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Lifetime Achievement Medal: Sir Ken Adam


The Lifetime Achievement Medal honours an individual who has made significant and fundamental contributions to the design industry over their career. 2015's Lifetime Achievement Medal was bestowed upon Sir Ken Adam, the German-born British motion picture production designer most famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s.

Production designer Sir Ken Adam emigrated to Britain in 1934 and trained as an architect at University College London and Bartlett School of Architecture. During the war he served as a fighter pilot for the RAF. By coincidence he was engaged to do designs for a film after the war. As a result, he collaborated with outstanding designers, like Oliver Messel, and well-known directors, such as Stanley Kubrick, Robert Aldrich, Jacques Tourneur and István Szabó. Adam’s name is primarily associated with the design of the James Bond films, whose witty, inventive, high-gloss sets bore his handwriting from the beginning.

He was responsible for the design of a total of seven Bond films, for which he concocted ever more lavish and eye-catching sets as the success and budgets for the series rocketed. He also had a very productive association with Stanley Kubrick on Dr Strangelove... (1963), with its gleaming and sinister war room, and on the contrastingly mellow Technicolor beauties of Barry Lyndon (1975), for which he won an Oscar. As well, he is responsible for the design of such impressive and varied films as the sumptuous biopic, The Trials of Oscar Wilde (d. Ken Hughes, 1960), the Cold War thriller The Ipcress File (d. Sidney J.Furie, 1965), the fantasy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (d. Hughes, 1968), and the musical Goodbye, Mr Chips (d. Herbert Ross, 1969).

In later life, he worked mostly on American films, including In and Out (US, d. Frank Oz, 1997). In total, Ken Adam worked on 90 film projects, two opera productions, a multimedia project and diverse exhibitions over the course of more than fifty years. He has received a great number of prestigious honors and awards, including the British Academy Film Award, six Academy Award nominations and two award-winning Oscars. He recently gave the entirety of his artistic life’s work to the Deutsche Kinemathek.