Australian production designer and art director Deborah Riley is the production set designer for Game of Thrones, the HBO series famous — among other things — for its detailed and expansive settings. Riley, who began work on the show during Season 4, was only 39 when she was first given the job, but had previously worked with Baz Luhrmann during Moulin Rouge and directing the opening ceremonies for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.
To make sets more believable, Riley says she often references real-world architecture. Meereen Palace, for instance, was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival period: “Monolithic and ancient at the same time,” says Riley of Wright’s work, “There’s a sense they could be inside a pyramid. You understand that people could actually live there.”
Another iconic set, the Bravos bank, imitated the intimidating scale of Albert Speer’s architecture, providing “a very visual sense of power,” and the House of Black and White was inspired by Varanasi on the bank of the Ganges, and how its buildings rise out of the water. In addition to creating sets, she’s also worked to secure rights to film at some of the world’s most iconic locations. Scenes in the Palace of Dorne, for instance, were filmed at the Real Alcázar in Seville, a palace renowned as one of the most beautiful in Spain.
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