In the Star Wars film Rogue One, a group of Rebels attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star so they can formulate a strategy to destroy it. That’s exactly what some people wish they could’ve done to some of the U.S.’s most hated buildings—dubbed “Death Stars.”
Over the years, the Death Star moniker has been to applied to a half-dozen structures in the Curbed universe. These are buildings known for their battle station-like facades and imperial domination of the landscape.
“I think the most important quality is an imposing exterior—one that dwarfs the surrounding area, and seems out of character, probably spelling doomsday for the neighborhood,” says Curbed NY editor Amy Plitt. “Sheathing the building in all-black, a la Darth Vader, doesn't hurt either.”
Being occupied by Empire-worthy tenants also helps a structure win Death Star status. “The CAA headquarters in Century City is a natural Death Star,” says Adrian Glick Kudler, West Coast features editor for Curbed and former editor of Curbed LA. “It's dark and imposing and unusually shaped, and it's filled with agents—the Stormtroopers of the entertainment industry.”
At least two of the buildings which have achieved Death Star notoriety are designed by Thom Mayne at Morphosis, who, as far as we know, is not under contract with the Empire. But much like an Imperial space station, Mayne’s vibe is more about withstanding attacks than aesthetics, he once told C Magazine. “Most of our work has been somewhat tough, somewhat hard-edged. It’s metallic, it’s performance-based. But I like to promote concept and idea over material; I’m interested in the bigger idea.”
You don’t need to travel to a galaxy far, far away to see architecture’s dark side. Here are six Emperor-approved buildings near you.
51 Astor Place | New York City
From the moment this Fumihiko Maki-designed office building began its slow march towards completion, the structure was dubbed the EVill Deathstar (get it, East Village?). The oddly shaped, black-glass tower did not win over many fans on either side of the Force.
350 West 16th Street | New York City
This 53-unit condo building by SLCE Architects that ominously grew over 16th Street was named “Death Star Condos” and “Dark Lord Chelsea” for its sinister black-on-black facade that seemed to spread across the entire block.
San Francisco Federal Building | San Francisco
That’s no moon rising over SoMa, it’s Morphosis’s 18-story, energy-efficient tower. Even though some like to point out the similarities to a certain space station—the hatch-like windows, the gray perforated metal screens—this structure often makes it onto both the “best” and “worst” lists for San Francisco architecture, which is a most impressive feat in itself.
222 Second Street | San Francisco
The controversial new headquarters for LinkedIn was widely panned for being too dark and imposing, a feeling that San Francisco Chronicle critic John King articulated well in his review: “From certain angles the blunt cubes in their pleated cloaks are striking, in a Darth Vader sort of way.”
2000 Avenue of the Stars | Los Angeles
The Gensler-designed monolith in Century City even comes with what looks like its own hangar, welcoming the arrival of a certain Millennium Falcon. What’s more, this building houses the offices of CAA, where evil Hollywood agents don’t even validate parking. Fitting.
Caltrans District 7 | Los Angeles
An Empire Strikes Back-worthy sequel to Mayne’s SF Federal Building, the Caltrans building brings a similar Sith vibe to downtown LA. Plenty of room in that gigantic courtyard to park TIE fighters.