The Astronomy Tower, the tallest in all of Hogwarts, is one of the most iconic buildings in the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (or at least with regard to its cinematic image). Its flat façade and soaring (similar to the Clock Tower), slightly rhomboidal gable, surrounded by smaller towers, definitely attract attention. The whole thing makes a big impression on the screen and it is no different in the brick version of this building. The designers managed to capture the special character of the top of the tower with an unusual overhang and shape. Together with the solid viaduct entrance and greenhouse, the whole looks very impressive from the front.
The entire set—the theme, the selection of interiors and minifigures—refers to the sixth part of the adventures of a young wizard, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and mainly to the Slug Club’s Christmas party. However, let’s not get too attached to this particular story, because I would like to direct this review in a slightly different direction.
Slightly different direction
Several times in my reviews, I have emphasized the flexibility and universality of LEGO sets—with a little imagination, you can embed completely different stories in them, sometimes deviating far from the base theme. While I won’t be leaving the Wizarding World in this track (with one exception, but more on that later), I’m not going to limit myself to the story from Half-Blood Prince. This set has been around for a while, so I won’t reinvent the wheel and I will focus on its photographic potential rather than the structure itself. Although knowing me, I will probably smuggle some opinions here and there.
So let’s discover at least some of the possibilities that are hidden in this set.
We start from the very bottom. And there is probably no more down to earth place in all of Hogwarts than the greenhouse. It’s a very nice building, full of glazing and interesting details, like dragon heads on the roof! The interior is equipped with a table and four mandrake pots. It is worth paying attention to these plants, because the mandrake bricks have a new imprint; the plants look like they’re yawning. Or just beginning to scream.
The greenhouse was included in this set not by accident, because it plays a fairly specific role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Harry meets Professor Slughron by the Greenhouse. I really like the whole sequence with Harry’s happy accidents after drinking Felix Felicis, so I couldn’t help but recreate this scene.
But as I mentioned before, my main intention was to try to use this set in scenes other than those provided with the minifigures.
The Astronomy Tower is accompanied by the greenhouse alone, without its guardian—Professor Pomona Sprout. But what is the second wave of the Harry Potter minifigure series for! Professor Sprout was very happy about this visit and she fit perfectly into this structure. Okay, almost perfectly, because the greenhouse is a bit small and therefore quite demanding in terms of photography. Thanks to this, however, I was able to practice a tighter, more compact composition and perhaps I was better able to convey the stuffy atmosphere of the greenhouse.
Viaduct entrance/Potions classroom
This part of the set makes the greatest impression. It is also the most compact and solid part of the building, especially seen from the front.
There is Potions Class gear inside, but I managed to resist the temptation to take a shortcut and remake a scene with Snape or Slughorn. However, I couldn’t help but collect most of the impressive eight minifigures in this set and make the Slug Club Christmas party setting. This number is not surprising, Horace Slughorn has an endearing appearance and everyone wants to know him, not to mention be at his party. Even if he wasn’t invited. And this was the fate of Draco Malfoy himself, who decided to come to the party anyway. Or rather sneak in.
This photo also provided an opportunity to showcase the nicely designed oriental lamps and lavish banquet table with a chocolate fountain and biscuits. Here, the irreplaceable janitor of Hogwarts, Argus Filch [who appears in 75953 Hogwarts Whomping Willow set] came to the rescue and quickly picked up this marauder.
Horace Slughorn likes to shine and emits a lot of that glare himself, but he won’t miss the opportunity when he can also shine with reflected light. And a photo with the most famous young wizard will enrich his already considerable collection. And it will let him shine for years.
Of course, the goal that guided me during this review—a more universal use of the Astronomy Tower—was still clearly defined. Or maybe less clean, considering the fact that the subject of my next photo, this time not related to Wizarding World, was made of clay. In my opinion, Potions Class perfectly fits the atmosphere of Rabbi Loew’s studio, who, according to legend, created a golem—an animated anthropomorphic being entirely created from clay. The legend of the golem takes place in the 16th century Prague, so everything, including alchemical instruments and books, is perfectly in place here.
