The Architecture of James Bond

Friday 05 Oct 2012

WAN celebrates the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise with a selection of the best architecture in the series

Today (Friday, 5th October 2012) is Global James Bond Day in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. In acknowledgement of this, WAN brings you a selection of some of the most impressive architectural achievements in the James Bond series. Let us know what your favourite building or structure in the 50-year series is in the ‘Your Comments’ section to the left.

The Contra Dam - GoldenEye (1995)
Made famous in the opening scene of GoldenEye in 1995 where a trained stuntman bungee jumped from its top, the Contra Dam across the Verzasca River in Switzerland is one of the most recognisable architectural elements in the James Bond series. Reaching a height of 220m and boasting a tremendous span of 380m, the Contra Dam was designed by Lombardi & Gellaro Ltd. who also oversaw the construction process which began in 1961.

Materials for the Dam were sourced locally, with gneiss rock transported from a nearby quarry and ground into concrete which was poured and placed for a straight period of 18 months. A number of steel pipes were inserted into the concrete to cool the immense volume which totals 660,000 cb m. Shortly after construction was completed and the reservoir filled, a succession of earthquakes took place as a result of the water load, with 25 earthquakes recorded on one day. Once emptied, the shocks ceased and water slowly reintroduced until equilibrium was reached.

Chateau de Chantilly - A View to a Kill (1985)
In Roger Moore’s final James Bond film, A View to Kill, he is seen visiting the home of Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken, on a fact-gathering mission. The elaborate French Chateau de Chantilly is used in the film as Zorin’s home, with the Grand Chateau and the Great Stables both making it into the final cut. Comprised of two main buildings, the Grand Chateau and the Petit Chateau, the Chateau de Chantilly is a historic building which now houses the Musée Condé, a major art gallery and is open to the general public.

The Grand Chateau was originally constructed in 1528-1531 to the designs of Pierre Chambiges but destroyed during the French Revolution leading to its replacement in 1875-1881. This second version was designed by Honore Daumet but was panned by Paul Ernest Boniface de Castellane, Marquis de Castellane who said: “What is today styled a marvel is one of the saddest specimens of the architecture of our era - one enters at the second floor and descends to the salons.”

Elrod House - Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
One of the most cherished architecture moments in all James Bond films is the John Lautner-designed Elrod House in the 1971 classic Diamonds Are Forever. Commissioned by designer Arthur Elrod in 1968, the recognisable home in Palm Springs was where Willard Whyte was kept hostage by Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the 1971 Sean Connery film.

The centrepiece to the $14m house is a dramatic circular living area whose 60ft-wide ceiling opens in nine symmetrical petals paired with clerestories which have been specifically angled to bring in natural daylight. In a tasteful display of architectural prowess, the rock in the South Ridge is incorporated into the residential building design.

Lake Palace - Octopussy (1983)
The home of Octopussy, played by Maud Adams in the 1983 James Bond film of the same name, was found in the luxurious Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, India. The floating hotel is located on a four-acre rock and accessed via small boats which dock at the City Palace. It was constructed in 1743-1746 to the design of Maharana Jagat Singh II of Udaipur.

When first realised, the Lake Palace was oriented towards the east so that those residing in it could pray towards the sun at daybreak however as its more recent use as a hotel, this alignment has also meant preferable conditions for holidaying guests. The building was taken over by Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces in 1971 and restored, before undergoing a further restoration project in 2000.

Monastery of the Holy Trinity - For Your Eyes Only (1981)
One of the most dangerous locations used on a James Bond film was the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, one of the Meteora in Greece. These exquisite monasteries are located on sandstone rock pillars high in the air and have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore’s fear of heights allegedly got the better of him, leading to ‘moderate drinking’ to regain his composure before scaling the rock.

As a site of such strong religious value, the production team had to gain permission to film onsite. The resident monks put up resistance to the cause, locking themselves inside the monastery, covering the principle monastery with plastic sheeting to ruin the scenic look of the film shots and placing plastic oil drums out to ensure that the production team couldn’t land helicopters on the rock. As a result, the team had to reconstruct a similar building on another rock and an alternative set at Pinewood Studios.

ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal - Quantum of Solace (2008)
The ESO Hotel (Residencia) at Paranal Observatory in Chile played a main role in the climactic scenes of Quantum of Solace, with Daniel Craig as James Bond. The exterior of the Auer+Weber-designed hotel was shot for the film however a smaller model was created as an exact replica for the scenes where the hotel is destroyed.

Split over four levels, the hotel was designed to act as an oasis for the scientists and engineers that work for the Paranal Observation, 2,400m above sea level. Set into an existing dip in the desert ground, the complex also includes 1,000 sq m of gardens, 120 hotel rooms and 18 offices, and is subject to extreme climatic conditions such as harsh sunlight and great fluctuations in temperature.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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