Gensler has just revealed the design for a museum housing the world's largest collection of vehicles used in James Bond films, backed by the prestigiously named Ian Fleming Foundation. But it's not in London, Monte Carlo, or even Russia (with love), it's in tiny Momence, Illinois, located 50 miles outside of Chicago. Mysterious? Indeed.
While not the first museum devoted to Bond (there's a James Bond Museum in Keswick, U.K.), the Museum of Bond Vehicles + Espionage itself has a double mission, if you will. The museum could help revitalize Momence, a 3,000-person city that missed the development boom from Interstate 57 when it chose to locate 20 miles to the west. "If this draws in 20,000 people a year, like they're planning on, Momence will see a major resurgence," says Gensler's design director for the project, Brian Vitale, who notes that the museum could have easily been located somewhere like Chicago or Vegas. "They're going through a lot of hurdles to make sure it stays here."
[Note how the right-side edge of the panoramic window echoes the "7" in "007"]
The museum is not a shiny new building dropped into Momence's historic downtown, but rather a former car dealership in a residential area. The undercover location is paired with cues from the Bond character: It makes a statement, yet is slightly enigmatic. "We wanted the building to say something," says Vitale. "But it also had to feel like a building that he would go to." The most revealing detail is the front window with a specially angled corner that resembles a "7," preceded by the double "0"s which are graphics made from all the film names and actors who starred in them. The building is cloaked in simple black, horizontal corrugated metal, perhaps like a suave yet understated suit, but also with one very important Bond-like feature, says Vitale. "It always appears as a silhouette."
That the museum be a good civic resident as well as pay homage to Bond was important to its founder, Doug Redenius, who is a postal worker in Momence in addition to serving as vice-president of the Ian Fleming Foundation, which houses and maintains the Bond vehicles. When Vitale first arrived in Momence, he had a very Bond-like moment as Redenius revealed the collection. "They took us to two metal barns in the middle of the cornfield and opened the doors and there were all the cars I've ever dreamed of as a kid," he remembers. Among the goods are the Lotus Submarine Car used in The Spy Who Loved Me, the Aston Martin Volante seen in The Living Daylights, and Bond's BMW R 1200 C Motorcycle used in Tomorrow Never Dies. Redenius has become such a prominent collector that producers often call him when they're finishing a Bond film; some vehicles have even been donated to the collection.
Vitale, who is partial to the Roger Moore Bond but also enjoys Daniel Craig's character, borrowed some of Bond's understated cool when designing the building. "It's a good lesson for designers—use restraint," he says, although not to say he wasn't caught up in the thrill of it all, just a little. "It's impossible not to hum the theme song as you're working on this project."
The museum is planned to open in 2012, in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No.