Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie, Space Exploration, and Cities

Earlier this week there was a disturbance in the force.  Ralph McQuarrie, long time illustrator and the man who brought much of George Lucas' imagination to life has died.  Ralph was one of my favorite artists.  So much so that in high school I took Art 1 and Art 2 in consecutive years just to draw pictures of Star Wars characters in oil pastel, pencil, and prisma color.  Unfortunately my art teacher didn't see this as well rounded. I was constantly hounded to stop drawing Star Wars and try something else.  Ultimately the only pictures I've ever drawn that are framed (and hanging in the house) are Obi Won Kenobi in Prisma and an Imperial Royal Guard copied from Ralph McQuarrie's original thinking about the character.

Jawa Encampment via Wookiepedia

But I feel he can also have a profound impact on people's thinking about cities on our planet as well as others. I was listening to NPR's Science Friday, which happened to have everyone's favorite Astrophysicist from the Bronx Neil deGrasse Tyson, and he was lamenting the loss of the manned space program and imagination that is gained from exploration.  In thinking about Ralph's death this struck me as sad as well.  There is no doubt in my mind that both George Lucas and Ralph McQuarrie among others were inspired by our moon shot. In fact McQuarrie was an artist for Boeing and his illustrations graced newscasts covering the Apollo program.  Without their images and dreams, I probably would have never taken art.  Not that my taking art changes the universe but it shows that people can be influenced to do things through a national imagination for something greater.

And I agree with Tyson that space exploration shouldn't be a partisan issue and Newt Gingrich's idea of a moon base is quite intriguing.   If not for the foothold that it creates to explore other planets and worlds, it could start a new discussion about city design.  To which Ralph would certainly be an influence.  Just looking at a few of his images of cities, it starts me thinking, what would our cities on other worlds look like?

Would they be shining spires on an island like McQuarrie's vision of Aldera of Alderaan?

Aldera via Wookiepedia

Or more like the Crevasse city of that made its way onto the screen in Episode III as Utapau  (Also one of Tim DeChant's Favorites apparently.)

Crevasse City via Wookiepedia

Perhaps the moon would be our first version of Coruscant

Via Architizer

 Some of McQuarrie's other City Images via Wookiepedia.  Also visit McQuarrie's website for more.

Cloud City

 Coruscant Monuments

Ewok Tree City

We can always dream.  Fortunately McQuarrie's drawings will help us along.


Anonymous said...

between this and now Moebius dying, this has been a sad week

Bob Davis said...

I've been following the Expo Line project in Los Angeles, because it will serve the museum complex in Exposition Park. I've offered an electric train ride to my brother, who helped design the hydraulics for the Space Shuttle landing gear, when the Shuttle Endeavour is placed on display there. He and I have seen both the Shuttle and the Concorde SST go from "state of the art" to museum pieces. Will humans ever return to the Moon, or venture further into space? These destinations are starting to move into the "I should live so long" category for many of us.