Architecture and Design, Getty Center, Photographs, Film, and Video

L.A. Architecture and Movie Fantasy

The Museum Entrance Hall at the Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier

And one day it would also be in Star Trek: the Museum Entrance Hall at the Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier

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.

Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills

The opulent Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills provided the vast, gloomy interior of the house in The Big Lebowski. Photo: adpowers on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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.

The Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood is another L.A. starlet with a futuristic vibe. Photo: supercake on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

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5 Comments

  1. F. Rosas
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    the shot at the top of your post looks a whole lot more like the Crystal Cathedral, as in this picture:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nardella/8945538672/in/pool-75129402@N00/

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Phasers on stun, you are RIGHT. As the Iris editor, the {glaring and shiny} mistake is mine. The image in this post (now removed) is absolutely the Crystal Cathedral, CGI or not! Several parts of the Getty Center (including the Entrance Hall, the Museum Courtyard, and the Central Garden) were used in the film, becoming a melange of Starfleet-ness. We’ll look for a better photo or, more helpfully, a moment in the trailer.

      By the way, the clearest view of the Getty Center, Star Trek-wise, is in this interview with Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty. He’s sitting at the edge of the Museum Courtyard.

  2. F. Rosas
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Saw the movie last night, and I geeked out and pointed at the screen every time I recognized the Getty Center (and every time my boyfriend would tell me to be quiet).

  3. Holly Hayes
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I too was thrilled to recognize the Getty Center in the Star Trek movie! What a wonderful surprise. I visited a couple of years ago and was totally smitten with the architecture. If you’d like, you are welcome to use any of my photos of the Getty Center in this post – I was lucky to have dramatic lighting during my visit.

    • Annelisa Stephan
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Hi Holly! These images are fantastic, thank you so much for sharing them. The wide-angle really captures the Center’s futuristic quality. This one of the Museum Courtyard is exactly the structure that we first see when Kirk goes to Starfleet Headquarters (unglamorously, it is the elevator leading from the Courtyard to the Exhibitions Pavilion).

      Just to further geek out for a moment, I was startled to see Peter Weller playing the evil admiral in Into Darkness because that is yet another {tangential} Getty connection. Wouldn’t you know, Peter is *also* a scholar of Renaissance art who is completing his PhD in art history at UCLA, and he came to speak at the Getty Center last summer in conjunction with our Renaissance Florence exhibition. I had no idea an art historian could be so monomaniacally evil, but, I will be on alert from now on…

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      Hiss is a snake bracelet from the 1st century A.D.

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