Azhar is back!
Architectural Director Azhar from Conran & Partners talks today about the inspirational work of a great hero of his: Sir Ken Adam, Film Production Designer and Art Director.
Recently one of my dreams came true! I attended the BAFTA tribute and the 90th birthday celebration for Sir Ken Adam, arguably the most important and influential production designers in modern times!
Sir Christopher Frayling talked about Sir Ken’s immense influence, and particularly his book ‘Ken Adam, The Art of Production Design’.
The speeches were very moving, with personal accounts from, Jim Clay (Children of Men) on Dr Strangelove, Nathan Crowley (The Dark Knight) on Barry Lyndon, Martin Childs (Shakespeare in Love) on The Ipcress File, Eve Stewart (The King’s Speech) on Goldfinger; Actors and Art Curators alike spoke warmly of their encounters with the charming Sir Ken.
Sir Ken Adam was born in Berlin in 1921 and moved with his family to London in 1934 where during the war he was one of only two Germans to fly with the RAF.
Following his time in active service he trained as an architect at the Bartlett, University College London. However, it was in 1948 that Sir Ken started his foray into the film industry as a draughtsman.
I thought I would talk about a few of his pieces that have inspired and influenced me over the years.
Dr Strangelove (1964)
The ‘War Room’ is probably one of the most amazing sets ever made and almost defines the ‘cold-war’ idea of power.
Famously, when Ronald Reagan first came to power and asked to be shown the war room, he was immensely disappointed when he was taken to a bland conference room. Rumour has it that he had his war room re-designed to provide a suitable environment for making critical decisions!
Ipcress File (1965)
The studies for the hypnoytic chamber are abstract and suggestive… intriguing, Len Desighton’s antidote to James Bond. Michael Caine’s character Harry Palmer is brilliant…
Fort Knox in Thunderball: Again one can imagine the real Fort Knox gold room can only be disappointing in comparison….
You Only Live Twice (1967)
The volcano set was the biggest of its time, imaginative and incredible. Less said about Sean Connery pretending to be Japanese the better!
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
It has so many amazing sets, the most memorable of which has to be the underwater world of the villain. The whole film is rich with futuristic designs including the adaptation of the Lotus Esprit. I did read that Colin Chapman (the competitive founder of Lotus cars) parked a prototype of the Lotus Esprit outside the studio of Cubby Broccoli, the producer of the Bond films, and when Sir Ken saw it he decided it had to be incorporated into the film. I forgot to ask Sir Ken whether this was a true story…!
Sir Ken’s output is amazing; his influence on modern design and architecture is immeasurable. It is not uncommon to hear people say “that looks like a Bond influence” … in fact it should be “that looks like a Sir Ken Adam influence”.
Thank you Sir Ken!
PHOTO: Portrait of Sir Ken Adam, by Stanley Kubrick
DOWNLOAD: The official event publication for production designer Sir Ken Adam’s BAFTA tribute. http://www.bafta.org/access-all-areas/ken-adam,1742,BA.html
Christopher Frayling, Ken Adam – “Ken Adam Designs the Movies: James Bond and Beyond” (2008)
Christopher Frayling – Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design (2005)
Philip French, Christopher Frayling – “Moonraker, Strangelove and Other Celluloid Dreams – The Visionary Art of Ken Adam” (1999)
Alexander Smoltczyk, “James Bond Berlin, Hollywood. Die Welten des Ken Adam”, Verlag nicolai, Berlin 2002,