Transfiguration Classroom

In the early Potter films, scenes in Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration classroom were shot on location in the chapter house at Durham Cathedral. As part of their efforts to make the original exterior miniature somewhat consistent with the location shoots, Stuart Craig and his team adapted the exterior of the chapter house as part of their design.

I say “adapted” because the details don’t really match. Still, it’s very clear that this structure just south of the middle courtyard (also adapted from Durham) was intended to be the exterior of the classroom.

Here’s the basic shape of the structure:

My “reference board” for this structure is one of my smallest. This is partly because it only existed for two films and partly because it’s not that big or complex a structure…but it’s also partly because reference is really, really scarce. Like…a couple of shots in Chamber of Secrets and a behind-the-scenes photo from Sorcerer’s Stone, plus the floor plan that sits beneath the model. Still, it’s enough to reconstruct what most of it looked like…

…except I have literally zero shots of the far side of the structure, the one facing the courtyard. I’d be in heaven if I could find a shot of the original miniature from an angle like this:

It would clear up my questions about the side of the Transfiguration classroom facing the courtyard, not to mention the original training grounds tower roof on the right. Again…maybe someday. In the meantime, I’m leaving the wall facing the courtyard blank.

Anyway, here’s the less mysterious side with all the nice details:

And, as promised last time, here’s a slider comparing the whole area in the first film (left) to the redesign in the third film (right), including the relocation of the suspension bridge:

Next up…dare I try to tackle the original quad?

19 thoughts on “Transfiguration Classroom

  1. Splendid – the original courtyard’s surroundings finally complete!

    >’Next up…dare I try to tackle the original quad?’
    I double dog dare you! 😛

    Though aside from the Astronomy Tower and viaduct courtyard we’re running out of major things not already done as it is, so it does seem to be looming sooner or later lol.

    After taking a look at the few shots we have (the glimpse through the arch in the sunrise pic establishing Hermione’s bedside after Aragog, and the pan-over from above after Harry is shown the memory), I’m now convinced that if the PS courtyard isn’t, then the CoS courtyard definitely is sunken down to at least the first, possibly the second dungeon level. It’s on the fragment transition blueprint between PoA and GoF, but I don’t really have a good way of knowing when it vanished into the clear space on the current HBP model, so I’m very keen to see what conclusions you come to.

    I’ve still not found great shots of the model base of the AT, only set pictures and the blueprints and the best up close looks I’ve seen of the base are from games that’re not super accurate anyways, so that would also be a treat to see when you have that done.

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    1. I’m curious what on the floor plan indicates to you that the courtyard is sunken. Could you point it out? I thought it was always level with the arch and the terrace to the east.

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      1. It’s not something from the plan, it’s from two shots in the 2nd film. Conveniently, in order:

        First we have an overhead pan the morning after Harry has the Riddle diary flashback. Pay attention to the features on the leftmost wall, especially the windows.

        Secondly, we have the morning after meeting Aragog, transitioning to Hermione’s hospital bed where Harry finds the scrunched up page. See the windows from the first image are visible through the arch? The height in the first picture cross-referenced with this side-on look, and the lack of any visible cloister or roof in the second image leads to the conclusion that the courtyard and cloisters there are sunken below the floor level – the arch likely being a balcony, but the lack of better shots of the old version ofthe miniature hard to place.

        This version of the courtyard is only seen in CoS, but we never see any shots of the PS’s model’s quad interior, nor do we get good shots of later versions up until it is simply open flat space in the currently-existing HBP model you can visit IRL. At some point that entire sunken courtyard disappeared, and there’s no real info unearthed as to when. It might’ve happened when GoF added the second smaller arch behind the Great Hall with the path leading aroundthe back to the boathouse, but that’s pure conjecture.

        All in all, unless production artists and designers from back in the day reveal more information, it remains one of the more mysterious parts of the castle thanks to no longer existing. Sadly none of the CoS games feature this structure, opting for simply a flat space in place. It’s not on the incomplete lighting plan of the PS model that we have, but it is actually on a fragment of what seems to be a transitionary version from between PoA and GoF (it has elements unique to both films’ versions):

        So it does stand to reason that this version still existed in the PoA model, but we have no actual proof of that.

