The Costs of Building Iconic Pop Culture Structures
When you think of some of the most famous structures from pop culture, what do you picture?
Fantasy and sci-fi structures not only serve as settings for their characters, but they also have transformed into massive cultural icons. You can’t reference Harry Potter without imagining the halls of Hogwarts, nor can you imagine intergalactic travel without the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. Architecture is as every bit important to these movies and TV shows as the characters.
While it must have been fun to dream up these fictional structures, the creators didn’t have to worry about the real-life mechanics of building them, many of which defy the laws of physics and science. However, we can’t help but wonder the extent to which we could recreate these fictional buildings using modern technological and engineering capabilities.
To find out, we looked at materials, dimensions, and real-life counterparts to estimate the cost of five iconic structures from popular culture.
Hogwarts is an easily recognizable icon in popular culture. We multiplied estimations of the castle’s size (approximately 414,000 sq ft) with the price of building a castle per square foot to calculate the materials cost. We then calculated the costs of building a banquet hall (based on the Great Hall’s depictions in the movies), a Quidditch pitch (based on its dimensions and the cost of a football field and wooden watchtowers), and the Hogsmeade tunnel (based on the cost of building a secret underground bunker) to come up with our final estimation.
We can create an underground cave worthy of Gotham’s most eligible bachelor based on build costs for a wine cellar. While depictions of the Bat Cave vary greatly between artists, a Batman superfan created his own version at 12,000 sq ft, which we used as our basis for the cave construction. To arrive at our final cost, we added in estimations of the costs to be Batman as well as the cost of laboratories, high-end elevators, and secret entrances.
While the general structure of the Enterprise can be built from Gerald R. Ford aircraft carriers, much of our recreation relies on some sci-fi imagination. While features like replicators, torpedos, and holodecks have similar real-life equivalents, force fields and human teleporters are limited by science. To create our force field replica, we used the costs of the US Army’s PASS plasma shield and Florida University’s 32-tesla superconducting magnets, which could possibly create a weak magnetic plasma field. While it doesn’t have the ability to “print” humans or teleport them, Synthetic Genomics’s DNA printer is as close as we can get to a real-life teleportation system.
In real life, a 700-feet high wall made completely of ice would melt quickly under the stress of its mass. We can create a similar structure by building a wall similar to the Great Wall of China replica in China and stacking millions of ice sculpture blocks to cover the fortification. To defend the Wall, we would also need to build Castle Black and recreate long-range artillery catapults similar to the Scorpions. Finally, we calculated the square footage for the top of the Wall—475 million square feet based on its dimensions—and multiplied it by the cost of building a moat to get the construction cost for the battlements at the top.
Death Star would be as expensive as it is destructive. The colossal space station would require massive amounts of steel to construct and a timeline of 800,000 years given the current rate of steel production. The bulk of the cost would come from creating the space station’s deadly superlaser, which we calculated based on Earth’s most powerful laser and the theoretical upscale in energy it would require to destroy a planet. After adding in the costs for droids and docking bays (which we estimated the size of based on its ability to fit a Millennium Falcon), we would then need to transport the entire structure to space. The final cost would be 233 quadrillion times the world’s GDP!
While it is possible to build fantasy buildings like Hogwarts and the Bat Cave in real life, structural behemoths like the Death Star and the Wall would require advanced technology to recreate. The construction costs we estimated are astronomical, and those numbers don’t account for labor costs (which could be just as expensive) and all the intricate details that are present in each structure.
That said, building these structures with current technology and engineering is not so far-fetched. Even if constructed in their bare forms, it would still be impressive to see some of these sculptural icons come to life in the real world.