Keys | Nation Spaces

Spaces is an exercise in curiosity about communal living and domestic activity. Each week we’ll select a Nation amenity and explore some of our other favourites from around the world, often drawn from fiction and throughout time.

This week we’re unlocking doors with some very special keys.

The earliest known lock and key system dates to ancient Egypt, around 4,000 years ago. This primitive device consisted of a wooden pin tumbler lock and was a revolution in property protection during its time. While rudimentary by modern standards, it laid down the basic principles for how we keep things locked up today, and represents humanity's growing need for security and privacy. 

At Nation, your key is digital. You open your door, access your services, and even manage your lease through one app. It’s a piece of technology we’re proud of, so naturally we’ve done a lot of thinking about keys. Here are just a few of our favourites —


The Mondoshawan Tomb Key

In Luc Besson’s 1997 film "The Fifth Element," the Mondoshawan Tomb Key is a central plot device crucial to saving humanity from impending doom. Crafted by the Mondoshawan, an ancient alien race, this key holds the power to unlock the Divine Light, a weapon capable of defeating the ultimate evil threatening Earth. It is so powerful and so sacred that it has needed to be passed down through a secret order of priests for protection. The key is intricately designed, with ornate carvings and futuristic embellishments. Its significance transcends its physical form, as it represents hope and salvation for the entire planet.  


The Notorious UNICA Key  

This key belongs to the wealthy, shadowy Sebastian family from Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film "Notorious", and is kept in a wine cellar where crucial secrets are hidden. In the film, the protagonist Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) becomes entangled in a dangerous espionage plot. She falls in love with T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant), a government agent who recruits her to spy on Nazis hiding in Brazil. The key becomes a focal point of tension when Alicia discovers its significance in the conspiracy. Its physical presence represents both danger and opportunity, as it holds the key to unlocking vital information that could alter the course of history.  After filming had ended, Grant kept the famous prop, gifting it to his co-star Bergman, saying that the key had given him luck and hoped it would do the same for her.  


The Matrix Keymaker

The Keymaker is a fictional character portrayed by Korean American actor Randall Duk Kim in the 2003 film “The Matrix Reloaded”. Created by the Oracle, the Keymaker possesses the ability to generate keys for nearly any door in the virtual world. This character essentially represents a computer program that is designed to create shortcuts. In the film his purpose has been rendered obsolete, but rather than be deleted he has chosen to hide in the virtual world, toiling away on the creation of thousands of keys which line the walls of his tiny, grimy studio. In the end, the Keymaker plays a vital role in the unfolding events of the film, providing deep security knowledge to the rebel forces and even providing access to secret parts of the Matrix itself.  


Skeleton Keys  

As iconic symbols of mystery and intrigue, skeleton keys have a rich history dating back centuries. These versatile keys were originally crafted to open a variety of locks, featuring a long, slender shaft and a simple, often ornate, bit. Their name derives from their skeletal appearance, with the bit resembling the bones of a skeleton. In the past, skeleton keys were used in large estates and buildings with numerous doors, providing a convenient solution for caretakers and servants who needed access to different areas. Their universal design allowed them to fit into a wide range of locks, making them invaluable tools for unlocking doors of varying shapes and sizes.  Today, while modern locks and security systems have largely rendered skeleton keys obsolete, they remain popular as decorative pieces, vintage collectibles, and symbols of nostalgia.  


The Enigma Machine  

The Enigma Machine, a ground-breaking encryption device used during World War II, holds a prominent place in the history of keys and locks. Developed by German engineer Arthur Scherbius in 1918, it employed a complex system of rotors and wires to encode messages, effectively creating an unbreakable cipher—or so it was thought.  The Enigma Machine functioned as both a key and a lock, transforming plain text into indecipherable code that could only be unlocked by those with the correct settings. Its cryptographic design baffled Allied codebreakers for years until mathematician Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park cracked its code, a pivotal breakthrough that helped turn the tide of the war. The Enigma Machine's role as a sophisticated cryptographic lock underscores its significance in the realm of security and intelligence. Its legacy endures as a testament to the ingenuity of both its creators and those who sought to overcome its formidable defences.