With a new season of Altered Carbon now out on Netflix — only this time, with Avenger Anthony Mackie in the leading role — I couldn’t help but revisit the first season of what’s arguably one of the streaming giant’s most groundbreaking shows (and a personal favorite of mine).
And there’s this perk that comes with re-watching a show: you get less entranced by the series of events, and get to pay more attention to the details. For instance, the spectacular home of the Bancrofts, rightfully called Suntouch House — as it proudly sits high above Bay City, in The Aerium.
What’s Bay City, you might ask? For those unfamiliar with the show — or anyone else for that matter, as the series’ fairly complex storyline doesn’t make it all that easy to wrap your head around everything that’s going on — the gritty Bay City is what’s left of San Francisco in the 24th century, with the richest part of the population moving high up above the city, in The Aerium.
Altered Carbon successfully tackles some complex issues starting with what it means to be human when the body is nothing but a mere disposable vessel. It delves into misogynistic power structures and the nature of identity. It touches on just how much of our morality is driven by the fact that we die and what might happen if death suddenly stopped being an endpoint and, instead, became a minor stopgap in an ultimately immortal life. It even touches on environmental issues in a few sidelong glances, as well as gender identity, technology and society, cyberspace and hyper-urbanization, to name a few.
But no issue is better put on display than that of income inequality. And while buying sleeves — the show’s name for the disposable bodies people have to buy in order to survive — highlights that perfectly, it’s the homes of the Meths that perfectly exemplify the massive inequality issues society faces in this vision of the 23th century. Particularly Laurens Bancroft’s house, aptly called Suntouch House.
Suntouch House, the opulent palace of the Bancrofts
In the Netflix series, the home of the Bancrofts home sits above the city, high up in The Aerium, where the Meths can shelter themselves from the messy life of non-privileged humans.
Further highlighting the divide between regular people and those rich enough to buy the sky, Suntouch House is introduced from the very beginning of the show, as we navigate the strange new world of Altered Carbon alongside its main character, Takeshi Kovacs.
Takeshi first meets Laurens Bancroft in his stately home, right after being greeted by Miriam Bancroft in a mesmerizing garden that surrounds the Suntouch House. The Bancrofts’ home then serves as setting for some of the show’s most crucial scenes — with even a battle arena being set up to entertain high profile guests during a party.
But is Suntouch a real house?
Now, coming back from a fictional 24th century leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions; but as opposed to the philosophical ones the show brings forward, there’s one we can actually answer: is Suntouch a real house? Or has it been envisioned fully on a green screen?
Ironically, the answer is neither. Many different — real life — locations have been used to shoot the scenes said to take place in the Bancrofts’ house, but there was no real property to speak of.
The entire movie was shot in Vancouver, in Skydance Studios’ new production studio in the suburb of Surrey, but quite a few landmarks and significant sites around the Metro Vancouver region also made a prominent appearance in the series’ first season. And some of them served as background for the home of the wealthy Miriam and Laurens Bancroft.
Most notably, UBC’s (University of British Columbia) Rose Garden, a very popular Vancouver tourist attraction, served as the Bancrofts’ garden, with the Suntouch house being digitally added to complete the estate.
For inside shots of the opulent Bancroft home, the movie crew had to get creative. Not that there’s a lack of luxury properties in Vancouver, but given that its fictional residents have been around for hundreds of years, amassing incredible wealthy — and a taste for luxury that can no longer be easily quenched — finding the right property is quite the challenge.
They settled for Vancouver’s iconic Marine Building, known as one of the world’s most exquisite examples of art deco architecture and that, back in the 1930s, had the distinction of being the tallest building in the British Empire. The architectural gem’s intricate interiors, with giant brass doors, dazzling lobby, and painstaking attention to detail, made it the ideal setting for indoor shots of the Bancroft house.
Another memorable scene from the sci-fi show that’s said to take place inside the Bancroft house is the life-and-death battle between a married couple that’s organized for the enjoyment of the owners’ rich party guests.
Said to be in a special battle arena Laurens Bancroft had created for the Suntouch House, the fight actually takes place at the TELUS Studio Theatre, that’s part of the UBC Chan Centre For The Performing Arts.
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