Architecture and magic


One of the things I’ve thought about a lot is the interaction between architecture and magic in Albion. 

Now, first, I am by no means a specialist in this sort of thing! But besides having lived in a range of places, I’ve done a little bit of college coursework that covered buildings. I’ve been generally been interested in how spaces adapt and change over time. 

The cover of Four Walls and a Heart in a frame, with a globe and cup of coffee. The cover is a deep red, with a man in a wheelchair and a man standing, both in silhouette, in front of a large blue and glass door.

Demesne estates and their architecture

One particular kind of architecture in Albion – and likely the sensible one to begin with – would be the demesne estates. These are the estates that specifically help anchor the land magic for that area. There are multiple layers of magic here, but specific rituals and rites are part of the process. The landed estates we’ve seen include:

  • Ytene (Geoffrey and Lizzie Carillon’s home in the north of the New Forest)
  • Veritas (the Edgarton home in Kent)
  • Arundel (the Fortier estate in West Sussex). 

When Geoffrey Carillon returns home in 1922, one of the challenges is that the estate has been neglected. Only the bare minimum has been done magically for several years. There turns out – eventually – to be a reason for that. But several chapters of Ancient Trust (get it by signing up for my newsletter) are about Carillon tending to the magic. He cleans out the local healing well. He ritually sweeps the entire house at the spring equinox. And he takes his expected part in the nearest village’s May Day celebrations. 

And The Magic of Four (out in May 2024) has two chapters that take place during the spring equinox, about different aspects of tending the local magic at and near Ytene.  (There’s also a chapter just before that which is more about tending the community and people, but which is also about the land at Veritas.) 

We’ll have more about Arundel coming in due course, both in the Mysterious Fields trilogy (out at the end of 2024) and Ursula Fortier’s romance. That one’s set in 1947 and is in part about Ursula becoming Heir to that estate, and all that means. I’m writing it starting in August, it’ll be out in 2025.


One of the things I love thinking through is how buildings are different with magic. 

Sometimes, it’s about charms placed on the building once it’s constructed. Four Walls and a Heart has an example of that. That home is what spurs Gil Oxley to retrain and focus on architectural magic. There, it’s about making a space that is comforting after loss, even if other people think lingering in that space doesn’t make sense. 

But it’s also about creating spaces that sing, magically, as it were. I continue to wist – some days quite a lot – after the magical baths at Veritas. (They make a particular appearance in Pastiche and Upon A Summer’s Day). Based on the original Roman design of the house, they rely on a hypocaust system and magical heating to produce more than sufficient hot water, steam, and varied pools for bathing and soaking and rinsing. 

Designing for a purpose

Other spaces are designed for purpose. An alchemy lab – or a space used as one – needs ventilation and stability. You don’t want dangerous ingredients getting jostled, or for gasses to build up. Lewis has given quite a lot of thought to this in Perfect Accord, using a space that wasn’t originally designed as a lab. 

Duelling salles also have specific demands. Isembard tends the salle at Schola several times during Eclipse. All salles have enchantments to absorb and deflect magic in safe ways, but Schola’s is particularly so. That’s because so many of the people using it are still very new to the art of magical duelling, and they need to be safe while they learn. Some materia is raked and mixed into the dirt floor, which is re-enchanted and charmed at regular intervals. Some is built into the wood. Other protections are checked regularly and renewed when needed. 

And in coming attractions, Facets of the Bench is dealing with, among of things, the magical structure of the Courts. 

All architectural magic is manipulative

The last piece is an argument more than one character has made in my books – that all architectural magic is fundamentally manipulative. 

Thesan comments on it when it comes to the enchantments against pregnancy in the seven Houses at Schola. In that case, there’s a charm on the pipes that feed those houses that provides a contraceptive effect. Heads of House could choose to avoid it, if they wanted, but the students are drinking that water routinely in tea while they’re studying. (The pipes in the Keep and for the section of the curtain wall that houses the library, rooms for staff without rooms elsewhere, and the Head’s offices are handled differently.) 

Gil, of course, also has opinions about this. He’s spent most of his adult life dealing with architectural magics. His job is largely figuring out what’s already inherent in the building and then figuring out how to coax, adapt, or reset that to suit the current needs of the family, the house, and the property overall. And some of that’s a little manipulative.

Think about creating a scene for a party, or the tricks real estate agents use. (Think of the smell of bread baking, vanilla, all the smells that read to us as comfort and home). Or what it’s like walking into a room for a winter party, the mix of evergreen, spices, maybe some citrus. It’s manipulative in a way, but it’s a way we’re generally pretty delighted to go along with. 

Expanding the idea

I think about this one a lot because my current job is in a building (on a campus) that was designed to be inspiring to the staff and students and others who were there. I appreciate this every day I walk into the office. It’s in 1910s Neo-Gothic style, with big windows, lots of light, and designs specific to the uses of the buildings. 

Obviously, there are also a lot of ways this one can go wrong, or be neglected, but the interplay between design, function, and decoration is never going to stop being of interest to me.

By Celia

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