The Rings Of Power Designer Production On Building Death Into The Walls Of Númenor [Exclusive Interview]

Since episode 3 just came out, I’d like to tackle Númenor in particular. I’d love to hear how you approached the creation of this city — when you first sat down to bring this island city to life, what did you look to for inspiration?

Well, I think there are two elements that actually set the signs for Númenor. One was this letter that Tolkien wrote where he says, “Hi, I just got back from Númenor. Oh, I mean Venice.” Venice evokes a certain sensibility in our head, that there is a sense of richness, a sense of beauty, a sense of a lot of history, that it has been created over time. Plus water, lots of water.

The other element is this sense of it being the Atlantis of Middle Earth. In the third age of Middle-earth [the time period that ends with the events in “The Lord of the Rings” films]we see what remains of Númenorian architecture and culture—we see Minas Tirith and Osgiliath—and we know what those things look like.

In my mind, the idea was that these are the ghosts of Númenor. This is what is left… maybe 1,000 people were saved from a civilization of millions of people, so not every bit of technology, or culture, or knowledge could be brought from Númenor back to Middle Earth.

So Minas Tirith looks like a part of Númenor, but not enough to really represent the greatness of the city. We looked at this Romanesque architecture that we see in the movies and wanted to break away from it in terms of grandeur, beauty and richness. This and that sense of Venice gave us a conceptual and an emotional view of Númenor.

From there, I looked at what relatives might be for this in our world. I wanted to get into the sense of history, so I looked back at very old pieces of architecture and culture for us, like Babylonian architecture and Sumerian architecture and Minoan architecture, which are all these big, blocky shapes.

What sparked it was the idea of ​​differentiation between cultures — elves, for example, have a certain look, which is very vertical and about nature. Dwarves have this thing when it comes to the horizontal and the weight of mountains, and the diagonals of stone. and people in the Southland deal with this melting architecture, it’s all soft and very earthy.

And so, for Númenor, the whole point is that it is this civilization that thrives. We turned to shapes that have strength and power—those squares, those domes, those arches, all of which fit into that Sumerian and Minoan architecture. And then layering over that those Romanesque forms that we see in the movies.

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