Gotham City's Architecture Portrayed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Gotham City's Architecture Portrayed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh Skyline, Photo by esherman - Used under Creative Commons

Director Christopher Nolan is preparing to shoot his third and final Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” which promises to bring the events of its blockbuster predecessors full circle. The filmmaker will experience new ground with the conclusion to his trilogy by shooting a portion of the film in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Shooting locations for Nolan’s Batman installments are shot all over the world, in places such as, India, Iceland, Romania, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and now Pittsburgh. Each location offers unique elements of architecture to create the look and feel of Gotham City and Batman’s world. More information after the break.

“The architecture of this city – it’s a very beautiful city, on a very impressive scale,” Nolan said in a statement about Pittsburgh. Nolan admired Downtown Pittsburgh’s architecture, calling it “incredibly valuable” to the look of the upcoming film. Most filming locations in the city are unknown to the public, but one can assume that Philip Johnson’s PPG Place will be featured in the movie with its soaring glass spires and neo-gothic style, or Charles Klauder’s 535 foot gothic Cathedral of Learning, both fitting contexts to the likings of Batman and Gotham City. Another possible landmark might be Henry Hobson Richardson’s Allegheny County Jail and Courthouse, perhaps fulfilling the role of Arkham Asylum, with its grim-looking, massive stone exterior, but one can only speculate at this point. So far, filming has taken place at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mellon Institute, Heinz Field, and the neighborhoods of Lawrenceville, east of Downtown.

PPG Place, Photo by matt.mendick - Used under Creative Commons

Different artists have depicted Gotham in different ways. They often base their interpretations on various architectural styles with exaggerated characteristics, such as massively multi-layered flying buttresses on Gothic cathedrals or the huge Art Deco and Art Nouveau seen in Anton Furst and Tim Burton’s movie version. Christopher Nolan’s depiction has subverted Gotham’s old Art-deco and Gothic structures and has replaced them with modern glass skyscrapers and buildings of Chicago. Nolan has worked with production designer Nathan Crowley to generate Gotham City into a large modern metropolitan area that would reflect the various periods of architecture that the city has gone through.

Allegheny County Courthouse, Photo by sportsedit15224 - Used under Creative Commons

Gotham City is a hybrid of New York and Chicago, with Nolan’s representations favoring Chicago. What’s intriguing about the decision to film in Pittsburgh and not Chicago, is that the city does not resemble Chicago and it would be a stretch to say one could easily pass for the other, amid Pittsburgh being a mere fragment in comparison to the size of Chicago. Few details are known about the story at this point and that could be the case for some time. So that poses the question: Will a significant portion of The Dark Knight Rises take place outside Gotham?

Chicago, Photo by kern.justin - Used under Creative Commons

While Chicago served as Gotham in Nolan’s previous Batman movies, the metropolitan landscape was shot quite different in both those films, enough so that it almost looks as though Batman Begins takes place in an entirely different city than The Dark Knight does. It’s certainly possible that Nolan and his director of photography, Wally Pfister, will create the illusion that the Pittsburgh footage simply reflects a not-yet-explored region of Gotham using highly developed CGI techniques and other advanced technologies the film industry has at its disposal. At this point, one can only wonder. The film is expected to arrive in theaters nationwide July 20, 2012.

Fifth Avenue Place Pittsburgh, Photo by brdonovan - Used under Creative Commons

Photographs: Flick user: brdonovan, Flickr user: Wysz, Flickr user: wallyg, Flick user: urbanfeel, Flickr user: sporttsedit15224, Flickr user: quikelopez, Flickr user: planetschwa, Flickr user: Penn State Libraries Pictures Collection, Flickr user: OZinOH, Flick user: nooccar, Flickr user: matt.mendick, Flickr user: kern.justin, Flickr user: jstrak, Flickr user: innerspirit, Flicrk user: esherman, Flickr user: cory.cousins, Flickr user: Brett Jordan

References: IMDb, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Cite: Brian Pagnotta. "Gotham City's Architecture Portrayed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania" 09 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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