Designing His Dark Materials
SFX|December 2020
Production designer Joel Collins talks us through the creation of Cittàgazze, the crossroads between the worlds that takes lyra to new adventures in season two of his dark materials
Nick Setchfield

Everyone thinks his dark materials is a location- and VFX-based show. And that’s just a presumption: oh, they’ve got money! But it’s not. There are VFX in it, and there are a few locations, in equal measure, but we built this enormous amount of stuff to make a flavor and a tone. It’s funny – you look at Cittàgazze, people aren’t going to think we built that in Wales! But we did. People were sitting there having coffees. You get lost around it. It was a huge, huge space – and fun.

I was also well aware that we had young actors who are really talented. We wanted to give them something to physically engage with. I know that Dafne [Keen] and Amir [Wilson] ended up sneakily writing my name all over the town because they said I’d made it. They were saying, “See if you can spot where we’ve written it!” So that was quite naughty…


I started with a mound of rock and a small building, and I built the history of this entire town upwards, over centuries. When you have a place of homage and reverence people often spiral around it, a bit like an old castle where people would build their homesteads around the castle walls. It would be a magnet to people. So over the centuries, people have built their way around the tower. We worked out the history of the place. It was where they forged the knife and they built the tower on top of the ironsmith. The mound grew and the town grew as the greed around the knife grew.


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