007 museum opens on Austria's snowy peaks

NEW YORK • On July 12, you can recite your favourite James Bond catchphrase while trekking 3,048m up Gaislachkogl Mountain in Soelden, Austria.

On its snowy peak is 007 Elements, a first-of-its-kind, immersive James Bond museum. True Bond fans may recognise Soelden as the wintry backdrop from action sequences in the 24th James Bond film, Spectre, which came out in 2015.

For the scene, director Sam Mendes asked production designer Dennis Gassner to find a cold location.

"We went to the Alps in Switzerland, Austria and Italy," says Mr Gassner over the telephone.

"Luckily, we found Soelden in Austria - and a restaurant, the Ice Q, at the top of this ski lift, which became the foundation for what we needed."

Now the peak has been re-imagined as a "cinematic installation" that places visitors inside the world of 007 while revealing how that richly layered and expensive world is made.

Visitors will be able to see the latest AI-enabled Jaguar Land Rover tech, as well as the guts behind the C-X75 concept car that starred in a car chase through Rome in Spectre.

Although Bond may be an Aston Martin man, Jaguar Land Rover vehicles have appeared in nine Bond films since Octopussy in 1983, when Roger Moore made a dramatic escape in a Range Rover Classic.

Eight Bond films have featured a snowbound sequence and 007 Elements is designed as a rugged environment to bring them to life.

The first half of the installation features programmed sequences and the remaining galleries are for exploration at guests' own pace.

It is closer to a movie than to a traditional museum.

The space was designed and developed by creative director Neal Callow and Tino Schaedler, head of design at Optimist Inc, a creative agency in the United States and Europe.

They collaborated with Austrian architect Johann Obermoser and his team at Arch Omo Architektur, who first designed the Ice Q, which Mr Callow refers to as "a shiny Alpine jewel".

Land Rovers and Range Rovers used in the film were towed up the mountain by snowmobiles because there were no access roads.

Visitors to Elements, on the other hand, will be transported the same way as Spectre's crew, who arrived in spectacular fashion via a 10-person cable car system operated by Bergbahnen Soelden.

Mr Callow credits the cable car company's managing director, Mr Jakob Falkner, with the "crazy, wacky concept of hollowing-out a mountain to build a super-modern experiential exhibition".

The majority of the museum is tucked inside the mountain.

Building at such elevation presented unusual challenges. Concrete was ferried up the slopes by helicopter and the structure is stabilised at 1 deg C so it does not unsettle the permafrost or geological fault lines.

Once fully complete, rock and ice will be replaced around the edges and atop the building to minimise the visual impact amid the panoramic landscape.

While the museum will focus on Spectre, it will also touch on signature assets across the franchise, thanks to participation by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and EON Productions, the studio and production company that own Bond film rights.

Elements is not intending to make a profit, but to raise awareness of that long-time brand and bring new guests to the Soelden Valley.

Mr Callow said: "It's an added component to what's already an amazingly wealthy region, in terms of things you can do."

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• Admission to 007 Elements costs €22 (S$35) for adults or €54 together with the mandatory gondola lift ticket.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline '007 museum opens on Austria's snowy peaks'. Print Edition | Subscribe