own narrative, George. Return to the Light Side.

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Rendering by Urban Design Group of Dallas for museum on S.F.’s Presidio park. (Lucas)

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Rendering of MAD design proposed for Grant Park, in Chicago. (AP/MAD)

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Rendering of proposed development on Treasure Island, site of latest museum plan. (Dbox)

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Tatooine, setting for scenes throughout Star Wars saga. (

About David Brussat

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. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am 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 employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, 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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5 Responses to Lucas, return to Light Side

  1. Pingback: Why villains love modernism | Architecture Here and There

  2. CS-Cart says:

    Many thanks for the suggestions, I will try to take advantage of it.


    • Gee, I have to say I really wish you were Lucas himself, writing anonymously, or part of his team. I hope you will take advantage of my suggestions. I always hope that, on behalf of anyone who reads my blog.


  3. Thanks, Dennis. One of the early stories said Grant Park. As for the architecture, I’m sure it was an issue among many, even if not among the negotiators.


  4. Dennis McClendon says:

    The Chicago site was in Burnham Park, not Grant Park. The design of the building was not an issue.


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