The Architectural Inspiration For Safin’s Lair

In a recent interview in Variety, Cary Joji Fukunaga described how he and production designer, Mark Tildesley came to arrive at the designs for Safin’s lair in No Time To Die.

“Four years ago, I did a trip to Japan, after shooting Maniac and went to the Benesse Art Site. Naoshima. Tadao Ando is a Japanese architect. You could say his work is brutalist. I think it’s more nuanced than that, especially with his use of curves and shapes and light. What I love is the slicing of light and where light comes in and how light bounces off walls. Mark and I both gravitated towards this dizzying maze-like structure, that Bond would have to infiltrate, particularly for that final sequence.”

Benesse is a place I have visited many times. Normally this is a straightforward place to reach. Indeed it is a delightful place to spend a few days. When I say straightforward it does involve flying to Japan (if you live outside of the country), travelling to either of the two cities of Takamatsu or Uno, and then taking a short ferry trip to Naoshima Island.

Once there, it will be immediately clear how the inspiration came about and you’ll be able to experience a real sense of being in the lair – both inside and out.

I have dug out small selection of photos from the various visits to hopefully give a feel for the place.

Approaching the island by ferry
An entrance into one part of the museum.
Looking up through an open skylight from one of the rooms.
Interior stairwell.
The view from Naoshima across the Seto Inland Sea, looking west.

Tadao Ando (born 1941) is one of Japan’s leading architects and one with a distinctive style informed by a traditional Japanese ethic – a minimalism, and the use of space and geometry to anchor his designs. As seen above, he uses entrances and the ways to transverse a building as an essential means to make the visitor experience the surrounding structure. It is the paradox of having something simple become a dominant rather than passive force. Asked about his use of light he said, ‘it is a universal theme. The conquest for light is one of the themes of my architecture that exists consistently and in a different dimension from those contexts. For me, spatial typology is defined only by the volume and orientation of light. I always believed that the wall is an extremely important element to expose light. On the wall, the locus of breathing light is drawn. This imbues life into architecture.’ (Interview on-line The Talks.)

Most of his work can be found in Japan but more recently he has been commissioned to produce designs in the US, China and elsewhere.

In a second interview, this time with Kyodo News and one that also touched on the idea that Safin’s lair is in a disputed zone Fukunaga said,

“I saw Tadao Ando’s museum buildings on Naoshima. They themselves looked like they’re straight out of the Bond universe. And so that was kind of one of many inspirations (production designer) Mark Tildesley and I looked at for doing this missile base,” Fukunaga said. Asked if the Japanese set design elements could be misconstrued as a statement about which country has rights to the islands, Fukunaga offered a diplomatic response. “I think there’s as much Soviet aesthetics in there, too, including almost being entirely staffed by Russians,”

For a written description of Benesse James Benson’s follow-on novel The Man With The Red Tatoo has its climax set in the museum.

All photos ©grahamthomas