My grandfather’s health had already been in decline, but in 2021, that decline accelerated. By October, it seemed like he didn’t have much time left.
Then my mom went into the hospital for increasingly severe back/hip pain. She was diagnosed with cancer. A week later, she was gone. My grandfather followed a few days afterward.
This was an absolutely brutal one-two punch for my entire family. Totally sapped my creative energies for a while. These slowly returned with music and photography projects, but I didn’t have any interest in Hogwarts. It certainly didn’t help that Rowling continues to treat the rights of trans women and cis women as if they’re a zero-sum game. So it felt really weird when in August, I briefly started getting intrigued by the literary version of the castle again.
You may remember this post, in which I detailed my inchoate attempts to visually capture Hogwarts as I imagine it in the books.
I didn’t get very far. It’s deeply challenging to reconcile all the details in the books with each other, let alone with my more holistic impressions of the entire place.
And yet here I was again, trying to work out an appealing design solution that contradicted neither the books nor my own imagination. I experimented with digital massing models, trying out different tower positions in 3D:
One of the big challenges is the Astronomy tower. We know that it’s got battlements where the class sets up their telescopes. We know that it’s positioned right above the entrance hall. And we know that it’s the castle’s tallest tower. But having the castle’s tallest point be front and center feels kinda weird. And it gets way worse when you give it a flat top.
So I thought to myself, Hmmm, maybe if I can work out satisfactory designs for the towers, the rest of the castle will follow. I experimented with other basic shapes that allowed for flat battlements on the Astro tower, hoping to find something more dynamic and appealing:
I decided to switch back to 2D. Sometimes that’s easier for ideation. Sure enough, I came up with a design I liked better than any other so far: A hexagonal tower with a sloping spire surrounded by corbelled battlements. Next I tried variations on Ravenclaw Tower, followed by the nearby West Tower, home of the Owlery.
Of course, these towers look very different from each other, but by this point, I’d decided that Hogwarts probably drew on a lot of eclectic architectural styles anyway.
Gryffindor Tower is a tricky bastard. As one of the castle’s three tallest towers, it’s a prime position for casting defensive spells in the Battle of Hogwarts. Yet the common room isn’t any higher up than any of the other rooms on the seventh floor. So where are the fighters going that’s so high up? To the dormitories above? That seems unlikely. And speaking of the dorms … how are those laid out? There are separate spiral staircases for the boys’ and girls’ dorms, and Harry’s cohort is in the same room at the top of the boys’ staircase every year. Maybe something like this?
Again … fugly.
So I gave up again. This was in August 2022. A few months later, I got interested in the fascinating and scary world of AI-generated art, and I convinced Midjourney to create these for me. They’re not closely designed to the specifications of the book castle’s architecture, but I think a lot of them capture the overall vibe in nice ways. I’ll round out this post with these. Wish I could paint like this!
Anyway, I still feel really weird about Harry Potter these days. Not very enthusiastic, thanks to the really disappointing ways the author is using her money and influence. I certainly have no plans to send any further money her way. But I can rationalize whatever interest I still have by reminding myself that she didn’t create the trope of a big fantasy castle.
Still, I wouldn’t judge anyone for being completely done with Potter. Nor would I judge anyone for judging me for not being quite done.