Diploma 1 'Only to move in, then to move out.' James Mak, Hotel Croydon, 2016-17

Film City: Dagenham

Miraj Ahmed and Martin Jameson

Sadiq Kahn, Mayor of London, is backing plans to build what will be the city's largest film studios in Dagenham, east London. Feasibility reports have been approved and land was purchased at the end of last year. The economic rationale of such a project is clear. Once home to the Ford Motor Company's main European automotive plant and employing more than 40,000 workers, since the 1970s Dagenham has struggled with what is now a familiar post-industrial malaise. But with the rapidly growing film industry generating over £4bn for the UK economy, and London positioned at the centre of this activity, a new film studio - or more tantalisingly, "film city" - could transform the eastern periphery.

But putting the financial and the prosaic to one side, is there a way of thinking about film and its effect on the city in more poetic terms? London is both real and imagined - a place whose architecture and spaces are nurtured by legend, fine art, literature and theatre. Film also plays a principal role in this process of myth-creation, and it this cultural dimension that we will theorise and research as a unit.

We will consider London itself as a "set" and test the possibilities of experimental space and temporal use between the imagined and the real. We will visit established studios to understand techniques for creating the external within the interior and abstracting foreground from background. The unit will place particular emphasis on large-scale model-making and filming with the intention of creating alternative myths and readings of the city. Weekly screenings will include British kitchen-sink realism from the 1960s and the work of Federico Fellini with its emphasis on both Italian neorealism and the archetype.

Unit Staff

Miraj Ahmed is a painter and architect who has taught at the AA since 2000. He is also an Associate Lecturer at Camberwell College of Art and was a Design Fellow at Cambridge University (2006-14).

Martin Jameson is a partner at Serie Architects. He has an AA Diploma (Hons), a BA in Philosophy and Politics from Oxford University, and an MBA from IMD, Switzerland.


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