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SCI-Arc Cinema Series: Syd Mead in Conversation with Craig Hodgetts // Aliens Screening

Join us for a special conversation with renown SCI-Fi Designer Syd Mead in conversation with architect Craig Hodgetts, followed by a screening of Aliens (James Cameron, 1986).

W.M. Keck Lecture Hall
December 05, 2017 at 7:00pm

Renown science-fiction designer Syd Mead, whose designs for the film Bladerunner created an instantaneous movie genre, will celebrate the publication of his book The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist in a conversation with architect Craig Hodgetts. Discussing their year long collaboration on the book, which chronicles Mead’s drawings for such films as Aliens and Star Trek, Hodgetts and Mead will delve into the origins of the imagery, the technology and the often revealing relationships between Mead and the directors and writers he has worked with during his fifty year career.

Hodgetts, an architect best known for the design of the new Hollywood Bowl, and his research into developing technologies such as the Hyperloop, plans to probe the sources, processes and pre-occupations that have resulted in Mead’s hand-drawn renderings, which, in this day of digital imagery, astonish with their masterful handling of light, form and atmosphere.

The book, lavishly illustrated with more than 300 sketches and renderings, accompanied by a descriptive text, captures the insights about Mead’s working methods, his inspirations and frustrations, as well as personal anecdotes about life as a visual futurist.

This will be a rare, once in a generation opportunity to hear and see Syd in one of his few public appearances. A perennial star at Comic-Con and awards shows, his appearance at SCI-Arc will be accompanied by a screening of Aliens, a film he designed in 1986 for director James Cameron, and to acquire an autographed copy of the book from the authors themselves.

Syd Mead Blade Runner concept art
Drawing by Syd Mead

Sydney Jay Mead was born in St. Paul Minnesota, July 18th, 1933 but spent only a few years there before moving to what would be the second of many homes throughout the western United States prior to graduating from High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1951. After serving a three year enlistment in the U.S. Army, Syd Mead graduated with great distinction in June of 1959 and was immediately recruited by the Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Styling Studio under the management of Elwood Engle which he left after 2 years in order to accept a variety of assignments travelling the world to illustrate books, catalogues and product designs for large corporate entities including United States Steel, Celanese, Allis Chalmers and Phillips Electronics.

In the 70’s and 80’s he was recruited by several firms to create interior and exterior architectural renderings for such clients as Intercontinental Hotels, 3D International, Harwood Taylor & Associates, Don Ghia, and Gresham & Smith. In 2010, the New York firm of Philip Koether Architects tapped Syd to design the interior of the popular restaurant Bar Basque in Manhattan.

In 1979, the motion picture industry recognized his unique ability to “visualize” the future, His work can be seen in feature films as Blade Runner, TRON, 2010, Short Circuit, Time Cop, Johnny Mnemonic, “MP-3” and most recently, Blade Runner 2049 for which he did pre-production art for director Denis Villeneue. In 2016 the Visual Effects Society awarded Syd their top honor reaffirming his title of “Visual Futurist” by his peers and the industry.

Syd has also done concept and design work for a number of major Japanese clients, including; Sony, Minolta, Dentsu, Dyflex, Tiger, Seibu, Mitsukoshi, Bandai, NHK and Honda as well as contributing to two Japanese film projects, He also created designs for two Japanese toy icons, “The New Yamato” and all eight robot characters in the new Turn-A Gundam mobile suite series which are also seen as characters in Television shows.

With transportation design as his first love, Syd seldom misses an opportunity to provide his unique blend of futurism and believability to those projects consisting of a vehicle that travels from “A” to ‘B”. Whether it be designing solar powered unicycles, show cars, luxury yachts, interiors of private 747’s, or interplanetary vehicles, each receives the same attention to detail and is part of a perfectly designed scenario. This approach has become a Syd Mead trademark and can be seen in everything from concept cars for Ford Motor Company to his futuristic “Hyper-vans” currently being referred to by many as the direction of tomorrow’s automotive design. They are clearly evident in Syd’s latest painting created for the poster art to promote this year’s Eyes On Design car classic exhibition held at the Edsel Ford Estate in Grosse Point Shores, Michigan this June 18th, (Fathers’ Day) where Syd was awarded a lifetime design achievement award

Syd Mead continues an active schedule of one-man shows. Beginning in Germany in 1973, his work has since been exhibited in Japan, Italy, California, and Spain. In 1983 he was the guest speaker to the design staff at Chrysler Corporation. The resulting presentation was a resounding success and has since been expanded and enhanced with computer generated imagery specifically assembled at the requests of such clients as Disney, Carnegie Mellon University, Purdue, Pratt University, the Society of Illustrators. In March of 2010, Syd completed a four-city tour in Australia to capacity audiences at each venue. His one man shows, “Cavalcade to the Crimson Castle” and “Progressions” have drawn record crowds in venues across the nation. Syd Mead has published 10 books and instructional DVD’s in association with the Gnomon Workshop Inc. His latest book, The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist published by Titan Press, is available on and better bookstores everywhere..

These days, Syd doesn’t often travel far from his comfortable surroundings in Pasadena, California where when he is not working, he enjoys leisurely driving his 1972 Imperial and working on his autobiography, titled, “A Future Remembered” with his partner of over 30 years, Roger Servick. Mead attributes success in an astonishing range of creative activities to the premise that imagination…the idea, supersedes technique every time. “There are more people in the world who make things than there are people who think of things to make.” – Syd Mead

Craig Hodgetts is an architect and inventor, whose multi-faceted career has embraced technical innovation, civil and cultural institutions and visionary urban designs, was educated as an automobile engineer before studying theater with renown dramaturge Herbert Blau and, later, architecture with James Stirling at Yale’s School of Art and Architecture. Having established a well-regarded avant garde architectural practice in Manhattan, he relocated after two years to Los Angeles to become one of the founders of the California Institute of the Arts.

His first built project, a multimedia toy store on 53rd street in Manhattan, with partners Lester Walker and Robert Mangurian, featured sound and light “games” devised by rising stars Jukes Fisher and Morton Subotnik, earning a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal. Subsequent to the studio’s move to LA their first project for Larry Gagosian, who had yet to emerge as an art world powerhouse was featured in a cover story in Progressive Architecture Magazine and named to a list of twenty-five significant buildings in Southern California.

After a two year hiatus, during which he wrote screenplays and worked as a production designer for reknowed director Robert Able, where he helped to devise methods to apply computer technology to film-making, and an on-location shoot at Arcosanti with producter Roger Corman, he returned to the practice of architecture with new partner Hsinming Fung.

The firm earned world-wide recognition with their first project, an aluminum and fabric temporary library at UCLA, which exemplified their belief in the role of high technology in architecture. Later significant projects, wuch as their renovation of the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, which won a national honor award, and the creation of an all-new Hollywood Bowl shell, cemented their reputation for innovative, progressive design.

As leaders of UCLA’s Ideas Laboratory, Hodgetts has initiated studies of everything from autonomous vehicles and cyber-cities to an in-depth exploration of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept, and is currently devoting his attention to creating a vision of the Sunset Strip circa 2050.