Deborah Riley, the show's production designer, discusses the real places that inspired the look of Meereen, Bravos, and more
Oftentimes, set-building requires a balance between real-life and visual effects. Shots of the Wall, for instance, blend visual effects with a model made from polystyrene covered in hot wax, while shots of Castle Black are done on a massive stage set built in an Irish quarry.
"When I saw that full-sized, 360-degree shooting set, I thought, 'these people are crazy,'" she says.
Here are some of the real-world architecture references Riley has turned to during her time on the show to make the elaborate fantasy less foreign. While upcoming episodes of the highly anticipated Season 6 will mostly revisit locations already familiar to viewers, Riley is excited to introduce viewers to Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki city, which will take cues from the buildings of Canadian architect Arthur Charles Erickson.
"They sometimes make fun of me for bringing these modern references into a fantasy world, but I quite like it," says Riley.
Meereen Palace: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival Period
"I think Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival period was a huge influence on Meereen andDaenerys’s world. The great thing about his work during this particular time is that these buildings have a certain domesticity to them, but they also felt sort of monolithic and ancient at the same time. There’s a sense they could be inside a pyramid. You understand that people could actually live there.
Bank of Bravos: Albert Speer’s Architecture for the Third Reich
"David and Dan (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss), the two showrunners, wanted something that conveyed the wealth and power of the bank. The question was how to bring the intimidation of Albert Speer’s architecture into the world of these bankers. I think it worked perfectly. The design also established a much different aesthetic from King’s Landing, and the very Mediterranean architecture that had been established in the show.
House of Black and White: Varanasi, India
"For the exterior of the building, David and Dan described it as a building that would have one door and no windows, and be the home of the Many-Faced God and the Faceless Men. Arya has no idea what's inside. So when she arrives, she would have no clue what was there, so the building has to be faceless as well. I was looking at Varanasi on the bank of the Ganges, and how those buildings rise out of the water.
For the Hall of Faces, I was looking at the Ellora Caves in Western India, how ancient the carvings were, how incredibly intricate the stonework was. There’s also a temple in Hong Kong called the Temple of 1,000 Buddhas, which has literally a thousand Buddhas. So if you lay those two things atop each other, you literally have the Hall of Faces. I wanted the faces to be a part of the building, not like a library. You can’t let logic get in the way of your brain sometimes. We started thinking about how they would get to all the faces and find them, but then that got into a layer of specificity that got in the way of the shot. We were layering ladders, and just went with it as is, which is a much stronger image.