Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (3) Posted 05.04.11 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Mark Lamster

The Architecture of the Secret Lair




"Whatever it is, it's not a mansion." This was the reaction of a friend to the term used so often in the press to describe Bin Laden's seedy concrete bunker, with its crummy striped awnings and tacky furnishings. Certainly, it's a long aesthetic way from Newport. Disparage it though we may, however, it remains rather astonishing that this large compound was built without drawing the attention of our many intelligence services. (What Pakistan's military knew is another story.) Presumably, Bin Laden's experience in the construction business was a factor. But fear seems also to have played a role. According to reports, anyone who got too close was warned away by armed guards. 

 

The Bin Laden compound makes an interesting contrast with the secret modern lairs created for Bond villains by the legendary production designer Ken Adam. These have routinely been described as unrealistic, insofar as they could never be built without drawing attention. It's curious now, in retrospect, to think that it was fear that kept the local population from Dr. No's island hideaway (which was just off British and American territory). Though Bond films make us think of visual extravagance, the most visually arresting set from the film was the rather raw interrogation room, with its cross-beam, ocular ceiling. What was in Osama's basement?



If the Bin Laden compound is less aesthetically spectacular than the evil lairs imagined by Adam, so is the command center from which he was dispatched. Photographs of the White House "Situation Room" show the president and his security team jammed uncomfortably into a small room with dark wainscotting and unflattering light. But for the presidential seal by the door, it could be a conference room at an airport hotel. By any stretch, it is a far cry from the war room Adam created for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove: a massive room, dramatically lit, with an immense circular table and global maps on the walls. Adam said, and the anecdote may be apocryphal, that after his election, one of the first things Ronald Reagan wanted to see was this room. Hollywood shaped his vision. It shapes ours, too.


|
Share This Story

Comments (3)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT COMMENT >>

Bin Laden's Lair Receives LEED Certification
http://scoutreport.typepad.com/the_scout_report/
Scarlett Billows
05.05.11 at 07:48

Only interior designers would even think about the interiors of Bin Laden's house. I know the first thing I thought when I saw the photos was what a great oriental rug on the floor.
You could layer a little more mystique on the whole situation by considering the secret of the location of this compound was kept by the construction crews meeting an untimely death and being entombed into the surrounding concrete walls..... certainly Hollywood would have thought of that.
Connie Long, ASID
05.06.11 at 05:35

Ronald Reagan on the White House "war room"

"...the evidence that Reagan confused the world of movies with the world outside became apparent the moment the president took office. On that day in January 1981, in the middle of a tour of the White House, Reagan asked to see the "war room" - and expressed terrible disappointment when he learned that it only existed as a set in Stanley Kubrick's film Dr Strangelove."

http://tinyurl.com/3b3doxg
Nick Oakley
05.16.11 at 11:48


Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Lamster is the architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News and a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture. A contributing editor to Architectural Review, he is currently at work on his third book, a biography of the late architect Philip Johnson. Follow: @marklamster.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS