The…Gulp…Original Quad

[EDIT: There are inaccuracies in this post. See this one and this one for later improvements.]

The quad is tough.

There’s just no getting around it. Also known as the paved courtyard or Gloucester courtyard, this squarish space is nestled within one of the castle’s main buildings, between the marble staircase tower and Gryffindor Tower. It survived through all the films, but not without significant changes.

The later iterations are simpler and better documented. They even provide some valuable clues about the earlier designs. But there are outstanding questions about those earlier designs, for which reference is very scarce.

Based on the overhead shot from Chamber of Secrets, the original quad was ringed by cloisters and sat deeper within the building. One interesting result is that the big arch near the grand staircase tower couldn’t have led into the quad as it did in later versions. Best guess based on the available information is that this path ended some sort of balustrade, allowing students to look down into the quad, some 60 feet below.

You can get some sense of it as I start to rough out the geometry inside the original quad. Notice how high up that arch is, relative to the floor:

It’s a little easier to see if we take a look at the front of the castle (and get the viaduct out of the way):

See that shaded wall below the archway? Yeah…the quad floor is all the way down at the bottom of that wall. Crazy low, right? That depth is taken from photogrammetry of the COS overhead shot, by the way. It almost perfectly matches the elevation of the terrace in the back of the building.

Anyway, the regular spacing of the Gloucester Cathedral-inspired windows within the quad forced me to adjust the roofs a bit. The results should be more accurate now than they were before. Here’s an untextured work-in-progress view as I attempted to work out all the spacings and block in the cloisters below:

The balustrade in the foreground is conjectural. The closest thing I have to evidence of its existence is an aerial illustration of the castle by Michael Bramman for The Sunday Times Magazine. It was done before production on the second film, based on a mixture of blueprints, production stills, limited access to the miniature itself, and “a cardboard model which had enough of the of the basic elements to give [him] an idea of the school in its entirety” (source). This is how he painted the archway:

Certainly some sort of lip there – either a balustrade or a parapet. Impossible to tell. For my model, I’m using the design of the other balustrade nearby, between the Great Hall and the marble staircase tower.

Here’s a fully rendered view, similar to the untextured one above, but with some progress on the windows. These happen to correspond to the corridor to the Fat Lady’s portrait in the first film:

I’ve actually already recreated this window design, way back in 2019, at the base of the quad’s south exterior facade:

But back then, I was working with a lot less reference material, so the results were less accurate. Here’s a somewhat comparable angle with those lower windows redone:

Granted, the differences aren’t that noticeable from this distance. But I still feel better, haha!

The details are easier to make out in this render of the similar windows (and others) inside the quad. Fun fact: this is what you’d see if your face was pressed up against the big window by the moving staircases. Maybe at some point I’ll go back into my model of that space and replace the more generic scenic backdrop outside the window with a more “correct” view like this:

Speaking of that window…I have no direct evidence that it was ever included in the exterior model, but I’m strongly inclined to believe it was/is there. I decided to simply import that window from my grand staircase interior model and adapt it for exterior viewing. I kept the imagined real-world scale from the interior model and based the placement of the window on the GoF-era Noble Collection sculpture of Hogwarts:

As a reminder, here’s what it looks like from the inside:

Of course, please don’t take any the exterior details here as gospel. I’m doing my best to reach reasonable conclusions, but when it comes to the quad, I can’t be anywhere near as sure as I am in a lot of other parts of the model.

Next up will be the actual floor of the quad, the fountain, and the cloisters. I’ll save that for the next post. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a screenshot of something else I’ve been starting to work on. When this whole project is finally finished, I want to provide multiple modalities for you to explore the castle’s shifting architecture. One of those will be a gallery of renders with buttons that will change between different versions of the castle.

The basic functionality is starting to come together, using some test renders of the incomplete models. It’s been a while since I’ve done any HTML/CSS/JavaScript coding, so it’s fun dipping my toes back into that pool while Blender is rendering.


28 thoughts on “The…Gulp…Original Quad

  1. There’s something delightfully primeval about seeing the early quad come together! I think that big window might also be there in the OotP/HBP video game versions, but I can’t recall for certain. I would have assumed that the balustrade matched the type on the rest of that level’s walkway, that leads around to the viaduct, but the upper level balustrade style is also a savvy match.


    1. It is indeed there in at least a few of the games. They made other changes to the quad for the games, so I of course take it all with a grain of salt, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the theory that the window was there on the miniature, too!


  2. Beautiful! Though, as I do recall, there later became a parapet over the Gloucester windows that formed a single walkway that lined the interior roof of the quad. When they made this adjustment, how did they alter the actual quad?

    Did they either raise the elevation of the south and west walls of the quad’s interior or lower the north and east walls? And how did the rest of the building respond to this change? Were the upper levels of the EXTERIOR parapets levelled entirely along with the interior walls? Or did the exterior walls remain as they were?

    As for the roofs, did keep uniform slopes in exchange for uneven footings?

    And while we are on the topic of roofing, are the slopes even uniform now?



  3. Hmm, I’m not aware of any parapet along the quad interior…

    As things currently stand in my model, the different parts of the roof have similar pitches, but I think there is some variation.


    1. I believe they’re asking about the Deathly Hallows remodel – in addition to the outside changes, the inside sees the Gloucester windows mover outwards to create a thin parapet between the edge and the roof, with the windows overhanging the courtyard slightly, presumably with help from corbells, but I don’t think we see those in the film. It’s not easy to see but you can make it out:

      I also noticed while looking through DH screenshots that a long ago asked question about where Harry meets the grey Lady does actually have an answer. You can see from the view the middle/transfiguration courtyard below to her right, and the outline of the astronomy tower, placing the scene inside the transcept of the gallery/cathedral (she is facing away from Harry in the shot), or at least somewhere around there:

      It does seem to be a modified version of the model though – probably fiddling around with the cgi since it was a pure-cg model, so the Astronomy tower is a bit odd, and the courtyard’s surrounding low buildings roofline seems to have reverted to the old way it used to be with the transfiguration classroom. Either way, the set itself doesn’t match the outside of any existing model.

