Inside the New James Bond Installation on Top of an Austrian Mountain
THR takes a tour of '007 Elements,' a "James Bond cinematic experience," built like a secret Blofeld lair some 10,000 feet above sea level.
The summit of a mountain around 10,000 feet above sea level might not seem the obvious location for a museum dedicated to one sole film franchise. But when that franchise is James Bond, such extreme geographical positioning starts to make sense.
"007 Elements," which officially opened Thursday with Miss Moneypenny herself Naomie Harris on ribbon-cutting duties, is being billed as “A James Bond Cinematic Experience,” and sits atop — and hidden within — Austria’s Gaislachkogl peak in the otherwise largely innocuous skiing resort of Solden, about a 90-minute drive from Innsbruck.
A 14,000-square-foot multi-room mass of jauntily angled cement and glass that, in parts, literally juts out of the mountainside, with somewhat spectacular panoramic views of the Alps in the distance, the two-tiered bunker would suit most wannabe Blofeld villains looking for a suitably impractical secret lair.
Reachable only via two gondola rides (including a gold 007-themed carriage — already dubbed the "Bondola" — that plays a selection of John Barry’s noted scores as it rises above the clouds), "Elements" is essentially a series of high-tech and immersive installations celebrating the longest-running film series of all time. And it’s all done with a distinctly stripped-back, neo-brutalist minimalism (aided by the 1 degree celsius temperature maintained throughout).
For Neal Callow, art director on the past four Bonds (alongside Star Wars: The Last Jedi), who helped bring the entire project to life alongside architect Johann Obermoser and Tino Schaedler of creative agency Optimist Inc., the aim was to maintain the “sense of understated 007 elegance,” while paying homage to the iconic semi-futuristic sets of Oscar-winning Bond design legend Ken Adam.
“We wanted to design a journey broken up into the elements of a Bond film,” says Callow, adding that the reference for the project was more fine art installation than a series of museum pieces with text on the wall. “We want to use this incredible location to place people into Bond’s world and bring stories to life in an unforgettable way.”
Much of the focus of "Elements" is the most recent outing, 2015’s Spectre, several noted scenes from which were shot on the site.
Sitting next door is the futuristic glass-fronted ice Q restaurant (also designed by Obermoser), which became the frosty Hoffler Klinik where Craig’s 007 first meets Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann (the restaurant’s owner Jakob Falkner was the one who originally thought of doing something once production had left town). Meanwhile, the nearby valleys and glacier roads were used for the dramatic chase scene in which Bond pursues — and takes out — several henchmen-filled 4x4s in a propeller plane.
The actual front portion of the real-life aircraft is the centerpiece of one of the "Elements" installations, suspended from the ceiling amid a dramatic explosion of broken wood (Bond smashes through an alpine cabin during the chase), while models are used to explain how the entire stunt was put together. Guests can refresh their memories by watching the whole scene in question in the neighboring room.
But the rest of the 24-strong library of 007 titles aren’t ignored, with the many video installations roaming across the 50-plus years of the franchise.
The "Tech Lab," which could easily pass for one of Q’s testing facilities, dives into the technology of Bond, showcasing a number of gadgets selected especially from Eon’s archives, a vast warehouse in North London.
Among the props is a grappling pistol from 1964’s Goldfinger, one of oldest 007 items still in existence, alongside the Snooper Dog from 1985’s A View to a Kill, and the exploding Parker pen from 1995’s GoldenEye.
Almost all the items are originals, with the exception of a replica version of the iconic firearm from 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, which is on display elsewhere, and the "rebreather," which famously allowed Sean Connery to breathe underwater in 1965’s Thunderball.
“We’ve got no idea what happened to that,” explains Meg Simmonds, Bond’s official archivist since 1995, who helped select the items, choosing mostly those with a metallic feel to suit the aesthetics of the space.
Also in the room is a ski stick Roger Moore used in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, which turned out to be the first ever prop made by Chris Corbould, then a 16-year-old apprentice (uncredited in the film) and now one of the world’s most respected special effects coordinators, having worked across every Bond title since A View to a Kill, with other credits including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Dark Knight Rises and Inception (for which he won an Oscar).
“I actually got quite emotional when I first saw that,” says Corbould. “It was the start of my Bond career and brought back so many memories.”
Over in the final room — the Legacy Gallery (which also includes a gift shop, naturally) — mannequins sport a selection of original Bond ski suits, including Moore’s famed bright yellow jumpsuit worn in The Spy Who Loved Me. Keeping things in the family, the clothing for sale comes from Willy Bogner, the skiwear brand that has provided much of Bond’s snow-based outfits and is headed up by former alpine racer Willy Bogner Jr., who himself worked on a number of 007 films.
The first purpose-built Bond installation, "Elements" — which has the scope to swap out or expand its current exhibits — has managed to avoid anything too cheesy or cliched (Callow mentioned there had been talk of designing it to look like the 007 logo, an idea that would have been distinctly un-Bond and was, thankfully, scrapped). Instead, it manages to be an impressively audacious creation, one Simmonds says she thinks designer Adam would have "been hugely proud of," that should attract both fans of the world's most famous cinematic spy and anyone who just happens to be skiing by.
But for those who are after the full James Bond experience to go with it, there’s also sleek modern Solden’s Hotel Bergland at the base of the mountain, where the cast and crew for Spectre stayed during production. Naturally, it now includes a dedicated "Bond Suite."