Diploma 1 Andrea Wong, Diploma 1 (2015-16), Forest City


Miraj Ahmed and Martin Jameson

"It was my nemesis, I hated Croydon with a real vengeance. It represented everything I didn't want in my life, everything I wanted to get away from. I think it's the most derogatory thing I can say about somebody or something: "God, it's so fucking Croydon!"" - David Bowie

London has a parallel other that exists in the imagination - a place perceived and understood through the framework of literature, art and film, which is simultaneously a by-product and producer of the city. The poet and designer William Morris, for example, saw London as a site of socialist work and production. Meanwhile, J G Ballard, who embraced new technology as inevitable, portrayed a decidedly dystopian London in order to comment on the fallibility of grand plans and the perversity of human nature.

This antipathy to the 'plan' is typical of London's development, which has grown organically through the city's consumption of surrounding towns and villages. Although it tends to resist large-scale planning, London has allowed the occasional visionary intervention. One of the best known of these is Croydon, a town situated at London's southern edge, rebuilt after the Second World War in the international modernist style. To some, the new commercial centre of high-rise towers and raised walkways represented a mini Manhattan. In practice, the resulting blend of brutalism and suburban semi-detached housing was problematic and flawed - Bowie's disgust (see above) is not atypical.

The subject of extensive plan and vision statements, Croydon has now reached a turning point. Should it be a city in its own right or remain a suburban town? How should it represent itself? What informs these intentions? The exigencies of commercial viability are hard to resist, and no contemporary plan will likely succeed without the backing of a global retail investor. But if we could think about the city less as a commercial endeavour and more as a cultural phenomenon, is it possible to shape a Croydon rich with architectural meaning? To address this question Diploma 1 will speculate on the role of the city within a city and look to exploit the potential of new models of culture and production.

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 an architect and partner at Serie Architects. He received his diploma with honours from the AA. He has a BA from Oxford University where he studied Kantian philosophy and political theory, and an MBA from IMD, Switzerland.


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