Saving Luke Skywalker’s Home. By Samuel Medina

Vía Architizer.

Before the restoration; Photo: Hoylen Sue

Mark Dermul has been touring Tatooine for over a decade now. The 42-year-old Belgian “explorer” first visited Tunisia in 2001, when he began leading international Star Wars fans throughout the country’s stranger landscapes. But what constitutes the geographical extent of “the planet farthest from [the center of the universe]“, you may ask? Interestingly, the “planet” exists as a kind of meta-region, an irregulated and loosely connected network of crumbling film sets George Lucas first constructed when he began filming his six-part sci-fi saga some 35 years ago. Lucas abandoned the structures after he wrapped filming (both after The Return of the Jedi and Episodes I-III), leaving few to no plans in place for their preservation.

Littered across the Tunisian paysage from the desert floor to the coastline, the sets have long attracted tourists, including Dermul who, when traveling along with 18 fellow “pioneers” in May 2010, was shocked to find the iconic igloo-like hut of the Lars Homestead in such rapidly deteriorating conditions. It was then that the erstwhile fan–Dermul tells NPR he first saw the films when he was 7, after which point he was “hooked”–embarked on the mission to save Luke Skywalker’s boyhood home (or whatever was left of it).

The Save Lars Project came together quickly, quickly drawing a large support and fundraising base on Facebook. Dermul’s plans, however, were stalled after the Tunisian government was disrupted and eventually dissolved in the wake of the Arab Spring. After a new government body was established in October 2011, the preservation plans were speedily approved in December, with tourism officials furnishing the project with all the necessary permits. The expedition consisting of Dermul and his five collaborators set off this past May worked 8 days through scorching heat to renovate the homestead dome (see the group’s diaries here). The group laid down new cement infill, plastered over the previous decaying coating, and repainted the whole structure white, restoring the site to its original cinematic iteration.

Head over to NPR for an audio interview with Dermul to hear more about the excursion from the galaxy far, far away.

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