Across the Viaduct!

With the SS/COS grand staircase side project complete, let’s hop back over to the main model!

The basic layout of Hogwarts in all the films is divided into two halves – a wing to the south where you have things like the Great Hall and the marble staircase tower and Gryffindor Tower, and a north wing that’s largely based off of real-world architecture at Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle. There are three footpaths that connect these halves:

  • The viaduct, which is by far the most noticeable, as it’s the largest and it’s situated right out front. This one goes all the way back to Stuart Craig’s early concept designs, and it stayed virtually unchanged all the way till Deathly Hallows, when it was enlarged and reoriented to become the main route into the school. (A new stairway was added so that there were still three paths connecting the halves of the castle.)
  • The stone bridge, which is much shorter and rather higher up than the viaduct, but still quite visible. It also dates back to the early concept art.
  • The suspension bridge, which isn’t seen particularly often but remained more or less unchanged throughout the films; it just moved around a little.

Each of these was in a different state in my model: the viaduct didn’t exist at all, the stone bridge was complete, and the suspension bridge existed as an early attempt that I hid sometime last year. I decided to hold off on that till later, but I did need to get the viaduct in place so I could start work on the north wing!

There’s a lot of good reference out there, so the viaduct wasn’t particularly difficult:

You may notice I’ve begun adding some subtle atmospheric perspective or mist to some of these renders…it can really help provide some depth and separation, particularly since the entire castle is pretty homogeneous in terms of color and texture. That’s becoming more important as the castle continues to sprawl further and further out.

Anyway, with the viaduct completed, I turned my sights to the so-called viaduct entrance – as in, the entrance to the north wing from the viaduct, not the entrance to the viaduct. It’s framed by two towers that remained largely unchanged throughout the films; their spires just got a little steeper in Order of the Phoenix. They also added a window to Snape’s dungeon at the base of the one to the left, but that’s hidden from a lot of angles…and since I’m working on the Azkaban version of the castle right now, I don’t have to worry about that yet anyway.

I began adding the left tower, as well as the semicircular area at the end of the viaduct. This is also a nice silhouette of the stone bridge in the background:

Once the details started really coming together, including the shallower spires seen prior to OOTP, I mirrored the left tower to the right side as well. (The two are identical, other than the fact that one of the windows on the left tower is replaced by a door to the stone bridge.)

Here they are complete!

That smoke sim is paying dividends…I’m really digging in in this render.

The wall that connects these two towers is interesting. It forms the southernmost face of the so-called long gallery, sometimes even just referred to as the Durham building because as I said, so much of its design is based off of Durham Cathedral. That cathedral was a real-world filming location for the first two films, and there are some areas of the miniature that follow its design pretty slavishly so as to meld well with the location shoots.

This south wall, though, corresponds to an area of Durham never seen in the film. This what it looks like in real life, courtesy Google Street View:

Since they never shot any scenes right here, there was freedom to modify the design for the visual effects miniature, which looks like this:

As you can see, the miniature retains the overall shape and dimensions, but many of the details have been changed. The large rose window is replaced with a much smaller and less “churchy” version, and front doors have been added – front doors that are identical to the doors to the Great Hall, which are in turn identical to real-world doors at Christ Church at Oxford. (The doors are, however, scaled up to about twice the size – nearly 30 feet tall in the imagined real-world scale the miniature represents!) The windows are very Oxfordesque as well.

Anyway, I began adding this south wall:

I didn’t have to create those huge Oxford doors completely from scratch this time…the archways in the grand staircase side project are variations thereof, so I was able to bring one of those archways into this file and modify it appropriately. (I admit it’s kind of a hodgepodge of super-precise areas and others that are merely close to correct…ssshhh, don’t tell anyone.)

I then added the four house crests – plus the main Hogwarts crest – above the door, using bump maps to simulate the relief. Here’s a student’s-eye view from the viaduct:

It’s especially nice now that I remembered to make the windows visible! Ignore the light under the doors though.

I don’t know why I was psyching myself out prior to starting the viaduct entrance…I had this weird gut feeling that it wasn’t going to look right, or I wouldn’t be able to get the dimensions to all agree with each other, or something…but I really like the way this is turning out! Stay tuned for more updates as I add windows, the triangular area with the small rose window, and the two small spires on either side!

7 thoughts on “Across the Viaduct!

  1. Man, I really love 260! It’s crazy just how different that part of the castle looks before they added a courtyard and lopped off the chamber of reception; almost like an entirely new area. Shame we never got to wander around that version of Hogwarts in the videogames… your render really evokes that sense of unexplored mystery. Nice work.

    Seeing a proper comparison between the real-life Durham and the viaduct entrance building was awesome, too! I quite like how different the design turned out to be; all those little tweaks add up and really meld it into the Hogwarts aesthetic. Less church-y, more magical, as you said. (Great spot on the door matching, as well!)

    Maybe a future render could zoom us in even closer to those sweet house crests you did over the archway? Would love to see those in even greater detail. Awesome work as always!

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    1. Yeah, I definitely dig the Chamber of Reception vibe…having a courtyard there makes sense, but there’s something about the CoR that I just really like.

      The house crests don’t really have much more detail than what you can see in that render, but I hope to fix that…maybe then I’ll be able to share a closer shot!

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  2. I see there’s an archway on the end of the viaduct facing the Viaduct entrance building, below the level of the main walkway.
    Is this another level to the viaduct? Is it a two storey bridge?

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      1. That’s really cool! I was totally unaware of that. How did you discover this?
        That would imply some sort of structure/walkable area under the Entrance Courtyard right?

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      2. The best look in the films is when Harry crashes through there on his broom, trying to escape from the dragon. The arches are also visible in photos of the miniature. As far as I know there’s no canonical answer to where the original lower level goes on either end. (The blueprints for DH2’s larger viaduct show that the lower level just has stairs up to the upper level on each end, making it kind of pointless.)

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  3. Interesting, I think I will add some areas under the EC and the VE on my Hogwarts and have them connected by the lower level of the viaduct. I always enjoy added layers of complexity 😀

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