Built to accommodate scientists working at the Paranal Observatory,
the desolate isolation of this hotel was an ideal location to place Dominic Greene, Bond’s adversary in the 2008 release Quantum of Solace. The Atacama desert is huge and barren and Bond is quite at home in his black emotional state, a fallout from events in Casino Royale, prequel to Quantum of Solace. The building plays the part of Perla des las Dunas supposedly in the Bolivian desert.
The scale of the desert dwarfs this building by Auer + Weber and makes the three story façade look like a tiny slither in the landscape, a mirage-like quality only broken by the huge telescopes nearby, aptly called the Very Large Telescope. The southern façade of the building and the giant domed roof (interestingly a recurring theme in the Bond series) are the building’s only external skins - the remainder are buried beneath ground to take advantage of the more consistent ambient temperatures and the resulting efficiencies in climate control.
This not your usual refuge bunker though, the interior space provides a lush respite for those working in this extreme environment - humidified air, thriving tropical garden and a centre atrium offering a comfortable space to congregate. Much more preferable place to meet than the small external observation deck that in the film we see the military entourage gathering to wait for their meeting with Greene. But then the filmmakers wouldn’t have had the opportunity to feature the buildings characteristic modular façade and make the most of Olga Kurylenko’s s dramatic entrance from the floor above with the vast Chilean desert behind.
The hotels actual interior, by Paula Gutierres Erlandsen, was replaced for the film by a more opulent, styled set. Such a tiny carbon footprint was perhaps too authentic for Greenes character who’s ecological business is just a front to cover his wicked plan to monopolise Bolivia’s water supply. The interiors featured were actually built on set at the famous Pinewood Studios in London. Just as well - Bond eventually trashes the place before leaving Greene for dead in the desert.
The Bond series has a long tradition of featuring architecture and technology, both real and custom made. Modern buildings are as synonymous with Bond villans as Russian accents and leather jackets.
Veteran production designer Ken Adam, forged this associated in the early 1960’s with his unconventional set design for the series. With an architectural training, Adams was responsible for the circular interrogation room in Dr No (1962), the slick metal clad hideout hidden in a volcano in You Only live Twice (1967) and the black leather and steel of Number One’s boardroom (and every CEO’s dream) in Thunderball (1965) – the board table is wired to electrocute members for poor performance. In Diamonds are Forever (1971) Bond finds himself trapped in Lautners Elrod House with two alluring but deadly assassins. One glimpse of the house’s soaring roof and curved walls and the audience could have warned him....
The Paranal Observatory is 120km south of Antofagasto Chile. It operates tours of the facility every saturday between 10am & 2pm.