GQ is in Sölden, Austria, 3048 metres above sea level and inside the summit of the Gaislachkogl Mountain. The slate grey entrance door is concealed against the side of the cliff face, and as it swings ajar it triggers the searing horns, piano and strings of Writing’s On The Wall, the opening theme to James Bond’s 24th mission.
007 ELEMENTS is an official Bond production: A cinematic installation which celebrates the long-running movie franchise, with a particular focus on the last film, Spectre. A brutalist bunker hidden under the rocks and snow. A shrine to the super spy, or possibly Blofeld’s alpine retreat.
This is a digitally-led Bond experience inhabiting a space inspired by the jaw-dropping set design of Sir Ken Adam; each room looks like it’s been lifted from a baddie’s lair. The creative director behind this project is Neal Callow, who has been art director on all of the Daniel Craig outings. This is also a legit Bond location; the film makers were brought here in 2015 to shoot at the glass cubist-style Ice Q restaurant next door, which doubled as the Hoffler Klinik in Spectre where 007 meets love interest Dr Madeleine Swann and the snow chase sequence in the film begins.
Local architect Johann Obermoser is known for sober minimalism. He designed the Ice Q building, and now the new one next to it. The stark contemporary architecture of 007 ELEMENTS is arranged over two levels and blends with its rocky and icy surroundings, framed by an awe-inspiring panorama of the Tyrolean valleys. In the distance, you can see the Ötztaler Gletscherstrasse, the switchback pass over which Bond chased his quarry; they in 4x4s and he in a piste-bashing aeroplane.
That action sequence is key to one of the installation’s eight rooms, where the stunt and shooting tricks are revealed and, most dramatically, the battered plane appears to crash into the building itself. Art plays the biggest role here, more than the movie footage, behind-the-scenes b-roll and props from over 50 years of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Our journey into the world of Bond starts in a tunnel, bored into the rock-face, made to resemble the barrel of a gun. The temperature is cleverly stabilized at 1 degree to be environmentally low-impact. On a screen at the end of the corridor plays a unique title-sequence to spine-tingling music, signalling that we are on our own MI6 mission fraught with peril and romance.
“We wanted to design a journey broken up into the elements of a Bond film,” explains Callow. “It’s a physical, tactile, emotional journey. It’s not like just reading text on a wall in a museum”. The art director talks about legacy architecture, and of the remote location feeling “very Bond”. He’s not wrong. “We want to use this incredible location to place people into Bond’s world and bring the stories to life in an unforgettable way.”
The gun barrel leads to a bold and angular open-air plaza with sweeping views of the jagged landscape, its iciness originally chosen to introduce the frosty Dr Swann. Yet it’s the altogether warmer personality of Naomie Harris – Eve Moneypenny in the films – who’s being photographed when GQ arrives. She’s here to open the facility.
From here, we enter an antechamber rather like that which Bond might find himself waiting for an appointment with a megalomaniac. We sit around a glass disk with what looks like burning coals flickering underneath and are introduced to 007 ELEMENTS via a Sam Mendes video message. Then we move into a digital theatre with multiple floor-to-ceiling screens showing the best of Bond with kaleidoscopic mirrors that make it all the more immersive and reminiscent of Scaramanga’s fun house.
In the Briefing Room, we’re treated to a 360-degree view of a Jamaican beach before Moneypenny talks us through the cult of Ian Fleming and the character he created, the luscious locations that inspired his and the filmmakers’ writing, and the series’ most iconic studio sets. The Tech Lab explores cutting-edge technology, including gadgets from the films and special effects creativity, in a way that feels like a visit to Q-branch. Here’s an ID system used, so they pretend, to scan your DNA or ‘smart blood’ and predict your double-0 career capabilities. As GQ’s agent, I’m forecast eight completed missions, 37 amorous liaisons, £86 million in casino winnings and £184 billion in collateral damage.
The Action Hall, featuring the front portion of the Spectre plane and wooden bits of barn darting towards you – a deconstructed crash – leads to a screening room where we sit on heated concrete slabs and re-watch that thrilling sequence.
Partners Jaguar Land Rover and Omega ensure there are plenty of their celluloid-starring products abound, while there’s a curious absence of anything Aston Martin apart from the Corgi cars in the gift shop.
The props, which include the Snooper Dog from A View to A Kill to grappling guns and pitons from across the decades (getting smaller and smaller each time) have all come from EON’s archive, an enormous warehouse outside London. They’re all either originals or, if lost, have been re-made using original drawings from the 1960s and 70s. While EON have been lending to exhibitions for years, this is the first time Bond’s producers have established their own museum experience.
Relatively small in scale (1,300m squared), it is audacious in its elegance and restraint. It must have been tempting to have made the cable car back down to Sölden into a ride, with Jaws threatening to bite the cable. That would be far too cheesy. There may be scope at this or future Bond experiences, though, for stunt driving or lessons in seduction, but if there is the Bond people are staying tight-lipped. For now, we’ll make do with an interactive 007 museum which you can ski in and out of. That is pretty Bond.