The Tunisian hotel rumoured to have inspired the design of vehicles used in the blockbuster movie franchise Star Wars, is facing demolition after being purchased by a Libyan company. The Hotel Du Lac was known for its distinctive shape, resembling an inverted pyramid or a bird in flight, and has been a fixture of the Tunis skyline since the 1970s.
Some claim that the building caught the eye of Star Wars creator George Lucas and inspired the design of the Sandcrawler vehicles used by the Jawas of Tatooine, although film artists have said that the first sketch of the Sandcrawler was drawn before Lucas’s visit to Tunisia in 1976.
Much of the filming of the fictional planet was done in Tunisia, drawing its name from the nearby governorate of Tatouine. This boosted the tourism industry significantly following the film’s release.
Despite closing in 2000, fans of the franchise are often drawn to the hotel as a fine example of Brutalist architecture, the 20th Century movement known for its bold, sculptural forms and its exposed, unadorned surfaces of concrete and metal. However, too expensive to renovate, the building is now set to be demolished and replaced.
“The building is on life-support,” says Sahbi Gorgy, a Tunisian architect involved in plans for the site on behalf of its Libyan owners.
The news has prompted Tunisian conservation group Edifices et Memoires to launch a petition calling for the mayor of Tunis to preserve the building and repurpose the iconic space.
“The hotel is a unique witness to a certain age,” explained Mohamed Zitouni, a Tunis-based architect involved in the preservation campaign, to the BBC. “It’s one of the rare buildings after Tunisian independence that shows vision and maturity.”
Tourism in Tunisia was a booming industry until the 2011 uprising, which toppled the 24-year long regime of the former President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The country has been in a continuous state of emergency ever since, with terror attacks discouraging foreigners from visiting the once popular destination.
Some 38 people were killed on 26 June 2015 when a lone gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui, opened fire on holidaymakers, injuring more than 50 others, before he was shot dead by police. Three months earlier, 20 tourists had been killed in a terror attack on one of Tunisia’s leading cultural collections, the Bardo Museum in Tunis.
Nevertheless, last year, Tunisian officials said that they expected a record number of eight million tourists, fully reversing the effect of the attacks three years ago.