How science fiction can inspire real world architecture

Designing dreams has always been the province of the world’s finest architects. From Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to the Ancient Egyptian pyramids built in alignment with the pole star, our architecture has often taken inspiration from otherworldly elements. Architecture is always looking forward, pushing the boundaries of what is possible to produce with the materials we currently possess.

Those in the business of crafting science fiction also let their minds play in the realm of what may one day exist, painting possibilities with words and pictures. It is little surprise that science fiction has often fired the minds of architects and inspired them to transform fantastical ideas into functional structures of concrete, steel and glass.

In the following passages, we’ll travel around the planet and explore some of the astounding constructions inspired by the imagination of creators of science fiction. From alien ships amalgamated with buildings to planetoid-like habitats, you’ll discover some of the most peculiar places to live and work across the globe.

Star Wars in the Far East

Two outstanding examples of science fiction based structures can be found to the east, inspired by film-maker George Lucas’s Star Wars saga.

International architectural practice Aedus designed Lucasfilm’s Singapore headquarters opting for structure that evoked the iconic shape of the Sandcrawler vehicle from the original Star Wars film of 1977. However, unlike the rusted mobile fortress of the film, this structure is sleek and chromed from the exterior façade, presenting low-iron glass and steel in the horseshoe interior.

In South Korea, unconventional architectural studio Moon Hoon was hired to create a bespoke suburban home for a small family. In design discussions with the husband, a pilot who had dreamed of being an astronaut as a child, a science fiction theme was developed. The architect openly states the source of his inspiration for the one-of-a-kind house:

“We talked about the movie Star Wars, and took some inspiration from it, like angled walls and grooves…a place high up that could be a control room for future Darth Vader.”

From personal residences to commercial buildings, these space opera inspired structures are unmistakable nods to a galaxy far, far away.

Soviet saucers and Russian rocket ships

Since they launched the sputnik satellite into the heavens in 1957 and joined the space race the people of the former Soviet states have been fascinated by spacecraft – a continuing trend that can be seen in these unusual constructions.

The Ukrainian Institute of Scientific and Technological Research and Development can be found in Kiev, Ukraine. Designed by architects Lev Novikov and Florian Yuriev and constructed in 1971, this structure can best be described as a flying saucer embedded in a two-storey building.

Informally known as the “Flying Plate”, this structures strange design harks back to the saucer-shaped ships that first graced the screens of 1950s B-movies and still make appearances today in Hollywood blockbusters.

Vladislav Doronin, the famous Russian billionaire, commissioned architects Zaha Hadid to construct his Moscow residence, which he shared with supermodel Naomi Campbell. On a site surrounded by 20-metre-tall trees for total privacy, the work began. Designed to resemble a stationary spaceship, the vast residence covers 2,650 square metres and features a 22-metre-tall periscope-like tower rising up from the structure’s centre to allow for panoramic views of the rugged Russian landscape.

Alien entities in Europe

Created as an integral part of the 2003 celebrations for the European Capital of Culture, the Kunsthaus Graz Art Museum located in Graz, Austria is an unforgettable instance of architecture through the eyes of science fiction.

Amid the terracotta tiling of the baroque architecture of Graz, a house from 1847 supports an extraordinary blob-like architectural form with what appear to be multiple eyes on stalks.

Described by the architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook, who created it, as “friendly alien”, the bulbous form plays host to art, design, architecture, photography and film exhibitions.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Selfridges Building, designed by Future Systems architects, brings a sci-fi shopping structure to Birmingham. Resembling an alien behemoth or some form of interplanetary transportation, this dramatic building achieved completion by 2003 costing a grand sum of £60m.

Combining sprayed concrete with a solid steel framework, the buildings glittering facade features 15,000 discs of anodised aluminium mounted against a blue background creating an unmistakable and highly futuristic structure complete with transparent tube-like tunnels. It makes for an important landmark in the UK’s second biggest city.

Homes of the future in the Americas

Situated within Montreal, Canada stands The Biosphere. Survivor of both a great fire and extreme ice storms, the orb-shaped structure has faced many closures, only to re-open again. The geodesic class one dome was created by architect Buckminster Fuller. Within the domes framework a set of buildings can be seen designed by Eric Gauthier.

Resembling an oxygen-friendly colony on another planet, the Biosphere became an environment museum in 2007 and remains so to this day. One of the city’s major landmarks, it featured in the science fiction television series Battlestar Galactica.

New York City’s W57 Pyramid would not look out of place on the cover of a Science fiction novel. Designed by Bjarke Ingels, head architects at BIG this futuristic looking structure sports different shapes depending on you vantage point. From West 58th Street, it looks like a thin spire, but transforms into an anamorphic pyramid if you’re standing at the side visible from the West Highway.

Residents of this astonishing tetrahedron shaped building which stands 35 floors tall are afforded unbeatable skyscraper cityscape vistas from the tower. Set among open greenspace, each residential apartment is afforded natural sunlight and a view of the stars above at night.

From space oddities to technological towers, across our planet you’ll find architectural designs that stretch the frontier of what is possible. Luxury estates fashioned to look like space shuttles and alien creatures sitting atop commonplace addresses are all intriguing instances of science fiction’s everlasting impact on our architects’ attempts to bring the future to the planet we fondly call home.

Posted by Mark
August 6, 2019

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