I spend a lot of time in my job looking at visual research, and particularly visual research of an architectural nature. So as I play games (and particularly with the Elder Scrolls games) I often find bits of the game world that remind me strongly of something in our own world—a place, a building, a particular photo or painting. Now, I’m certainly not saying that these are actually the images that the game designers had in their own minds as they went about creating these amazing worlds; but they might have been, and certainly they are things that their work reminded me of.
A lot of the power of these games is that they are similar enough to our own world and history, mythologies and stories to feel recognizable and true, while also being different enough to create an observational distance that might allow us to see previously unnoticed, or unremarked-upon, things. Visual research is one way of recognizing those similarities and strangenesses.
This Refuge is absolutely lovely, and one of my favorites to date.
I would hazard a guess that it is in part inspired by the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey.
I didn’t see a parallel to the famous Medusa columns in the refuge, though I suppose that would really have been too recognizable.