Hey guys...something super interesting for you today. I want to share an email I got from the Art Director for the Netflix show "Mindhunter", in its second season:
I very much enjoyed Century III Extremis. I was the art director on Mindhunter S2 and thought I’d share some photos with you of our Century III Mall sets.
We recreated the lobby of the Omni International Hotel in Atlanta as it was in 1977 (well, at least a Hollywood version of it). We did this in the old Sears store (which I believe was originally the Montgomery Ward, as you stated in the vlog). The set design was based on architect John Portman’s Atlanta Marquis Hotel and the Omni International Hotel at CNN Center. Both hotels were groundbreaking at the time because they featured large open atrium’s with glass elevators (think Towering Inferno). Both hotels also featured shopping arcades—which we recreated right outside the lobby. These stores included the Gold Mine (video arcade), Orange Julius, Musicland, Waldenbooks and Fashion Bug.
The green screen wall you see in the attached photos and in your vlog will eventually have a VFX shot of the original Omni Hotel atrium (digitally recreated and enhanced). The final composite should be amazing. David Fincher directed the series and really loved the mall. We shot several other scenes at the mall because the architecture was so good.
We spent several hundred thousand dollars to do these sets - not just for set construction, but we also had to bring the location up to code in order to film in it (electrical, fire suppression, etc.). Our hope was that we would reuse these sets (and the mall) in future seasons, but Netflix has decided to move the show to LA—or may possibly cancel it (this is not public information yet). Ironically, these lobby senes will probably only be seen for about two minutes total during Season 2.
I grew up in Pittsburgh and remember going Century III as a kid - it was amazing and definitely one of the buildings that influenced my becoming an architect and film production designer. Your observations are much appreciated on the architecture of the mall—it's an awesome building with its height, meandering ramps, and skywalks. The detailing is sophisticated, yet simple. The carpet used to be a rusty orange by the way - leaning towards the red spectrum. Some online photos suggest red, but it was definitely rust. I interned in the late 1980s for the architecture firm that designed the mall and I remember talking to the lead architect about the design. He stated that the carpet color was selected to compliment the steel manufacturing legacy of the site—specifically, Corten steel. The warmth of the rusty carpet color offset the beige brick and oak railing accents beautifully. The carpet also provided acoustic softening, which was much needed when the mall was packed with 1000s of shoppers. I recall the lead architect saying that it was one of the first malls in the US to employ carpeting on such a large scale.
Sadly, the renovation of the late 1990s diminished the architecture of the mall (in my opinion). The Simon Group added additional skylights and curvy ceiling and carpet patterns which only interfered with the theatricality of the architecture. Previously, the skylights highlighted certain areas in the mall which shoppers would subconsciously navigate towards (as a wayfinding device). This made for a very moody, but warm, interior. When they added the new skylights, they created a bright—but washed out—appearance for the mall. There was also a lot of cool, modern public art—sadly, also removed in the renovation in favor of pseudo-historic theming.
I very much enjoy your channel. I find it funny that I’m lamenting the death of the shopping mall (well at least the cool ones). Ironically, in my 20s, I was lamenting the loss of the American downtown shopping district. I’m 50 years old now and I grew up shopping in the great department stores of downtown Pittsburgh and all the great specialty shops. It was the suburban malls of the 1970s and 80s that were killing our downtown shopping districts. Fortunately, most downtowns are experiencing strong comebacks with restaurants and cultural amenities. I doubt, however, that this will be the future for the American shopping mall.
Lastly, I’m not supposed to share photos publicly until the show is released on Netflix. If you wouldn’t mind waiting until until Mindhunter Season 2 is available on Netflix (should be soon), that would be greatly appreciated (that’s if you feel you would like to share them on your site!).
Keep up the great work and best wishes for your continued success — and sorry for the long email!
GREG WEIMERSKIRCH | AMPAS
Motion Picture Production Designer + Art Director