Hotel du Lac – Tunis, Tunisia - Atlas Obscura
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Tunis, Tunisia

Hotel du Lac

Some believe this abandoned Brutalist masterpiece inspired George Lucas's Sandcrawler.  

Envisaged and designed by the Italian architect Raffaele Contigiani, Hotel Du Lac was constructed between 1970 and 1973 for the Tunisian government during the middle of the reign of Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first president. The structure is not only an icon of Tunis city, as it is well-known among lovers of Brutalist architecture around the world.

With its sharp geometry and imposing inverted pyramid shape, the abandoned hotel dominates the ville nouvelle area of Tunis. A contemporary architectural icon of North Africa (with much more than a pinch of raw-concrete Brutalism), Hotel Du Lac is not just your usual 10-floor/416-room hotel. The mind-bending, uniquely cantilevered design results in a top floor that’s double the length of the ground floor.

Fans of the Star Wars movie franchise will certainly find some familiarity with the silhouette of the hotel. Indeed, the first movie in the series was filmed nearby in Tunisia during 1976 (Episode IV - A New Hope). Perhaps it’s just mere coincidence that the “Sandcrawler,” a huge mobile fortress in the movie, is designed with a near-identical shape to the extraordinary Hotel Du Lac? Or, that the Sandcrawler slowly makes its way through the sandy dunes of a remote planet called “Tatooine” (while back in real life, a nearby area of Tunisia is named “Tataouine”)?

Either way, fans continue to debate whether or not Hotel du Lac was actually an inspiration for the Sandcrawler design. Notably, various members of the crew who worked on the original Star Wars film in 1975 through 1976 have made contradicting statements on the matter. So, let’s put Star Wars fans aside, as lovers of all things Brutalist firmly agree that Hotel du Lac is one of the most important (and coolest) examples of the Brutalistalism anywhere on the planet.

Unfortunately, Hotel du Lac fell into disrepair and closed in the year 2000. Since 2002, it’s been completely abandoned. More recently, the hotel was sold to Libyan investors. As of summer 2019, the combination of its prime central location, growing levels of tourist numbers, the enormous cost of renovation, and the need to recoup the huge investment means that Hotel du Lac seemingly faces destruction.

The future may be uncertain, but Hotel du Lac remains extant, either as a symbol of a new independent Tunisia or one of the last marks of the colonial age. That’s probably up to each observer to decide for themselves.

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