City on the Hill: Living in Minas Tirith


So, by now, you’ve all seen the trending topic on Facebook/Twitter/ Basically, a Lord of the Rings fanatic cum architectural profession has, along with a bevy of colleagues/friends, started an Indiegogo fundraiser titled “Realise Minas Tirith“. Their goal – to build a living, working real-live version of the fantasy city from Tolkien’s epic trilogy.

I’m sure this has raised some questions amidst the neophytes and non-architecturally inclined. Fortunately, as the Recorder’s resident Tolkien scholar (insert grain of salt here), I can provide answers to these questions.

What is Minas Tirith?

minas tirith diagram.0

In the world of Lord of the Rings, Minas Tirith is the capital city of the realm of Gondor, the southern kingdom of men that sits perilously close to the borders of Mordor. Originally founded as Minas Anor, the “Tower of the Sun”, the onetime Numenorean fortress served as sister-city to Minas Ithil, the “Tower of the Moon” situated at the nearby Pass of Cirith Ungol. Both flanked the capital of Gondor, Osgiliath, perched on the Anduin River.

After the fall of Mordor at the end of the Second Age, things seemed okay. Gondor prospered, and men flourished. However, as with all things, the splendor of the original Numenorean settlers began to fade, and the city became peopled with lesser men. After hundreds of years, Minas Ithil was taken by the Ringwraiths, becoming Minas Morgul, the “Tower of Sorcery”. Shortly thereafter, Osgiliath fell into ruin and a semi-permanent state of war began to exist on the shores of Anduin. This prompted the name change to Minas Tirith, the “Tower of Watch”, and the city assuming the de functo title of capital city of Gondor.

The city itself exists as a seven-layer cake, with each level resting atop the others on the side of Mount Mindolluin, until reaching a large promontory on the 7th level. Minas Tirith remains the most populous city of men in all of the west, the seat of power in all of Gondor, and one of the most beautiful creations of men in Middle-Earth.

Who lives there?

Men, mostly. Well, exclusively. Elves and men don’t mix, dwarves prefer mountains and cavernous dwellings, and hobbits are an afterthought.

What does it look like?

Like this.


Imagine that being what you see on your 5:30 commute home, and you start to understand the allure.

So who exactly is trying to build this city?

Drawing verbatim from the Indiegogo site: ”

  • We are an ambitious team of Tolkien fans who are passionate about creating a beautiful, inspirational and fully-functioning replica of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films. We all share a love of Tolkien’s work, and a desire to challenge the common perception of community and architecture. We believe that, in realising Minas Tirith, we can create not only the most remarkable tourist attraction on the planet, but also a wonderfully unique place to live and work.

They’re also British. Not that that matters. But this is totally a British thing to do.

How exactly did this come about?

It seems to be one big laugh on the parts of the aforementioned Tolkien fans – again, this is verbatim from the website: “this project is a light-hearted venture with virtually no chance of succeeding.”

However, I prefer to imagine that the following scenario is what led to this project’s conception:

A bunch of Tolkien nerds were gathered at the pub after another day of designing flats and commercial developments at their local architectural firm. After several rounds, a vigourously played game of darts, and much bickering and bantering about the local soccer club (this is totally the work of Arsenal fans, for the record), something along the lines of the following exchange happened:

“<hic> WOT THEN?”


Like you’ve had better bar room discussions.

How much are they asking for?

The breakdown calls for £15m for land, £188m for labour and £1.4 billion for materials, totaling up to £1.85 billion total. Keep in mind, that numbers is in pounds sterling – roughly the equivalent of $2,887,988,750.00. Or the total remaining salary of Alex Rodriguez.

By Elbereth! That’s a Lot!

You bet your mithril to Silmarils, it is!

So, where are they going to put it?

Glad you asked. The site says they’re considering two locations in Southern England (of course), with hopes to break ground in 2016. However, I feel that a number of locations have just been tossed right out with the bath water. Consider: that empty square of land in downtown Chicago. It’s not exactly being used, the people who already live in the area are of the monetary class that could afford such digs, and there’s a suitable substitution for Barad-Dur standing nearby in the form of the Trump Tower. It’s perfect!

Scene at the latest Trump election rally

Scene at the latest Trump election rally

This isn’t really going to happen, is it?

Well, let’s not be too hasty. I mean, if every nerd who loves Tolkien spends $10 to $100 dollars on this, they would raise some serious capital rather quickly. Let’s say that 100 million fans world wide have seen the original Peter Jackson trilogy, and that all of them contributed $10.00. That’s…well, this might not happen.

On the other hand, a few scenarios exist that might lead to this project’s completion. For example, at work today, when I told my boss, noted for his dislike of LotR, about this endeavor, he claimed that if this project were actually funded that he would leap off a bridge. Seizing an opportunity, I offered to pay for the bridge in Minas Tirith that he could leap from, even going so far as to name it in his honor. His response was to hand me a mail bin and telling me to take a “three day weekend”.

Yeah, this might not happen.

What are the social implications?

I mean, nil? However, the idea that they’re already dividing the city into tiers of living says a lot more about our cultural need to divvy up the masses into social classes than many should feel comfortable with. I mean, having 1st tier citizens mixing it up with 5th tier landowners seems more like a recipe for recreating a bad community theatre production of Titanic rather than putting on the Battle of Pelennor Fields every April like the world’s nerdiest Civil War reenactment.

But then, I don’t think these blokes were thinking about that.

I mean…couldn’t all of that money be better used elsewhere?

Well, duh.

But seriously, $2 billion plus to build a nerdy theme park? Couldn’t that money go to fight world hunger or to cure some kind of disease?

See, people have been asking me that question all day long, and I always say that if you really wanted to give that money to a good cause, you’d have done so already. It buggers me to no end that people get up in arms anytime there’s a new fun project designed to appeal to a limited few, most of whom are good people trying to live their lives in peace. It’s not like this is funding for ISIS or anything – it’s a bunch of nerdy architects in a pub having a laugh.

So when somebody goes up to you and says “Shame on you for dropping $50 on a plaque in the city wall of Minas Dork-Ith when you could be donating to a food bank” just ask how much they’ve donated to a food bank that month, or what kind of self-gratifying mission trip they’re coming back from. These are the kinds of people who got up in arms about the death of Cecil the Lion when in reality they couldn’t find Zimbabwe on a map if it was pointed out to them. They’re more likely to find Minas Tirith on a map of Middle Earth.

Also, we live in a world where this place exists.

Also, we live in a world where this place exists.

Again, I digress.

So tell us, how much did you actually donate?

I mean, I’m not here to split hairs. I will say, however, that pay day is tomorrow at my work place, so…

You bought an apartment in Minas Tirith, didn’t you.





The project runs for another 46 days.

Travis J. Cook

Travis J. Cook is the Editor-in-Chief and one of the original founders of the Addison Recorder. He writes about baseball, movies, and music, among other topics. He resides in a hole in the ground near Wrigley Field.

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