PRODUCTION DESIGN PORN: Sir Ken Adam

BAFTA’s tribute to Ken Adam took place this past Monday night on the occasion of Ken Adam’s 90th birthday. As one of the most creative and imaginative production designers to ever live, not many people are more deserving of a gala celebrating their work than Sir Ken Adam. Born in Germany in 1921, he relocated with his family to England in 1934, where he studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture. He started his prolific film career in 1948 as a draftsman and eventually went on to production design a whopping 44 movies, some of his most memorable being the seven James Bond films he designed. Every film Ken Adam has designed has not only been gorgeous but also incredibly expansive, giving the directors and cinematographers more to play with in terms of shots, light and composition which is no small feat. For his efforts and contributions to the cinematic landscape the Art Director’s Guild awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and he’s been awarded with 2 BAFTAs (Dr. Strangelove and The Ipcress File) and 2 Academy Awards (Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George). In 2003, he was knighted by the Queen, the only Production Designer to ever receive this high honour. Take a look at some of Sir Ken Adam’s breathtaking creations.


Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)

Director: Michael Anderson | Art Director: James W. Sullivan | Set Decorator: Ross Dowd

Dr. No (1962)

Director: Terence Young | Art Director: Syd Cain

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Art Director: Peter Murton

Goldfinger (1964)

Director: Guy Hamilton | Art Director: Peter Murton

The Ipcress File (1965)

Director: Sidney J. Furie | Art Director: Peter Murton

Thunderball (1965)

Director: Terence Young | Art Director: Peter Murton | Set Decorator: Peter Lamont

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Director: Lewis Gilbert | Art Director: Harry Pottle

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Director: Ken Hughes | Art Director: Harry Pottle

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Director: Guy Hamilton | Art Directors: Bill Kenney, Jack Maxsted | Set Decorator: John P. Austin, Peter Lamont

Sleuth (1972)

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz | Art Director: Peter Lamont | Set Decorator: John Jarvis

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Art Director: Roy Walker

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Director: Lewis Gilbert | Art Director: Peter Lamont | Set Decorator: Hugh Scaife

Moonraker (1979)

Director: Lewis Gilbert | Art Directors: Charles Bishop, Max Douy | Set Decorator: Peter Howitt

Addams Family Values (1994)

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld | Art Director: William J.Durrell Jr. | Set Decorator: Marvin March

The Madness of King George (1994)

Director: Nicholas Hytner | Art Directors: Martin Childs, John Fenner | Set Decorator: Carolyn Scott

Taking Sides (2001)

Director: István Szabó | Art Director: Anja Müller | Set Decorator: Bernhard Henrich


My favourite Ken Adam set is the War Room from Dr. Strangelove. What’s your favourite set Ken Adam has designed?

Alison Hickey

Posted by Alison Harmsworth

Alison Harmsworth is a set designer based in Toronto. Her credits include 'Schitt's Creek', 'Good Witch', 'A Christmas Horror Story', 'Remedy', and 'Spun Out'.

  1. Barry Lyndon. He changed the perception that period films could only be made in the studio and made a beautiful demonstration that just because a film is shot on location doesn’t mean you do not need a production designer.

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  2. The Ken Adam set in Dr. Strangelove is very sleek and realistic, in that, it might have existed. Being trained in architecture definitely shows and inspired Ken’s sets, but more so was his constant desire to produce in different design vocabularies. I think his sets and models produced for the movies Dr. No, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker are the most exceptional. Also, I am sure there were others on his art team that contributed and may remain uncredited.

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  3. […] always been a big fan of large, cavernous spaces (possibly a hangover from seeing Ken Adams magnificent set designs, especially in the Bond movies). After asking permission from a couple of Transport for London […]

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