(Abandoned?) Side Project: The Literary Hogwarts

Thus far, this project has focused entirely on the versions of Hogwarts seen in the films (and theme parks). But I’ve been re-reading the entire book series as well, taking notes anytime some aspect of the castle or its environs is described – after all, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that it’s a completely different castle. For a long while I had this idea that it would be cool to create a model, illustrations, and/or floor plans for the book version of Hogwarts, but I wanted to make sure I had all the information first. In the meantime, I messed around with possible overall looks in 2D, though I didn’t arrive at anything I particularly liked:

Then I finished my notes on Deathly Hallows and compiled them according to different areas of the castle and grounds. I wrote out the following guiding principles for myself:

  • The goal is to depict in 2D and/or 3D what Hogwarts and its surroundings look like in my head, factoring in all the details given in the books.
  • Where details conflict between books, priority is generally given to descriptions that occur later in the series and/or more often.
  • The word “castle” is used to describe Hogwarts, but it’s evident from the descriptions that its features don’t always line up with what one would find in a real Scottish castle from the time period. At the same time, there’s nothing to hint at the Gothic cathedral architecture we see in the films. Here, we assume that this is a thousand-year-old boarding school built by magical people, sharing a lot of architectural similarities with contemporary Muggle castles.
  • We know the layout of Hogwarts is not 100% fixed; its magical properties do cause it to behave in some unusual ways. That being said, its overall layout doesn’t seem to change, based on the details given and on the fact that students can find their way around without a map. The approach here generally assumes a fixed layout with no fudging of the available space.
  • J. K. Rowling’s two hand-drawn maps of the book layout are taken as a general guide. Where details in the maps conflict with those in the books, the latter take priority.
  • The language in the books is not always particularly precise, so there is a little room for flexibility in the interpretation.

The process I had in mind was to start with the interiors, exploring spatial relationships between the castle’s various rooms, corridors, staircases, and so on. I figured if I could figure out how Dumbledore’s office relates to Gryffindor Tower, and how Gryffindor Tower relates to the Room of Requirement, and how the Room of Requirement relates the marble staircase, etc., etc., eventually I’d have a good idea of how to bring it all together.

With this in mind, I started my first layout experiments with the ground floor, since the entrance hall, Great Hall, and marble staircase are among the most frequently (and consistently) described areas of the castle. I took a bubble diagram approach and allowed myself to get really, really messy:

The areas closest to the entrance hall and Great Hall (GH on the right) were already feeling fairly locked in, but as you move further and further away, things get less and less certain.

Moving from the castle’s ground floor to its highest peaks, I started playing around with tower size and placement, since these will greatly impact the overall look and layout of the castle. I experimented in both 2D and 3D, again allowing for extreme roughness:

The existence of a bell tower is speculative; it’s never referred to as a tower in the book, but the bell seems to boom from somewhere above, perhaps especially close to the courtyard and classroom eleven. Considering how Hogwarts is a “vast” “towering mass” of “many turrets and towers”, I don’t think I necessarily have to limit myself just to the six towers that are explicitly described.

I next looked at the seventh floor. Here’s our first (and biggest) instance of the books not agreeing with each other. In the first three books, the corridor with the portrait hole to Gryffindor Tower seems to be on the third floor, but starting in Goblet of Fire, it’s very clearly on the seventh. Here I cleaved to my guiding principles above and accepted the seventh floor as canon. My other main landmarks on this floor were the Room of Requirement (RoR) and Dumbledore’s office, so I tried to work out how they relate to each other.

This is where I started getting a little overwhelmed with this side project and stopped working on it. I was also turned off by Rowling’s misguided comments about transgender people, which didn’t help. So for now, this side project has gone dormant, possibly to be revived someday…possibly not. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this glimpse of my process. If you’re really interested in this idea, there are some other great attempts online. I’m thinking in particular of this one and this one.

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10 thoughts on “(Abandoned?) Side Project: The Literary Hogwarts

  1. I’m not sure if it would be helpful for you, but years ago I combed through the books and wrote up notes and quotes of every passage that revealed the location of Something in the castle and its relation to other areas. I’d be happy to share them!

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  2. I’ve been attempting the same thing for a few years, though I have nowhere near your level of artistic skill and only have some rough sketches to show for my effort. I’ve got some good maps of how I think the grounds are arranged, though, utilizing every detail I could glean from my last reread. The best “book accurate” castle design I’ve seen is one I found earlier today which someone called Gabbel actually designed in Minecraft, if you want to look that up.

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    1. I’d really like to see your maps! I’ve made floor by floor plan myself. And I’m definitely going to look that minecraft one up, thanks!

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  3. I also spent a few days looking at those two sources and putting together a model in Sketchup.
    Would you ever go back to this project? Maybe without being 100% accurate but using the research as a guideline to do your own semi-accurate rendition? It would be really neat.

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