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      2. I agree with everything The Englanderish said. What initially tipped me off was photogrammetry of the overhead shot from COS – it placed the floor super low. Took me a long while to accept that it really does seem to have been that low in the original version!

        The HBP overall floor plan refers to the GoF detail drawings for the quad, suggesting it didn’t change after GoF. The PoA version is the real mystery…the hospital wing was obviously added, but it’s hard to be sure about the floor level and cloisters. Based on the early GoF plan, I suspect that PoA kept the lower level and the cloisters. Hard to be sure, though.

        The lower level in the first couple films actually explains why the west exterior terrace is so low, and why there are windows so low on the south facade too. The only outer facade that doesn’t go super low is the east one! A lot of the lower exterior details went away as films passed and the quad got raised.

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      3. Interesting. I always just assumed those lower windows on the south and west facades were built like Mont St-Michel which has multistory buildings cut into the rocky mountain slope, and that the interior (courtyard) side was just part of the rock. That’s how it worked out in the later model anyway where the courtyard level is higher than some of the windows. I wonder what Stuart originally thought when he planned that arch overlooking the courtyard instead of leading into it.

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      4. I had a thought about those cloisters down there, actually – or at least reference material ossibilities. Sadly even at 4k we don’t have great detail, but the structures we can see remind me of two things:

        First, the portico from Alnwick’s inner courtyard:

        And secondly, the cloisters in Christ Church College, Oxford – just outside where they filmed the entrance staircase in the first two films:

        The path over the green with the circular centre in particular is quite reminiscent.

        Of course, neither are definite exact matches, and with such little to go on, it could easily be more Durham or Lacock architecture, or just entirely made up stuff. But I’ll let you make your judgement calls on that, Joe, just figured more ideas couldn’t hurt. 🙂

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      5. I appreciate it! I’m actually thinking it’s more Gloucester-inspired. The floor plans refer to this as the Gloucester courtyard, and there’s even a shot in the first film (just before the troll encounter) that was shot in that courtyard. It could be argued that that was intended to be in the quad.

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      6. Oh yes, I do know about that scene – I just assumed it that was indoors. What I meant with these references was, they might have surgically taken architectural elements to construct the Quad courtyard on the model – in the case of the Alnwick courtyard, the portico to the side of the main porch. Like the other Christ Church College reference, it’s a two-story structure, which looking at the one reference image we have, might be what’s down in the Quad courtyard.

        Gloucester is also kiiiinda 2-story height-wise, so that is also a good fit, but looking at the shot, the second story of the portico/cloister on the model seems to be mainly solid wall, which isn’t the case with Gloucester – though obviously the paving and green doesn’t match the actual Gloucester courtyard’s regardless. My assumption is that that the Gloucester reference is for the upper windows near the top of the Quad, also visible in the overhead shot, which do seem a lot more Gloucester-style.

        It’s very hard to get a perfect read on the details down there though, so there’s a lot of wiggle room for interpretation without more info.

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  2. Thanks for the great post, again! 😀

    Your comments on the missing shot had me thinking… wasn’t there a shot of that side in the First Flying Lesson scene? Well… there is and isn’t.. :’) Unfortunately it isn’t a great shot but it’s better than nothing. https://youtu.be/JhvaJa47FHY?t=59

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  3. The quad courtyard is so interesting. It’s odd that it was simplified as much as it was. The paved version is boring compared to the original.

    Also interesting that the suspension bridge was moved in POA. The slider view shows that it had enough room to stay where it was.

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  4. whoever designed the north face of the quad can choke. period. north wing supremacy!!!!

    look you and I both know these models have ISSUES. I would implore you to think of what would be your ‘perfect hogwarts’. in other words: what is your delusional hogwarts model fantasy?

    maybe you should model that when you’re done with all this. just for funsies lol.

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    1. I think all the models do what they were supposed to do: support the stories they were made for, without completely breaking the bank. There are definitely some parts I like better in one version or another, but I still like them all! The differences are part of the fun for me.

      I might try to do my own version someday, but I think I’d be more likely to revisit the version from the books. We’ll see!

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      1. Using a direct link to the image (Mouse2 then ‘view image’ and using the link for that) tends to result in more stable image links, in my experience.

        Nice sketches!

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