One of Adam's sets for the 1979 Bond movie "Moonraker". Photo: Danjaq, LLC and United Artists Corporation
A new exhibition in the German capital celebrates the set-building prowess of 93-year-old Sir Ken Adam, the Berlin-born designer who made volcanoes slide open and Fort Knox surrender its gold bullion.
When Ronald Reagan became US President in 1981 and first toured the White House, he asked to see the "War Room", so convinced was he by the military nerve centre depicted in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Armageddon movie Dr Strangelove.
The set was the work of Sir Ken Adam, a German Jew who emigrated to Britain in 1934 and went on to capture the world's imagination with sets for epic movies from "Ben-Hur" (1959) to "Moonraker" (1979).
Due to open on December 11 at the Deutsche Kinemathek film museum, "Bigger than life: Ken Adam's film design" presents 4,000 of his drawings, as well as photos, documents and personal memorabilia from a life that was as vivid as his sets.
Tankbuster to blockbuster
Born in Berlin 1921, Klaus Hugo Adam and his family fled Germany as Nazi persecution of the Jews gathered pace.
After studying architecture in London he went on to become one of just three German-born pilots to serve in the Royal Air Force during World War Two.
Adam's daring exploits flying a Hawker Typhoon fighter-bomber against German forces in Europe earned him the nickname "Heinie the tank buster".
He first entered the film industry as a draughtsman in 1948 and was still active as a production designer in 2001.
Adam was the creative genius behind more than 70 productions that deftly merged fact and fiction for movie lovers around the world.
He has received numerous awards for his work, including two Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Production Design for the films "Barry Lyndon" (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) and "The Madness of King George" (Nicholas Hytner, 1994).
Based on concise geometric forms, his drawings and designs often depict unfathomable, exotic and nightmarish places drawn with the highest intensity.
True to his design philosophy “bigger than life”, Adam used his work to push the boundaries of what is possible - often highly emotionally, occasionally playful or humorously, and yet always believably.
He was especially gratified to know his portrayal of Fort Knox in the 1964 Bond movie "Goldfinger" had many viewers convinced that it had actually been shot inside the US Army post in Kentucky where US gold reserves are kept.
A long-time resident of London with his wife Letizia, Adam was made an honorary citizen of Berlin in 2012
He donated his collection to the Deutsche Kinemathek in 2012, expressing the hope that his work is used to inspire subsequent generations.
Adam’s archive is currently being prepared for archival use and will be available online next year.