If you've got a few billion spare euro's lying around, I'd like to you to contribute to a project. A team of architects and structural engineers has turned to Indiegogo to fund a real-life Minas Tirith from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The team wants to turn it into a real city, with residences and services as well as hotels and tourist attractions.
In case you need to brush up on your Elvish (Sindarin for uber-LOTR geeks), Minas Tirith means "The Tower of Guard" and once stood watch over the capitol of Gondor, Osgiliath. Eventually, as Osgiliath became too dangerous to live in, it became the capitol. It is a giant, fortified city built into a mountain. This is the way Peter Jackson envisioned it in the movies.
The first step for the architects might be finding a mountain in England. Maybe they'd do better with something like Flatland.
Seriously though, these guys seem to want to really do this. Unlike your typical IndieGoGo campaign looking to raise a couple thousand dollars for an art project, this project has donation levels that go as high as 1.7 million euros for a penthouse in Minas Tirith's tallest tower. There are many less costly selections, including a 650,000 euro "four star" two-bedroom house, which the designers describe as "perfect for a young family."
For an investment of 100,000 Euros, I can become a Lord of Minas Tirith, which gives me access to a horse and carriage when I visit, plus access to the entire city, except for private residences. Call me Lord Geekend.
So far, the fundraising campaign has brought mostly 15- and 50-euro donations. Those get your name on a monument or a free tour. At the time I write this, the effort has raised 24,457 euro. Only 1,849,975,543 more euros to go.
Assuming the team gets the money, exactly what have these people gotten themselves into? I'm sad they didn't put this on Kickstarter, where they'd have to fill out a "risks and challenges" section. I'd love to see them write things like: lack of Numenor craftsmen, no current Steward of Gondor, and no rings of power.
There are real world issues as well. For starters, if the architects built this to Tolkein's specifications, it would instantly be the second tallest building in the United Kingdom, only 12 feet shorter than the Shard in London. At more than 1,000 feet high and nearly a mile across, this would be one heck of a task.
Because it was built to withstand a siege, the fictional Minas Tirith it is built in a series of concentric circles, each 100 feet higher than the previous one. In real life, the walls alone might be a problem for the architects. Here's how Tolkien describes the walls in his books:
For the main wall of the City was of great height and marvelous thickness, built ere the power and craft of Númenor waned in exile; and its outward face was like to the Tower of Orthanc, hard and dark and smooth, unconquerable by steel or fire, unbreakable except by some convulsion that would rend the very earth on which it stood.
Maybe the real-life walls won't need to withstand steel, fire, or an Orc's catapult. But imagine actually living as a modern person in a walled city. On one side will be this massive black wall, and on the other side will be a 100-foot-high wall protecting the next section of the city. To protect from siege, the gates on each level are staggered so that you'd have to make your way around the next wall to find the gate. If you have to walk around the city, you have to walk uphill, then circle the city and get to multiple gates in order to go up a couple of levels.
And I assume there will be no cars or bicycles allowed in the city. That would ruin the tourist attraction factor. You're going to have to buy a horse or something.
I'm not saying this isn't awesome. But I do think it needs to be a hotel and not a place where real people live and work.
The planners of this undertaking probably should have been a little more realistic. Minas Tirith seems nearly impossible. How about the tower of Barad-Dur as a casino and hotel (at considerably less than the 5,000-feet-tall it is in the books)? Complete with actual eye of Sauron?
A Hobbiton has already been erected in New Zealand, but maybe a UK version would make a nice franchise.
There are other sci-fi and fantasy settings I'd rather see made into a tourist attraction. I'm not ashamed to say I almost wept when I walked onto the bridge of the Enterprise in Las Vegas's Star Trek: The Experience (now closed). I'd love to stay at a hotel that is built like the entire layout of the Enterprise with a 10 Forward and rooms with period experiences in them, like "holodecks." The various decks
Page 2: More Fantastic Settings
could house the hotel rooms, and all the windows could be replaced with LCD screens showing the stars go by as if we're at warp.
I'd go to a ski resort that featured a replica of the Wall from Game of Thrones, especially if North of the Wall featured a party zone run by "wildlings."
[ These geeky tourist spots that already exist. Read Top Vacation Spots for Geeks. ]
I never cared for Hogwarts, but I've always wanted to be a student at Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. The X-Men aren't as hot as the Avengers right now, but that can all change with the right movie.
Even if Minas Tirith doesn't work out, I love the idea of living in a city with style and flavor. Residing in Minas Tirith might feel as if you were living in a history park like Colonial Williamsburg. But imagining living in fictional settings inspires us to reshape and rethink our cities. Could we use today's technology to build the San Francisco that is the capital of the Federation in Star Trek? Is that how we'd want to live?
Without a theme park company like Disney stepping in, this project will never happen. But I love the way these guys think. What do you think? Would you live Minas Tirith? What sci-fi or fantasy world would you like to see brought to life? Could you imagine living in a tourist attraction? Tell me in the comments section below.David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio