Remembering Sir Ken Adam

Wallpaper* pays tribute to a true cinematic luminary

Still from Wallpaper* Ken Adam video interview 2009
Sir Ken Adam in a still from a 2009 Wallpaper* video – watch it below
(Image credit: Director: Phil Doherty)

Legendary set designer, and former Wallpaper* Design Award Judge, Sir Ken Adam has died at the age of 95.

Adam – born Klaus Adam in Berlin, 1921 – was best known for his sets for seven James Bond films and Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove. His death at home, following a short period in hospital, was confirmed to the BBC by his biographer, Sir Christopher Frayling.

'He was a brilliant visualiser of worlds we will never be able to visit ourselves – the War Room under the Pentagon in Dr Strangelove, the interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger – all sorts of interiors which, as members of the public, we are never going to get to see, but he created an image of them that was more real than real itself,' said Frayling.

'He did more for production design than anyone else by the quality of his designs,' Frayling continued, to The Guardian. 'They are normally treated as backroom boys but there was an "Adam look".'

Adam's family fled to England from Germany in his teenage years. He studied architecture, before serving in the RAF (one of the few German nationals to do so) and then becoming a production designer, eventually working on more than 70 films and winning Academy Awards for his contributions to Kubrick's adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's Barry Lyndon in 1975, and The Madness of King George in 1995. (He was also nominated for his work on The Spy Who Loved Me, Around the World in 80 Days and Addams Family Values). He received a knighthood for his services to film in 2003, and won the London Design Medal in 2015.

Print, digital and social media have been awash with recognition for the late designer. Sir Roger Moore paid tribute to 'a friend, visionary and the man who defined the look of the James Bond films', while director Guillermo Del Toro stated that Adam's death had created 'a moment of silence in the halls of cinema'.

Watch our Wallpaper* Design Awards 2009 interview with Adam below.

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.