Despite its notoriety as a place of death and destruction, we have to admit, the Death Star is an impressive piece of architecture. Round like a ball, its improbable shape houses an intricate program of gleaming corridors, stark rooms, and deadly weapons.
Darth Vader’s refuge wasn’t an actual building (it was a 54-inch model used to create computer effects), but it was an inspiration for the way filmmakers thought about the home bases of movie villains going forward. They were to be striking—unusual pieces or architecture designed for unusual characters.
In Lair, a new book from architect Chad Oppenheim and editor Andrea Gollin, we get to go inside 15 famous designs that the most notorious villains have called home. The book is an intellectual look at the genre of architectural villainy. It traces Hollywood’s fascination (and villain-ization) of modern architecture from movies like North By Northwest to contemporary animations like The Incredibles.
The book takes you inside the famous villa of 007 villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds are Forever, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright protege John Lautner. Lautner built the Elrod House in 1968 for interior designer Arthur Elrod in Palm Springs where its round frame perches atop a precarious base of rocks. It’s followed by the lair of Karl Stromberg, another Bond villain whose seaside research laboratory rises out of the water like a giant insect.
More contemporary examples include a deconstruction of Niander Wallace’s menacing skyscraper in Blade Runner 2049 and Nathan Bateman’s ultra modern, ultra smart home in Ex Machina. In Ex Machina, we see well-appointed, minimalist decor, and glassy spans of windows that take in the enviably gorgeous surroundings. It’s only later that we’re taken to the basement where Bateman is performing his ethically questionable research.
And that’s the entire point of Lair: Despite the beauty of these hideouts, their architectural ambition communicates something dark and sinister. You can see more of the ominous abodes by picking up a copy.