”just-enough otherness”: the use of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in Inception and Passengers

Ioannidou, Ersi (2019) ”just-enough otherness”: the use of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in Inception and Passengers. In: Association for Art History Annual Conference; 4-6 April 2019, Brighton University & University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.. (Unpublished)


In an interview promoting the sci-fi film Passengers (Morten Tyldum, 2016), production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas confesses that key sources of inspiration for his spaceship interiors were Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese architecture. Dyas explains, ‘These are wonderful styles of architecture … lend themselves very well when you are trying to tell a story that is of a futuristic nature, and you want to immerse the audience in something that looks futuristic, but perhaps not so outlandish that you’re taken out of the film.’ Dyas does not elaborate on how he used Wright’s work in the interiors of Passengers; but his quote suggests that Wright has become one of the go-to architect when a set designer would like to produce ‘just-enough otherness’. Fellow production designers of science fiction films seem to agree; THX1138 (1971), Gattaca (1997) and, most famously, Blade Runner (1982) use buildings by Wright to locate the plot in the not-so-distant future. Abstraction, monumentality, repetition of forms and patterns, geometric austerity together with references to ‘exotic’ civilizations remove Wright’s buildings from their historic context and create a sense of timelessness. This paper discusses the ‘just-enough otherness’ that Wright’s work brings to science fiction sets.

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