If you are a true Potterhead, you might have imagined yourself dashing through a brick wall between platforms 9 and 10, entering into platform 9¾, and taking the Hogwarts express to the kingdom of wizardry and dark magic. Or you might have imagined yourself in the great hall having delicious-looking meals, with candlelit on the ceilings or the great yule ball.

An architectural review of The Harry Potter series - Sheet1
The delusional world of Harry Potter_©wizarding world

The world for Potterheads

Hogwarts was the only school I wanted to enroll myself in as a kid, but unfortunately, the school only existed in the imagination. It was the imagination of J.K. Rowling that was brought to scale by Stuart Craig and his team. Craig believed that the real world is imperfection; he wanted the set to not look like any other Disney fairy-tale castle or perfect set out of a fictional movie but to be enduring. Thus, the model of Hogwarts was designed to portray the imperfectness of the actual world, as if it was another high school to make it more relatable and realistic. Although the school of witchcraft and wizardry is fictional, the set has borrowed the elements of Gothic architecture and is inspired by the great European cathedrals. The school is said to be situated on an edgy outcrop surrounded by mountains and a picturesque lake (Koukouthaki, 2019). 

An architectural review of The Harry Potter series - Sheet2
View of Hogwarts castle_©Unsplash- jmeguilos

The flying buttresses, turrets, pointed arches, lancet windows is not just a deep dive into surrealism but also an ‘escape’ from the dark world of magic. The Gothic architecture symbolizes the Glory of God, contradicting the darkness inside the world of magic and dark arts. The world of Harry Potter is a complex construct, fascinating and compelling, and an escape into the magical alley. Although this prominent setting of the Harry Potter series has a magical charm, a place that would gulp people in, where even the greatest magicians of all times would feel lost too, yet no one has ever seen the clear image of what Hogwarts looked like. The settings of the school keep on changing according to the developments in the plot. For instance, to reach a library, one has to go up the never-ending stairs that are in constant motion, doors that would not open unless you ask politely and talking portraits proves that even walls have ears (Kothgasser, 2018). 

An architectural review of The Harry Potter series - Sheet3
Hogwarts castle- annotated_©Hendricks Architecture

Inside the world of Harry Potter

The setting within the series of Harry Potter is a combination of real and imaginary worlds, which the environment deems for the viewer’s attention. The architecture of the movie plays an important role in translating the fictional world into a more tangible environment. 

Suburbia

As the movie begins, it portrays a fairly new concept in architecture history. The term describes a residential district on the outskirts of the cities. The concept of Suburbia portrays the split between utopia and dystopia. In the settings of the Harry Potter series, the town contrasts between the magical settings of the series and contemplates the muggle settings differentiating it from the magic world.

An architectural review of The Harry Potter series - Sheet4
Little Whinging (a fictional town), is located in the County of Surrey near London_©StackExchange

Medieval

Opposite to the boring and modern concept suburban environment, the magical world of Hogwarts is portrayed using the combination of romanesque and Gothic elements. Traditionally romanesque architecture is referred to as Norman architecture and is the combination of Massive proportions, adorned masonry, and round arches. It is extremely unusual for British castles to incorporate both styles, but according to Craig, the changes and addition of these elements were the necessity to add to the level of interest.

An architectural review of The Harry Potter series - Sheet5
The cloisters in Gloucester Cathedral were used as a set in the Harry Potter series_©Hendricksarchitect

Dormitories

The concept of dormitories gained popularity in 19 the 19th century and is associated with the traditional idea of a high standard of education. Although, unlike any other boarding school, Hogwarts dormitories were places according to the personality the students in each house possessed. They occupy the multi-purpose living areas and sleeping quarters. The location of each house is critically positioned, depending on the primary personality of their occupants. The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw houses are located inside the turrets, while Slytherin is in the castle’s dungeon and Hufflepuff on the basement level. 

Secret Spaces

The concept of secret passageways, hidden rooms, and concealed locations has been long known in architecture since these spaces proved to be the means of providing security and protection. Hidden spaces play an important role in the settings of Harry Potter as the world of magic at all times remains hidden from the Muggles and requires a hidden passageway at the King’s cross terminal, a world known to common people. These concealed spaces divide one population of society from the other. In the narrative of the story, these hidden rooms and secret doors provide the character to explore the secrets of the magic world (Young, 2015).

First-floor girls’ bathroom inside the Hogwarts castle_©Wizarding World

Conclusion

Imagined spaces, physical settings, and highly detailed architecture typologies not only build the narrative of the series but also play an important role in making the world of magic relatable yet highly unique and connecting the fictional world of magic with the existing one.

References:

  1. Kothgasser, S. (2018). The Significance of Place and Space in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. [online] Available at: https://it013179.pers.ad.uni-graz.at:7090/LAK/db644a9eee18610849ca08ce61d4ee4d.pdf [Accessed 6 Mar. 2022].
  2. Young, H. (2015). Building Fiction the Architecture of Narrative in Harry Potter. [online] Available at: https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/handle/10012/9287/Young_Holland.pdf?sequence=3 [Accessed 6 Mar. 2022].
  3. Koukouthaki, K. (2019). Real-World Influences on the Architecture of Hogwarts Castle | the Cultural Me. [online] thecultural.me. Available at: https://thecultural.me/real-world-influences-on-the-architecture-of-hogwarts-castle-847064.
Author

Romaisa Tahir ( a student of architecture at the Institute for arts and culture, from Pakistan) enjoys writing and expresses her concerns via poetry and narrative writing. She believes that the passion for writing and admiration for the art of building can be blended; allowing the silence of buildings to speak through words and add meaning to their existence.

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