December 24, 2020

Oppenheim Architecture’s Otherworldly Designs Meet Their Match on “The Mandalorian”

The breakout Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” had die-hard “Star Wars” fans and fandom rookies alike clamoring for a subscription to the new streaming platform late last year. Now, the show is a cult favorite and infinitely meme-able, thanks to its compelling characters, namely The Child, a beloved creature also known colloquially as Baby Yoda. But the deep glassy brown of The Child’s eyes and the action-packed plot are not the only draws of the show, or the “Star Wars” universe at large. A big part of the series’ allure is its world-building, and the unique landscapes that define each piece of the story. “The Mandalorian” takes advantage of the world George Lucas built and explores new horizons across the galaxy.

The design of “Star Wars” and “The Mandalorian” may appear futuristic, but the events take place “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” as the iconic opening scroll tells us. Design firm Oppenheim Architecture’s projects echo the space odyssey’s otherworldly structures with a link to the past. “In a funny way, what informs these new, future-focused designs are the form and function of architecture from the past,” says founder Chad Oppenheim. “Looking at the most basic methods of architecture as a craft—imagining how civilizations sprouted from the earth in which they were founded—and envisioning buildings that use nature to carve out space, a view, a way of life.” Here, Interior Design takes a closer look at some of Oppenheim’s projects with parallels to “The Mandalorian.”

Editor’s note: This story contains spoilers for Season 2 of “The Mandalorian.” 

Ayla Golf Academy and Clubhouse in Aqaba, Jordan. Photography by Rory Gardiner.

Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” kicks off with a side quest in Tatooine, the planet where Anakin and Luke Skywalker both grew up. The original design of this planet was inspired by a province south of Tunisia called Tataouine. For the Ayla Golf Academy and Clubhouse in Aqaba, Oppenheim constructed a concrete shell, which mimics the desert landscape and takes cues from ancient Bedouin architecture.

Muttenz Water Treatment Plant in Muttenz, Switzerland. Photography by Borje Muller.

By episode five, the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda find their way to the city of Calodan in search of the remaining Jedi. The landscape of its forest planet Corvus has seen destruction of the Empire, but the walls of Calodan are still standing. In another part of the galaxy, Oppenheim creates a similar contrast between wilderness and the built environment with the Muttenz Water Treatment Plant in Switzerland. The stone and clay exterior keeps the façade in the natural realm, while the modernist form of the building stands out from its wooded surroundings. “Many of my most ‘futuristic’ projects aren’t in cities, but rather, isolated in nature,” Oppenheim remarks. “Respecting these surroundings has inspired what might appear, on the surface, to be such a departure from nature.”

The proposed design for luxury lodges in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Image courtesy of Luxigon.

In episode six, the Mandalorian lands his Razor Crest on the mysterious planet of Tython in hopes of finding the seeing stone at the Jedi temple ruins. Baby Yoda meditates on the stone, situated on top of a rocky hill, while the Mandalorian protects him from a wave of Imperial stormtroopers. Back in Jordan, Oppenheim’s concept for a series of luxury lodges proposes structural forms with minimal interference to the natural setting.

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