Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
They commissioned a filmmaker to create an alternate version of a famous Channel 4 station ID clip.
Aylesbury Estate, a public housing complex in London, has been burdened with a bad reputation for years. A history of gang violence and its stark, brutalist architecture combined to make the estate a popular choice for British filmmakers in need of a location that suggests poverty, crime, and despair. This happened so often Aylesbury's 7,500 residents eventually pressured the Southwark council to ban filming on the property, but not before one television station produced a short clip that still irks residents 10 years later.
When the U.K.'s Channel 4 decided to shoot Aylesbury Estate in 2004 for one of its iconic station identification videos, they showed a desolate, littered scene that not only perpetuated all the worst stereotypes of social housing, it also showed something residents say wasn't even real (via, they allege, the use of props and post-production editing):
A decade later, the station still airs this footage, despite pressure from residents to stop. Channel 4 hasn't budged. So instead, Aylesbury made its own.
The Creation Trust, a charity linked with the housing project, funded this alternative to the station ID. Filmmaker Nick Street created a clip that doesn't hide Aylesbury's architectural scars, but does put a focus on the people who live there, showing a diverse range of residents socializing in the public spaces Channel 4's infamous spot portrays as inhumane.
The results are impressive enough that Channel 4 will actually air it. But just once, this Friday. It's a small victory made smaller by the station's declaration that it still has no plans to pull their own piece anytime soon.