The Architecture of Stranger Things: How The Show Revived The 80s

With its eerie, other-worldly feel and '80s nostalgia, the Netflix show Stranger Things has won over hearts and minds around the world. While much has been said about the show's writing, acting, and direction, less attention has been paid to the incredible way that Stranger Things revives '80s architecture. From small townhomes to government facilities, every building in Stranger Things feels authentic to the decade. With Stranger Things 4 debuting on our screens in May, let's explore how the show's creators used architectural details to capture the essence of the 80s and create an unforgettable viewing experience.

Stranger Things Season 4 on Netflix | @netflix

The rise of the 80s

The Memphis design movement | @creativebloq

The 1980s were characterized by big hair, big dreams, and big changes. It also saw a cultural rebirth that impacted every facet of society, from fashion to architecture, after years of relative stability. The Memphis design movement, led by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass, produced the fundamental aspects of the '80s aesthetic. The group featured designers and architects from all over the world who set out to break free from modernism, a style that compelled designers to adhere to a slew of norms.

A bold and playful interior of a building in the 1980s | @twinfm

After years of conservative rule, the 80s saw a revival of progressive values and a push for social change. This can be seen in the architecture of the time, which broke away from the traditional forms of the past and embraced new technologies and materials. This was a time when functionality became more important than aesthetics, and buildings were designed to meet the needs of the people who used them. 

Interior design and its role

Adam Walker - Stranger Things - The Byers ResidenceThe interior design of Will Byers' house | @adamwalker

The interior design of the 80s was a time of excess. Colors were bold, patterns were busy, and everything was big. Furniture was oversized and upholstered in bright fabrics, walls were covered in wallpaper, and lamps were tall and dramatic. In a lot of ways, it was a reaction to the minimalism of the 70s. Designers wanted to create spaces that were both fun and functional. The result was a decade of interior design that is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Thanks to shows like Stranger Things, which harkens back to the 80s in both its aesthetics and its storytelling, the style is once again en vogue. Take inspiration from Mike and Nancy's house in the first season, with its functional exterior, or Will Byers’ house with its fittingly quaint yet functional Christmas lights.

Deciding the filming location

The filming location of Stranger Things | @contiki

The producers of Stranger Things wanted to create a world that is instantly familiar and ubiquitous, so they chose a town that can be recognized by all. Anytown, USA if you will. For the producers, Atlanta was an obvious choice because it served as the perfect representation of archetypal Americana: homes with split levels or ranch-style houses painted in pastel colors such as pink, blue, sienna brown, cream white, and more.

The Starcourt Mall

The revamped Starcourt Mall | @strangerthingsfandom

The Gwinnett Place Mall was once a bustling shopping destination with 1.3 million square feet of space, but it lost nearly half its population since 1984 due to repairs and renovations at the nearby Sugarloaf Mills mall which opened in 2001. This led many shoppers across state lines into neighboring South Carolina where there are more options available today than ever before. 

However, the mall has witnessed a dramatic spike in popularity, thanks to the production team's massive retrofit—gutting and reconstructing 40 stores and restaurants, as well as an eager Twitter mob that tried its best to get a glimpse last year when they released footage of what was happening on set.

Filming took place inside the mall's food court, which has a fantastic 1984-era interior architecture with vaulted geometric ceilings. The vast space also allowed for the signature ‘dynamic camerawork’ from the Duffer Brothers.

The production team not only recreated iconic retail spaces with all period-appropriate signage and window displays, but in some cases, they had to redo entire stores. From Orange Julius (a popular frozen drink joint) to JC Penny (an old clothing store that has since closed down) the brief appearances of these locations on-screen helped convey an accurate picture of what life was like back then during the 1980s.

Stranger Things' season 4 will arrive in 2022 | EngadgetScene from Stranger Things 4 | @engadget

If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, there’s a good chance you also appreciate the show’s nods to 80s architecture. The series has helped revive interest in the decade’s style and spawned plenty of articles exploring the topic. We hope you enjoyed this brief look at how Stranger Things revived 80s architecture, and be sure to catch Stranger Things 4 on Netflix!