Review: “Harry Potter: The Blueprints” from Insight Editions
The Hogwarts founders may have been able to wave their wands to build the castle we all know and love, but Muggles wishing to build a replica have to put in a whole lot more work. Nobody knows this better than the crew of the Harry Potter films, who were responsible for bringing locations all over the wizarding world from the page to the screen — in many cases, by physically building set pieces that had previously only existed in the minds of readers.
Insight Editions reveals a detailed look at what went into this painstaking process in their new book, Harry Potter: The Blueprints. Spanning 287 extra-large pages — at 10” x 13”, it’s larger than many laptops — this book features over 350 technical drawings from the sets of the Harry Potter movies, including the iconic locations and even some intricately-designed props. With scale-accurate diagrams from every angle, elevation maps, and lots of precise measurements, this book isn’t for the faint of heart.
But you don’t need to be an architecture nerd to appreciate this stunning collection of sketches and blueprints. There’s also plenty of in-depth commentary from the production team, including production designer Stuart Craig and set decorator Stephenie McMillan, and it’s a fascinating read. You’ll learn everything from where they sourced design inspiration to details about building materials to how the production team integrated newly-built set pieces with historic buildings for on-location shoots.
Did you know they often had to build doors into open archways at the castles and abbeys where they filmed many of the classroom scenes? How about that the wood-paneled walls of the Charms classroom — part of a real-life London boarding school built in 1615 — still showed the carved marks from former students, including famous figures like Lord Byron? These and many other never-before-seen facts are waiting in between the various technical drawings. That’s right, die-hard Potter fans; this book contains a wealth of information that’s actually new (to the public), even if you’ve been following every scrap of released content for 20 years.
The book is divided into three enormous chapters: one focusing on Hogwarts Castle, one on the Hogwarts grounds, and the other on Hogsmeade. I was surprised that there wasn’t another for other locations — there’s nothing from Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic, Grimmauld Place, Malfoy Manor, the Burrow, or Privet Drive — but it’s only a minor complaint. I’m sure that would have doubled the size of the book, given the detail that’s displayed for every design.
You can really see the care and the hours of work that went into each concept. The production crew explains how they designed sets not just to create an amazing visual, but also to account for every piece of production. The blueprints often display notes on planned camera movements and special effects that will interact with the set, such as the moving snakes on the door to the Chamber of Secrets or the golden owl that preens itself on Dumbledore’s lectern via CGI. There are even designs that drastically changed before making it into the film — for example, the narrow storeroom where Snape corners Harry about Polyjuice Potion in the fourth movie was originally a very spacious, octagonal room.
One thing to note: There’s not a whole lot of color in this book. These are technical drawings, not concept art, so younger readers might not find it terribly accessible.
That said, besides the incredible art and the crew commentary, Harry Potter: The Blueprints is a model-maker’s dream. Many drafts contain precise dimensions and close-up views of prop details from every angle — including the detailing on the giant chess set’s weaponry, the minuscule silver finishing on Slughorn’s hourglass, and more. While you (probably) couldn’t build yourself a life-sized Hogwarts just from the blueprints in this book, it’s an excellent starting point for recreating mini versions of the sets or even trying your hand at a Minecraft version.
Otherwise, this book is a must-have for any Potterhead or film junkie looking for deep cut behind-the-scenes knowledge. If that’s you, give it a read — it’s available now.
A copy of Harry Potter: The Blueprints was sent to MuggleNet by Insight Editions. All opinions belong to the reviewer.