2008-03-31

villa spies: this changes everything

this changes everything: a short film sequence from the 1967 unfunny james bond parody casino royale changes everything i thought i knew about the villa spies (also known as villa fjolle; the futuristic, white, domed villa of danish travel business genius simon spies, at torö, just outside sweden’s capital city stockholm):









in the very last minutes of the long (much too long) film, woody allen in the role of “dr. noah,” james bond’s evil nemesis, and his attractive female hostage step inside a peculiar domed space which in many ways resembles the interior of villa spies, because suddenly, without warning, a circular section of the floor is lifted up towards the ceiling, with woody allen, standing on the platform, making his big nemesis speech as he is lifted higher and higher, and closer and closer to the apex of the shallow white dome. simultaneously appears, from below the soaring platform, a small men’s singing group in dashingly blue tuxedos, surreally accompanying dr. noah’s speech with song. after the speech is finished, the round platform (and the singing group) is lowered into the floor again.

the scene only lasts for a minute, but it changes everything all the same. because it all fits: the time line (the movie came out in 1967, the villa was finished in 1969), the looks (white dome, white furniture), and - not least - the gadgets (a movable platform, for goodness’ sake!). this movie set simply must have been a direct inspiration for the architect and his team - consciously or unconsciously - when designing the remarkable villa spies/villa fjolle. yet, the casino royale movie set was never mentioned by architect staffan berglund when i interviewed him 1995 for my essay pleasure dome, which later would become the backbone of the illustrated architectural monograph, published in 1996.

but, more importantly: nor was this movie set mentioned by architect per reuterswärd when, in 1998, he accused staffan berglund of not paying tribute to, or giving credit to everyone involved in the villa’s design. per reuterswärd, for one, claimed to have been instrumental in shaping the villa. staffan berglund responded to this claim by confirming that reuterswärd was indeed hired as a consultant at one point (arkitekttidningen, no. 12-1998).

however, methinks reuterswärd et al should squabble less between themselves, and instead generously invite some new members into their group; members until now completely unknown to us outsiders, namely the art directors of the 1967 james bond parody. but, just as there were many - too many - directors involved in the filming, there is a confusing number of art directors and designers listed in the film’s credits. so i invite anyone who reads this to enlighten me, and to enlighten us all: who designed this particular set? please write to me. and, who knows, perhaps it was simon spies who went to the movies one night and was inspired by what he saw on the silver screen. perhaps the inspiration from the film came via simon spies himself? does anyone who reads this know? please write to me if you do!

this my very recent discovery (just weeks ago, in early 2008) does not in any way mean that everything that architect staffan berglund told me (in 1995) about the villa’s early history necessarily must be untrue. the way i see it, this discovery of an, until now, unknown pop culture reference merely shines new light on a process (the process of designing a house) which is always complex, and could never be reduced to simple causality and chronology where everything that influences the final design (and everyone) can be accounted for. in fact, my recent discovery only makes the villa’s history and conception richer and more interesting to me.

and - as of today, for the first time ever, read the entire essay from the 1996 book about villa spies/villa fjolle on the web (plus extra material that was never in the book), here: pleasure dome