What Was There Before the Hogwarts Greenhouses?

It’s not a question that you could answer just by watching the films. Here we have to rely on behind-the-scenes shots and technical drawings from Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone to reconstruct this area in its original state.

But first, I knew I needed to finish up this area as seen from Chamber of Secrets through Half-Blood Prince! I finished the curtain walls and added lawns:

Here’s a cool POV shot coming down the back steps of the Durham building:

That’s a wrap for this area in the Prisoner of Azkaban 3D model! But what did it look like at the time of the first film? Well, you still had curtain walls surrounding a large, L-shaped lawn, but the walls weren’t quite as far from the castle, and instead of the domed conservatory acting as the entryway, you had this relatively simple, squarish, Alnwick Castle-inspired building:

This side of the building is actually seen in a couple of shots in the film, but I haven’t been able to find as much detailed information about the other sides – in particular, the opposite side that faces the castle proper. For that facade, I’ve just used the same details as what you see here, but I can’t deny the possibility that some of the details were a little different. (I wonder in particular if they really would have put the Hogwarts crest on the other side.) Unless I find elevations or images of that part of the miniature, I may never know…when the greenhouses and conservatory were added in COS, this small gatehouse disappeared forever.

Anyway, here are a couple of before-and-after sliders to play with! On the left is the Sorcerer’s Stone castle; the right is Prisoner of Azkaban. (The changes we’re currently focused on occurred in Chamber of Secrets, but you’ll of course see some Azkaban changes too.)

I’ll wrap up this post with a view of some additional work I did next on the west side of the Alnwick Castle warder’s tower. Here there are again some details that differ a bit between the VFX miniature and the real-world filming location; I’m primarily going off of the miniature, though Alnwick does provide invaluable reference as well. I guess you could say my goal is to capture the shared imagined reality that the model and the location both help bring to life.

The two contenders for my next area of focus are the transfiguration/middle/Durham courtyard and the training grounds tower. I’m much more excited at the prospect of doing the latter, but I think I may tackle the courtyard first. Be sure to subscribe to be notified with future updates!


15 thoughts on “What Was There Before the Hogwarts Greenhouses?

    1. I’m not sure yet about the training grounds tower – my primary goal for now is to get the revised HP2 one done, since I’m working on the castle from the third film, but once I’ve taken some time to study and absorb the design of the building, I may find that it’s more practical to build the original version first and then modify it like the modelmakers did.

      Regarding the stairs…oof, good catch! I totally missed those! I’ll add them in tout de suite. Thank you!


      1. Yeah that’s the barbican, which obviously made it into the original castle design as-is, but it also seems to be the most direct inspiration for this other building.

        The texture issue is a frustrating one. Sometimes that happens on walls at weird angles. I thought I’d fixed it on that wall but I see now I missed it. I’ll fix that now! Thanks for drawing my attention to it!


  1. Thanks 😀 That’s what I was wondering about.

    The Training-Grounds Tower is gonna be an interesting project but I’m sure you’re gonna pull that off.


  2. Ahhhh I’ve been so looking forward to this 😉 kind of to a weird degree, to be honest. Ever since I saw you post those shots of the original SS digital model created by Matt Wright – which does not get enough attention, incidentally, I’d be so curious to know which shots they used that for! But yeah, ever since seeing that little glimpse of the original northern entrance to Hogwarts, I’ve wanted to see you bring it back to life.

    And now you have, and bonus, there are more epic slider comparisons to play with! 😀 (Seriously, it can’t just be me who loves those things. It’s so awesome getting to watch the changes across films happen in realtime as you drag the mouse.) I’ve always thought this part of the castle gets a bit neglected, even in the videogames where you can’t properly explore the greenhouse areas – so thanks for drawing back the curtain on this one.

    Also, the warder’s tower looks amazing – the detailing you put into the drainpipes and the window placement is insane! Nice to see another oft-forgotten segment of the castle be fully restored.

    A confession: I’ve been waiting for you to tackle the Transfiguration courtyard pretty much ever since I came across this blog; it’s my favourite section of the castle, always has been! That said, you should absolutely focus on the section that brings you most enjoyment, and I can’t wait to see the training grounds tower too. 😉 (Did it always have that funky stairway going down?)


    1. I’m guessing if Matt’s model made it into the film at all, it would be in the Quidditch scene – I know Imageworks roughed out a 3D model of the castle and mapped photos of the miniature onto it for texturing. It’s also possible it would have been used for previz. Not sure, though.

      You’re probably going to be in luck – I think it’s going to end up being the transfiguration courtyard next! Which funky stairway are you referring to with the training grounds tower?


  3. I love these comparison shots! As and when you do the TGT, are you planning to do the impossible courtyard inside that’s in the first film, or would the program freak out at even attempting that?


    1. Good question. I’m thinking I won’t try to modify the training grounds tower so that Alnwick courtyard fits inside. I do want to include that courtyard as it was designed in the miniature, but it’s very hard to find reference for that, so we’ll see what ends up being possible.


      1. Sadly I don’t think I have anything on the miniature, but I do have some references for the irl courtyard (I’ve been making a custom map). Not sure how good they are for purposes, but want me to send them to you?


  4. A little off topic: I was wondering about the way your model would look like color-graded in style of the movies.
    I made a little test using one of your renderings, adding some landscape and color-correcting it in the greenish-dark style of the later movies (:


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