We cast this lifting spell at the very foot of the tower, because the lower part of the Astronomy Tower is just a simple passage and it didn’t spark any photo ideas [yet!]. So we skip the ground floor and land on the second floor. Horace Slughorn’s office is located here. A very modest office, considering Slughorn’s extremely bloated ego. And, in fact, even the minifigure of Horace can barely fit in his office, which reveals the basic and greatest disadvantage of this part of the set: the tightness. The rooms are sorely lacking a stud or two more in depth. Of course, I am aware that when designing, you need to keep a fragile balance between the size and price of the set, but this lack of a few studs is noticeable, and it will be even more noticeable on the upper floors.
On the wall of the office we find Slughorn’s clever hourglass [a pity that it’s only in the form of a sticker], which speeds up when the conversation is hard going. So I took a photo of Horace, who says with mock concern, “Oh how time flies!”
And I must admit that I was in a hurry further, ie higher!
Ravenclaw dorm room
The attributes of the Ravenclaw House are, among others, intelligence and wisdom, so it’s not surprising that there is a bookcase with its contents and a candle for vintage reading at night. As this is a dormitory, there are also two beds here. A big pennant-sticker on the wall clearly shows where we are, therefore the universal usefulness of this room for off-theme photography decreases. Did I mention it’s also tight in here? That’s why Luna Lovegood, one of the coolest characters in the HP books/movies, jumps on the bed, looking forward to attending the Slug Club Christmas party.
We finally got to the place that made me want this set—the top of the tower with astronomy classes. When I saw the promotional photos of the set, this part of the tower caught my eye instantly—the rich texture of the gable, with extensions and this attractive looking overhang.
And interiors with astronomical instruments. I was sold! In the eyes of my imagination, I have already seen all the atmospheric photos I will take in these interiors. The lack of space again stood in the way of these ideas. But it’s Hogwarts after all, so with a bit of photographic magic and a pinch of determination, I managed to break those limitations. The use of lighting and camera angles made it possible to stretch these interiors a bit. And again, it was an interesting exercise in composing tighter frames.
So I caught Albus Dumbledore during a night stroll through the Astronomy Tower. Is the Hogwarts headmaster musing, doing some research or is it just a form of relaxation? There are many possibilities, and probably only he knows the truth.
I don’t have a minifigure of Professor Aurora Sinistra, but I do have a minifigure of Professor Sybilla Trelawney from the first series of Harry Potter minifigures. I bet there are nights, when Prof. Trelawney covers the “ASTRONOMY” plate with the “ASTROLOGY” plate. With the help of telescopes and other devices, Sybilla looks for disturbing omens in the star constellations.
Asce… Oh! Then there are only the stars! The sure sign is that it is time for us to descend from the heights of the tower towards the inevitable…
Astronomy Tower is a successful set in spite of all. It looks very attractive, especially from the front, at first glance. Both the shape of the viaduct entrance and the tower itself look very good from a distance and from close up. The greenhouse is a nice addition, too.
The disadvantages appear after turning the building over. Nomen omen, the biggest disadvantage is the lack of space in the interiors, especially in the greenhouse and in the tower. This is somewhat understandable; a more massive tower would lose its slenderness. As mentioned above, this might be caused by budgetary issues. But with a bit of good will and a few plates, you can get around it by extending the surface of each floor.
Also striking are—and this is not a positive impression—the white frames [seven!], which are the load-bearing elements of the tower walls. Is it supposed to be white marble or is it another budget move? Maybe it’s about varying the color of the solids? I’m not sure about that. However, I am sure that these elements are shocking and this choice is difficult to understand, especially because a similar frame, but in tan color, is part of the greenhouse and fits there perfectly. This problem can also be solved, whether by removing the frames (the structure is weakened, but the tower is sticking somehow) or by replacing the frames with other blocks.
All in all, this set is really nice! Despite several flaws, it is very suitable for toy photography. As I mentioned at the beginning, these photos do not have to be thematically related to the sixth episode of Harry Potter’s adventures. Well, they don’t even have to be pictures related to the Wizarding World.
So it can be said with a clear conscience that the LEGO 75969 Astronomy Tower is actually a set “per aspera ad astra.” Noticeable inconveniences do not obstruct the view of the stars to which this set reaches.
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