Does George Lucas Want to be Citizen Kane?

Critics charge that Lucas’s new studio is a knock-off of Hearst Castle.

Does George Lucas Want to be Citizen Kane?


George Lucas is building a new 262,000-square-foot studio complex in Marin Couny, outside of San Francisco. One catch: It seems to look exactly like the nearby Casa Grande section of Hearst Castle–the ornate architectural folly that inspired Xanadu in the movie Citizen Kane. See for yourself:


It’s more than an issue of originality (George Lucas has arguably been in a bit of a creative rut for a couple decades now). Lucas apparently has a history of copying architecture, beginning with Skywalker Ranch. Moreover, some claim that the new studio is illegal, running afoul of architectural copyright law. According to the Marin Independent Journal, Lucas’s people are denying the similarity, despite its apparent obviousness:

“The inspiration for Grady came from George’s admiration for the design
of the St. Vincent’s School for Boys,” a residential treatment home
near Marinwood, [Lucas spokeswoman Emilie] Nicks said. “George worked to make the design of Grady
Ranch reminiscent of the school’s architecture while also leveraging
work done by architect Julia Morgan for inspiration.”

Fields responded, “I don’t think so. I just don’t think so,” after
comparing the sketch of Lucas’ planned building with a photo of the
school. New York architect Thomas Shine said Lucas’ design and Casa Grande “are
remarkably similar.”


…Sam Davis, a professor of architecture at the University of California
at Berkeley, said whether Lucas cribbed from the Casa Grande shouldn’t
be the issue.”The issue is why would somebody who is going to create a work
environment in the 21st century copy buildings from a previous time
when they were unrelated to the work, the culture, the way that people
live,” Davis said. “It just seems silly.”

“Even though people still love him, there is a
very passionate love-hate relationship that people have with him,”
Phillippe said. “He’s very reclusive. He’s very disconnected from his
fans. There is a mystery about George. He’s just as mysterious as
Citizen Kane.”

Impropriety aside, architectural copyright is notoriously hard to enforce. So count that as another similarity between Hearst/Kane and Lucas: Always doing just enough to stay on the right side of the law.

The Best Architecture in the Star Wars Galaxy

[Via Unbeige; Hearst Castle image by | El Caganer]

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.