The groups for AmazonThe TV series The Rings of Power draws on a range of historical European architectural dialects to make the fantasy world believable, says production designer Ramsay Avery in this an interview.
“I think in order for the fictional world to be tangible, you have to really believe that you are in it,” Avery told Dezeen.
“You have to look for those axes in reality, whether they are continuity or contradiction with history. And to make the world of fantasy feel real, you have to look for that deep history. You can’t do anything just because it’s cool.”
rings of strength is an Amazon Studios series that follows the characters created by JRR Tolkien centuries before the events of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the British author’s most famous work.
Avery directed the design of the sets, costumes, and cityscapes that make up the visual world of the show, which required the development of a design language that respected the high level of detail in Tolkien’s original traditions.
“In essence, you always try to go back to the words as much as possible,” he said.
“I’m a lifelong Tolkien fan. And one of the things I did when I was starting this project was I picked up The Silmarillion again to share some of that deep history and its undertones.”
Influences on the architectural aspects of medieval Europe were taken for human figures, while Avery looked at nature-oriented Celtic design as well as Gothic models and the modern art of elves.
These distinctive Northern European influences blend with elements of Eastern European architecture in order to create a sense of being in a world different from our own.
“We looked at the ancient settlements in western or northern Europe, or Viking settlements, or Celtic settlements,” Avery said.
“Then we go to the other end of that and look at Eastern Europe, in terms of architecture, so it’s not something we fully recognize as being English or Scandinavian, but it has that feeling of being a little bit weird.”
Avery cited artists and designers such as John Howe, Bob Fernandez Castro, and Kate Holly as key to achieving the books’ level of detail.
“When you read books, especially The Lord of the Rings, you have a real sense of the world,” Avery said.
“And we wanted to make sure that whatever we designed for these people, their cultures had the same deep quality and it felt like there was a little bit of grit, a little bit of ground, even in beautiful places.”
Both the Amazon series and the films Lord of the Rings directed by Peter Jackson, which were released between 2001 and 2003, were filmed in New Zealand.
But Avery had to ensure that the world depicted in the television series had a very different look and feel than that in the films, which were later placed in the chronology of Tolkien’s lore.
“We know that the Peter Jackson films represent the Third Age, but the Third Age is a period of decadence and decline,” Avery said.
“The second era we’re in is glorious and vibrant and pretty much everyone is at the top of their game. We’ve extracted the DNA from that third era and made it bolder, more vibrant and more vibrant in the second era.”
Avery also tried to convey the feel of the earlier era in the design of the collection itself.
The production design relating to the Harfoots – ancestors of the Hobbits from later Tolkien texts – refers to an early stage of the evolving fantasy race designs that predate the famous round-door hill houses seen in Jackson’s films.
“Hobbitons are all about hills and round doors,” Avery said. “So our buggies are a bit hilly and have round wheels on them.”
For physical collections, 3D printing was used for many designs, but these digital assets had to be polished manually.
“Everything that was made digital had to go back a human hand over it and modify the sculpting, adding, subtracting and conditioning, and then using layers of paint and gilding or detailing and aging to remove that digital advantage,” Avery said.
“We found that if you make things perfect, and if you make things very beautiful, they lose their splendor.”
Avery has worked on a number of media projects in a variety of genres including artistic supervision of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 and Star Trek: Into Darkness and was also the design director for Marvel theme park in Dubailand.
Episodes of The Rings of Power air on Amazon Studios every Friday.
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Images provided by Prime Video.