      The sets/locations for the scene material itself looks like a mix of the stairs from prior films most notable for where Hermione goes to cry in HBP, the cloister set reminiscent of Durham last seen when Lucius Malfoy tried to kill Harry at the end of the CoS film, and a room in Lacock Abbey where Harry overhears Ernie and Hannah in a deleted scene (or a set recreation of the same room), might even be some New College cloister elements in there as well:

      It’s a bit of an interesting hodgepodge.


      1. [cries in broken links]

        Okay take 2, in order, and sadly lower res:

        (first one is easier to make out in the wiki pic on the Quad page, but I don’t trust a link that messy to embed)


      2. I know it’s dark, but I can’t figure out which way the Grey Lady is supposed to be facing in that shot. I definitely recognize the middle courtyard, but I don’t see the astronomy tower. I definitely recognize the transcept building behind her. Would that mean she’s facing North, towards the bell towers?


      3. I can’t really tell which way we’re looking in the Grey Lady scene…my feeling is that it doesn’t really fit into the larger castle design in any super consistent way.


    1. I haven’t fully explored the DH version, but I don’t believe the white card model is perfectly accurate here. The small 45-degree diagonal wall seems to not be there in the final castle model. But yeah, things do seem to have leveled off by then.


      1. Aha! Not the best resolution ever, but the best I’ve found, and minus any effects or the battle’s full darkness:

        (1:06 if it doesn’t start there)

        Should be much clearer to see the parapets there – and how they make the windowline protrude from the wall on that floor only. Also a rare decent look into the base of the Astronomy tower, though obviously how close that is to the HBP version is entirely debatable.


  4. Were I to design the quad courtyard for the film, I would’ve made the cloister roofs a parapetted balcony surrounding the courtyard, and raised the whole courtyard up a bit so that the surrounding balcony is level with the bottom of the arch. That way the arch actually goes somewhere without paving over the whole courtyard.


  5. We’re so proud of you for taking this on! From the reference images I’ve seen, I think you nailed it. If you were ever moved to create an orthographic cross section of the building, showing the different parapet heights and depth of the courtyard compared to the outer sides, that would be awesome! Not sure of Blender’s capabilities in that direction.


      1. I have been glued to my notifications for the last couple days lol. It’s so clossssse!


  6. Great work here!
    I was wondering if, in your research, you could say roughly when the quad underwent the most changes? My impression is that the floor was raised up to the same level as the arch, and that with that, the archway to the path to the left of the marble staircase tower was added, but I could be wrong. Even then, I’m not sure when that would be completed but my guess is GoF?


    1. That arch was definitely added in GOF. I strongly suspect that this was also when the cloisters disappeared and the floor was raised, but it’s possible that this was done for POA. My money’s on GOF, though.


      1. Yeah… I’m inclined to agree for a few reasons.
        Least of all the terrain elevations change around the Great Hall, and I think the arch that was added for GoF has to mean that the floor was raised to meet it (I could be wrong but I believe that pathway arch and the arch leading to the terrace near the Viaduct are on the same level).
        But, I do also see that it’s plausible that as upper parts of the quad were overhauled for PoA to accommodate the hospital wing, the floor might’ve been raised there, but in the absence of that pathway arch in PoA, it’s a near impossible task to tell.
        For the purposes of your comparison project, do you reckon you’ll just stick with the cloisters being removed and floor raised in GoF?


      2. The first piece of evidence is what seems to be an early floor plan of the GOF castle. It’s got some inaccuracies, but it does clearly show the cloisters and fountain in place. I doubt they’d even consider adding these back in if they’d removed them in the previous film.

        The next piece is the fact that the HBP floor plans refer to detail drawings from GOF for the front (east) walkway and arch. That means there were changes made there in GOF, but not in OOTP or HBP. I believe that the change it’s referring to is the addition of the slight ramp up toward the archway, allowing the new quad floor to be slightly higher than that of the viaduct and so forth. It would make sense that whenever the ramp was added was when the quad floor was raised.

        The third piece is the fact that the HBP floor plan refers to detail drawings of all sides of the quad interior from GOF. If the cloister removal and floor raising had already happened in POA, the only remaining change in GOF would be the addition of the southern arch, so you would only need a new detail drawing for that wall, not all of them.

        The fourth and weakest piece of evidence is that the low Gloucester-style windows on the quad building’s south outer facade didn’t disappear till OOTP. Really, the most logical time for them to disappear would have been when the quad floor was raised, but since we know that this definitely happened no later than GOF, the removal of the outer windows was delayed by at least one movie. I’m inclined to think they’d be more likely to do it one movie late than two movies late. Again, that’s the weakest piece of evidence, but taken with the other three, it adds a little more credence, I think.

        So yeah, could still be wrong. They might have done something totally different. But I’m thinking POA was very much an intermediate phase where the hospital wing was added but the floor and cloisters weren’t changed yet.


      3. Where could I find the HBP floor plans that refer to GOF changes?

        Another random question: Do you think they ever seriously considered having the Hospital Wing and Clock Tower jutting off from the Durham courtyard, as was shown in the Dark Tower concept art? That would’ve been different. Maybe it was an early attempt to keep the Willow and Hagrid’s in their original spots, but the Clock Tower wing had virtually no room over there.


      4. The HBP floor plan has a nice two-page spread in the book Harry Potter: Page to Screen!

        As to your other question…hard to say! Certainly a possibility.


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