THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE HUNDRED MILE CITY
Director: Grant Gee. Genre: Architectural Essay Film. Duration: 10 minutes
PBA’s proposal for the 100 Mile City is a great vision and a necessary, provocative response to the Adam Smith Institute’s (2016) paper which insisted that “…London’s Green Belt must be built on to curtail the housing crisis.”
Simply put, rather than building out into the Green Belt, why not build inwards instead?
The film takes this ‘why not?’ and proceeds as a kind of lightly ironic, archaeological field trip into the past of the 100 Mile City. What was once there? What were the problems with that? What did the prospective inhabitants want? What were the administrative and logistical problems that had to be overcome?
To investigate these questions, the filmmakers will set out - by bicycle - on an epic journey along the site of the future city, circumnavigating London 15 miles out, just inside the green belt. They will film a single scene at each and every mile along the way. 100 miles. 100 shots. Excavated images of a past-to-come. Deadpan snapshots of “…wasteful, anti-social, car-choked suburbia’.
Film from this expedition to the heart of blandness will then be combined with the voices of a wide range of people whose lives would be touched by the building of the 100 Mile City: Young families currently unable to afford a home in London, developers, politicians and planners who would be responsible for designing, administering and integrating the massive project; current residents of suburbia who’re quite happy with the way things are thank you very much, smallholders outlining the ways in which land adjacent to the new city would become a major new agricultural region…lost tourists…bored teenagers…golfers…street ranters…etc etc. Their voices combine and overlap to become a kind of forum discussing the vision of the city. Like a particularly lively Question Time (with better jokes).
As the film progresses along the route of the future city, and the voices of the contributors begin to accumulate and give us a richer image of what, exactly, that city might be, the imagery of the film gets richer too. We get glimpses of and moves through PBA’s model of the 100 Mile City. Images of the current suburban scene are video-projected onto the model. The filmmakers travel to other cities to film urban elements that inspired PBA’s vision. Porto, Barceloneta…to Wuppertal for the great monorail. Etc. Scenes of these various good-city elements are spliced into the video of existing suburbia to produce a new space. The film becomes a collage-city.
Stylistically, the film will lie somewhere between Patrick Kieller’s deadpan dissection of the British landscape in Robinson in Space and D.A Pennebaker’s rollicking, visual-jazz montage Daybreak Express.
The soundtrack will be joyful, stomping rhythm and blues: pounding out the miles.
This project has been supported by the RIBA Research fund, receiving a grant to assist its completion.