While walking through the Getty Center’s Entrance Hall last week I was stopped by two of our visitors. It was a mother and her son, about age 11. They asked me excitedly, “Is this Starfleet Headquarters?!” Being a lifelong Star Trek fan myself, I couldn’t help but smile as I told them, “Yes, in a sense it is!”
Months ago, under a veil of extreme secrecy, the Getty Center was used for filming some scenes of the latest Star Trek film Into Darkness. The Entrance Hall, the Museum Courtyard, as well as a few other locations were reimagined as Starfleet Headquarters. You can easily see why the location was chosen. Richard Meier’s crisp, clean architectural style does have a sort of futuristic utopian monumentality that feeds the imagination.
Los Angeles is filled with a great history and diversity of buildings that have been reimagined for the big screen. In an early scene in Blade Runner, Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard moodily eats ramen noodles in what we Angelenos know as downtown’s Grand Central Market. Union Station, the Bradbury building, and many other downtown locations were used in that iconic film as locations for Deckard to pursue replicants.
In The Big Lebowski, the interior of the Tudor-style Greystone Mansion of Beverly Hills was reimagined as the palatial residence of “the real” Jeffrey Lebowski. The 1928 mansion was the most expensive home built in California in its day, second in size only to Hearst Castle. What better home for the fictitious billionaire that has the key to the city of Pasadena? Steve Martin’s comedy L.A. Story features the kitschy, memorable Tail o’ the Pup hot dog stand (shaped like a hot dog, of course), as the spot where Roland tries to win back his ex-wife, Sarah. The list of movie and architectural landmarks goes on and on.
There is of course a creative trickle-down effect of an architect’s vision being featured in films. A teenager interested in design could become inspired by architecture, such as the glossy green-and-blue façade of the Pacific Design Center as Sandra Bullock’s apartment Demolition Man, just by going to the movies. She could even grow up to be the next Richard Meier or Frank Gehry.
Back in the Entrance Hall with those visitors, the young boy was visibly awestruck by the space. He had such a fabulous expression of wonder and amazement. Not only was he standing in a magnificent museum, but his sci-fi fantasy had just become a reality. As a result of that experience, he may grow up to become an engineer, designer, or even the person who discovers how to build a warp-drive propulsion system. One of our volunteers hinted to this boy that the captain was upstairs. His eyes widened.