• Rebel Plans: Apple, Star Wars, and Architecture at Bay
    Nicholas de Monchaux

John Dykstra, Styrene cast from original Star Wars Death Star trench masters. Created by John Dykstra with staff and students from Berkeley's urban simulation lab on-site in Los Angeles marking the movement of architectural culture and techniques of model making into film culture through the use of modular, reconfigurable casts to simulate large quantities of urban fabric. Collection of Adam Savage. Photo: Nicholas de Monchaux.

California's Bay Area, at the margin of conventional architectural history, has been central to two self-fulfilling prophetic visions of our designed futures: Star Wars and Apple. These two juggernauts of technology, culture, and utopian thinking are linked not only by a coincidence of geography, but a hidden history and historiography in which the social and professional lives of George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and several of their key lieutenants are surprisingly and influentially intertwined. We are all nerds now. Star Wars and Apple reveal a great deal about why today's world—especially architecture and urbanism—looks and works the way it does. Their aesthetic and operational defaults and biases, and the social history behind them, illuminate a contemporary crisis between order and openness, between power and the distribution of power, that must be continually renegotiated as we make buildings, cities, and infrastructure at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Nicholas de Monchaux is associate professor of architecture and urban design at University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo (MIT Press, 2011), an architectural and urban history of the Apollo Spacesuit, winner of the Eugene Emme award from the American Astronautical Society and shortlisted for the Art Book Prize. A monograph of his work on digital design and urban resilience, Local Code: 3,659 Proposals About Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities, was released in 2016 from Princeton Architectural Press. The work of de Monchaux's Oakland-based practice has been exhibited widely, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. de Monchaux's work has been supported by the Graham Foundation, the Hellman Family fund, the Santa Fe Institute, the Macdowell colony and the Smithsonian Institution. He is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome.