As I often say, the purpose of Top Ten lists is to be wrong, and David Annand’s list of the Top Ten Fictional Buildings for the Grauniad is definitely wrong. But oddly enough I’m having difficulty coming up with a Top Ten that I don’t think is wrong.
I’m not even absolutely sure what my criteria are. I think to be top-tier, a fictional building (and I am working here from prose fiction, obviously) has to be fully realized, outside and in, to the point where I feel like I am as familiar with it as my workplace or my childhood home. But it also has to be fantastic, or at least strange—a fully realized building that’s too ordinary isn’t going to be memorable enough for my Top Ten.
- Blandings Castle: I can totally see what it looks like from the outside, as well as the study with its French window, the dining room, the drawing room, bedrooms, stairs, the gardens, the lake… and as a Stately Home, it has the kind of ourageous fabulousness that puts it in the top tier.
- Hogwarts: The impressive thing about Hogwarts, honestly, is that it keeps being interesting as a location, even as the books become less interesting (to me, anyway). It starts out with a bunch of charming aspects, but then it grows.
- 221B Baker Street: Somehow, this hasn’t been ruined for me by overly literal filming. Maybe because there are so many different versions? At any rate, it’s one of the greats—and I can totally see the view from the window.
- Isengard: Mr. Annand mentions Bag End, but of the buildings of Middle Earth, I would pick either Isengard or Minas Tirith. I would like to pick Rivendell—certainly of all the buildings of Middle Earth, that’s the one I would choose to visit—but somehow I can’t really see Rivendell as a building.
- Howl’s Moving Castle: Has the advantage of also being, at least somewhat, a character in the story.
- Krook’s rag-and-bottle shop from Bleak House: I think this is the Dickens building I would pick, with the wineshop from A Tale of Two Cities and The Wooden Midshipman from Dombey and Son the strongest competition.
- Maybe Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre?I feel like there should be at least one scary mansion on this list, I think I’d put this ahead of the Castle of Otranto or Wuthering Heights or Manderley. And the House of Usher doesn’t have the physicality I’m looking for.
- Mr. Annand includes the Library of Babel, which I don’t think has enough reality in it to make my list, but I can’t think of a better fictional library.
- The Deadly Nightshade Diner (we never close) from the Snarkout Boys series, by Daniel Pinkwater is a terrific location, but part of its charm is that the physical building is a quite generic diner. Right? On the other hand, they have borgelnuskies. And, again, I can’t think of another great fictional restaurant building.
- The Wayside School from the Louis Sachar series? Eeyore’s (Piglet’s) house in the Hundred Acre Wood? The Batcave under Stately Wayne Manor? Really, I’m having trouble getting to ten.
What are your favorites?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,