Hogwarts meets Blockwarts – Having coffee with Hogwarts model designer Justin Ramsden

Sometimes you’re in luck! That happened to me last month. Work brought me half-way around the world to stay only 30 minutes from The LEGO Group’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark.

First visit to LEGO House in Billund

Long story short, only a few weeks ago I found myself having coffee with Justin Ramsden at the LEGO House. It was not an interview, but an interesting and passionate conversation, talking LEGO, talking Harry Potter, and a whole lot of other things. Following a busy month with work and LEGO Expos, here are some reflections of the conversation, starting with where do idea the idea for a large LEGO set like this come from?

Anyone who has seen Hogwarts sitting on the cliff top in Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Orlando or the huge Hogwarts model at Harry Potter Studios tour in London, would have been amazed by the view ahead of them. Imagine being an 11-year old first year Hogwarts student – this is what they would have seen and felt on their way across the lake towards the castle.

‘Yeh’ll get yer firs’ sight o’ Hogwarts in a sec,’ Hagrid called over his shoulder, ‘jus’ round this bend here.’

There was a loud ‘Oooooh!’.

The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

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Hogwarts dominate the skyline at Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort

Capturing this feeling of awe was also one of the objectives behind the new LEGO Hogwarts Castle (set 71043). It started several years ago with some early concept work by LEGO designer Joel Baker, who pitched the idea of this set of his dreams to his management. On Facebook, when Hogwarts Castle was revealed, Joel wrote:

The idea came from a memory of the awe inspiring moment when you walk up to Hogwarts in Universal Studios Wizarding World in Orlando, plus a love of JK’s books, and the kid in me has always loved building big LEGO Castles.

The idea was luckily accepted as an idea for progression.

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The newly released LEGO Hogwarts Castle model in front of the huge model used for filming at Warner Bros’ Harry Potter Studies Tour in London

The impressive view of the Great Hall and Central tower from across the lake was also exactly what I wanted to capture with my Hogwarts model (Blockwarts), when I started rebuilding it early 2018. With expo visitors telling they got goosebumps when they saw the display, I may at least have succeeded on that part.

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“Blockwarts” the first time on display in May 2018

Returning to the official LEGO Hogwarts Castle set. Once the idea had gained life, Justin Ramsden was tapped from his regular work on the Superheroes range to be the model designer working with Crystal Bam Fontan, who was the lead graphic designer.

Both were huge Harry Potter fans and loved every second of the journey, spending all day building and designing, and reviewing the Harry Potter books and movies at night.

The combination of a talented model designer and being such a Harry Potter fan explains why Justin was selected. He was a passionate LEGO fan from childhood, and has spend 5 year as model builder at LEGOLAND Windsor and 4 ½ years as model designer at Billund. As for his Harry Potter credentials, he used to be lining up at the bookstore for the release of the new Harry Potter books. And after he read the first, now 20 years ago, he wrote to LEGO telling them they had to produce Harry Potter sets.

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My meeting with Justin Ramsden – Hogwarts meets Blockwarts at the LEGO House

We heard that Joel Baker’s idea for the set came partly from majestic look of the Wizard school he wanted to capture the feeling of amazement that hits anyone seeing it the first time. Justin followed through, taking the builders of the LEGO set on the same journey, starting with building the boats that brought the 1 year students across the black lake. Then building the boat-house, the stairs up the hill, and then the Great Hall, ready to sort the students into their Hogwarts houses.

I can’t wait to get started on building this set and follow that same journey.

Build the magic!

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