O L D V A L Y R I A
H O U S E O F T H E D R A G O N
In 2021, having graduated from the Royal College of Art School of Architecture, I was approached by production designer Jim Clay, with an unique opportunity to collaborate on the design of Old Valyria. The process entailed six months of intensive research, city planning, detailed drawing and design, working closely with Jim and showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal.
As part of the design process, Miguel and Ryan asked me to compile a 'Bible' of my research and drawings to document the city's development throughout. I was tasked with approaching the design of the king's model in great detail, considering the city's planning, its critical relationship to the surrounding landscape, the function and connectivity of each district and the development of its architectural style.
Scroll through a few excerpts from the book compiled below, which include historical references and drawings from the early stages of development.
An important focus of my research was examining the concept of the "Ideal City" throughout history. Old Valyria was said to be the height of power and influence; a city of spectacle, advanced technology and ancient magic. It was decided that its footprint should reflect this ingenuity through considered geometry.
Historically, it was understood that the more unified the city plan, the more unified the society. Thus, many of the important cities of our ancient world, from Babylon to Knossos, to Rome and the Aztec Empire, all applied sacred geometry to their design.
The plans and foundations of these cities were often based around grids or a system of concentric circles. The latter was chosen for the design of Old Valyria, and can be traced back through millennia as a recurring motif and device for defending communities and their people.
The plan above illustrates the final layout of the city, with radial avenues emerging from four heavily fortified districts, converging in the centre. Each represents an integral vein of the city; a system of streets, subterranean tunnels and aqueducts.
Built into and around a volcanic landscape, I divided the final iteration of Old Valyria seen in the series into four key, interconnected areas; Civic (A), Industrial (B), Residential (C) and Commercial (D).
Heavily fortified,the Civic Centre is the oldest district. Intrinsically connected to the mountain beneath, this area is the seat of power, with imposing towers, temples and intricately carved stepwells delving deep into the rock below. On the left, sits the Anogrion, its brutal architecture reflecting that of Dragonstone from the original GOT series
The Industrial district has seen the most growth and change in the city. Situated at the foot of the mountain, in close proximity for trade, it is an area that has been built upon continuously to sustain the city's industrial exploits. Densely packed and layered the surrounding buildings house slave quarters, aqueducts and an ensemble of bathhouses, harnessing geothermal power from the landscape.
The Residential quarter of the city is built into the mountain and sits in the port area of the city, within sharp, undulating fortifications. Said to have one of the most powerful navies in the world, this area of Valyria is home to bustling street markets and trade.
Akin to the Roman Forum, the commercial area of the city is designed to impose upon and impress visitors to Old Valyria. It is the center of social and public life. The buildings here and grander, larger and highly decorative, the focal point of this quarter, an enormous arena.
Scroll through the gallery below to see key elevations and buildings from each district, as included in the final model.
Situated in the Red Keep, the model grows throughout the series, becoming a fixation of King Viserys and eventually overtaking his chamber. The final model was 8 metres long and painted and textured to resemble pumice stone, with hand carved buildings in various stages of development littered around the space over time. The concept above illustrates the model in its final stage of growth.
T I T L E S E Q U E N C E
O P E N I N G C R E D I T S
The opening credits of House of the Dragon features an animation that weaves through the Valyrian Model exploring abstract iterations of its streets, tunnels and subterranean aqueducts to follow the Targaryen bloodline. The final sequence features an overhead shot of the city's civic centre.
To watch the full sequence, you can find the video here.
B U I L D I N G V A L Y R I A
B E H I N D T H E S C E N E S
It was an incredible privilege to be given this task as an introduction to the world of film & tv, to work closely with Jim Clay and Dom Masters in their wonderful art department, as well as with showrunners Miguel and Ryan.
The awesome props team headed by Craig Narramore worked tirelessly to build this model. Each week I would send a barrage of detailed model files to them to 3D print, paint, texture and assemble.
For a behind the scenes insight into its build and their work, watch the video above.