Thursday, 11 June 2015

Going underground - the buildings inspired by James Bond

Hampshire's Daily Echo reported the other week on a curious James Bond-inspired building project. The Plaza Theatre in Romsey dates to the 1930s, and so when it was time to refurbish the toilets, one of the theatre members looked for a design that was in-keeping with the period. He turned for inspiration to the London Underground scenes in Skyfall, which were thought to show contemporaneous elements to the structures.

While I'm not certain that any of the disused platforms, tunnels and escalators of Charing Cross tube station, which were used for Skyfall, or parts of other stations, such as Temple, which were used mainly for exterior shots, in fact date to the 1930s, it is interesting that the Bond films serve as a resource for design and history. Another example of this can be seen in a rather grander building project.

In 2008, while in conversation with Christopher Frayling to coincide with the publication of Ken Adam Designs the Movies: James Bond and Beyond, Sir Ken Adam, responsible for some of the most iconic sets seen in the Bond films, mentioned that renowned architect Sir Norman Foster took inspiration for his design of Canary Wharf underground station from Ken Adam's sets for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Looking at the underground station, the source of the inspiration seems clear. The main hall of the station contains elements that resemble the docking bay of the Liparus, Stromberg's submarine-swallowing supertanker. The central columns, the domed roof, and the black side panels of the station all find some equivalence in the design of the tanker.

But it is possible that Sir Norman Foster turned to another classic Ken Adam set. As users of Canary Wharf tube station exit the station via the escalators, they can look up at the glass and metal roof overhead. If you think you've seen that roof somewhere before, then you're probably thinking of the grille in Dr No's ante-room. There is a distinct similarity.

Regardless of whether it was indeed based on Bond-film sets, Canary Wharf is perhaps the most Bondian of tube stations. We have seen James Bond exploring the London Underground in two films – Skyfall, of course, and Die Another Day, in which the fictional tube station, Vauxhall Cross, was created based on Aldwych station. Given that Canary Wharf is an active and very busy station, it seem unlikely that it would appear in a Bond film, but should James Bond ever visit it, he might think it looks strangely familiar.


  1. Another very interesting post on the memes of Bond film production design in the real world.

    1. Thanks! Yes, it's an interesting connection. Must be other Bond-inspired buildings out there.


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