Nerd Culture

6 Metro Phoenix Landmarks That Remind Us of Science Fiction

When fans and followers of the Stargate franchise step through the center of Ilan Averbuch's stone sculpture Landmark at the Central Avenue and Camelback Road light rail station, there's a chance they're fantasizing about traveling to distant worlds to fight aliens such as the Goa'uld and Ori.

They're not going bonkers or anything, just playacting with an iconic piece of public art that bears more than a passing resemblance to the fictional interstellar device at the heart of the show. (Seriously, we’ve seen more than a few die-hard “Gaters” posing for photos in front of the thing over the years.)

Averbuch's sculpture isn't the only structure or landmark in the Valley that causes science fiction geeks to do a double take. We've found five other such places in the metro Phoenix area that give rise to thoughts of traveling though the Final Frontier or into a galaxy far, far away.

La Luz del Mundo Church
Resembles: R2-D2 from Star Wars — Episode IV: A New Hope

When the parishioners of this non-denominational Christian church along Grand Avenue began construction of a new multi-million-dollar domed house of worship in 2011, it reminded us a little of the uncompleted Death Star from Return of the Jedi. Five years later, the dome-topped structure is nearing completion and now has a resemblance to R2-D2 when the astromech droid was sitting snug in his socket aboard Luke Skywalker’s X-wing star fighter. And yes, we admit that we’ve sort of been obsessed with Star Wars, especially after The Force Awakens came out last year, which might explain why we see things like this.

Landmark: Landmark at the Central Avenue and Camelback Road light rail station
Resembles: The stargate from, um … Stargate

The eye-catching public art located adjacent to the Valley Metro light rail station at Central Avenue and Camelback, which was designed by Israeli-born sculptor Ilan Averbuch, consists of an enormous stone circle being traversed by a series of rusted metal figures. And as we mentioned, it recalls the titular MacGuffin and intergalactic transportation device that was first seen in the 1994 flick Stargate and the three different Syfy channel television shows that spun off from it.

Landmark: Fry's Electronics on Thunderbird Road
Resembles: Rebel Base from Star Wars — Episode IV: A New Hope

When the director George Lucas needed an earth-bound location to portray the secret Rebel Alliance base for the original Star Wars back in 1977, he shot footage of several Mayan temples in Guatemala. A similar style of temple used by the Aztecs in Mexico was the inspiration behind the design of the Fry's Electronics location on Thunderbird Road in North Phoenix, which was built in the mid-1990s.  

Landmark: Il Cubo at Burton Barr Public Library
Resembles: A Borg Cube from Star Trek: The Next Generation

It's hard to miss the three-foot-square bronze and sculpture created by famed Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro that sits in the lobby of the Burton Barr Library. Both its shape and the circuit-like grooves and etchings covering the sculpture easily remind Next Generation fans of the cube-shaped spacecraft used by the robotic Borg.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office headquarters
Resembles: The Jawa Sandcrawler from Star Wars — Episode IV: A New Hope

While we’ve never personally witnessed Sheriff Joe Arpaio picking through the Arizona desert looking for wayward droids or scavenging bits of reclaimable junk, the general shape and dimensions of the MCSO’s main office at Fourth Avenue and Madison Street reminds you of the rattletrap vehicle that the loathsome Jawas used to bomb around the wasteland of Tatooine. 

Landmark: Hole in the Rock at Papago Park
Resembles: The Guardian of Forever from Star Trek: The Original Series

In the well-remembered Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever," when Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock stepped through the rock-like time portal known as The Guardian of Forever, the pair were transported almost 400 years into the past. Hole in the Rock, on the other hand, has no such power (insofar as we know). The 10-foot hole through one of Papago Park's many sandstone mountains, however, does provide hikers traversing the tunnel to get a grand glimpse of either Scottsdale or Tempe. Yeah, it's not the same as traveling through time, but it's breathtaking nonetheless.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.