Osama bin Laden founded the extremist group known as al-Queda, a Sunni militant Islamist organization who where the self-proclaimed cohorts in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, as well as other extremist acts refsulting in mass casualties. From this point forward, he became a major point of interest in terms of national security and the war on terror. After almost ten subsequent years of searching, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked with the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group to kill him in a covert operation under President Barack Obama.
In order to do this, the CIA searched not only for leads directing them to his hideout location, but also an extensive under-cover analysis of his home. This analysis was mostly carried out by a Pakistani agent, who purchased a residence close enough to observe the daily workings of the villa. Although large, it seamlessly blended in with the city of Abbottabad, about an hour north of the capital. Concrete is a common building material in the area, and it was also believed to be bin Laden’s material of choice because it is easy to add on to. It was originally a single level, which peaked just slightly above the 10-12 foot high retaining walls around it, but an illegal second level was built to more comfortably accommodate the large family. The agent never caught a glimpse of bin Laden during his surveillance, as the windows were tinted or covered and out of sight. The compound also facilitated a trash-burning location, clearly indicating that whomever was living there intended on living in secrecy. The narrow pathways were recreated in various models in order to train the soldiers to navigate the passages. But even with all the intelligence the CIA had gathered, there was only a mere estimated 60% chance of bin Laden actually residing here. This is in part due to all the precautionary measures the architect took to hiding him via the building’s “hideout architecture” elements. This includes security, exclusivity, and style.
Bin Laden was a prominent leader in military history for al-Queda, a highly influential and infamous terrorist organization in the middle east. Many connections to this can be made when looking into military history and specifically “hideout architecture” for those leaders that needed to stay out of the public eye for safety reasons. One specific example of this is Hitler’s last bunker in Berlin, referred to as the Fuhrerbunker. Much like Osama bin Laden, Hitler’s regime was approaching a point of downfall, and he needed military as well as physical protection from the masses. Hitler housed more than 200 people in his bunker, meaning it was no secret to the public. However, though its appearance regal, the inner complexities of the bunker create a level of privacy even greater than that of the Abbottabad hideout. When one enters through the gate of the Abbottabad, they enter a narrow passage and make the decision of whether to enter one of the two buildings on the complex, or the open burning area. If one does choose to enter the house, the layout is relatively complex, but the scale of the house itself and the number of people it has to house does not allow for the level of complexity for the Fuhrerbunker. Therefore, it must compensate with high walls and barred security. Both were located in urbanized areas, although the Fuhrerbunker was more center-city than bin Laden’s hideout. They both had to address the issue of multiple-story housing, based on both the constraints of the city around it as well as addressing their desire to fit in cohesively. When bin Laden does this, he must use materials and building style typical of the area so as to not draw attention to the newly erected and rather large structure. When Hitler does this, he desires to create an icon of nobility without revealing the highly secretive bunker underneath. Both of them also took physical safety precautions, including multiple security gates and levels of protection. Both interiors were modest, but mostly well kept by the standards of their place and time.
The architecture reflected both leaders’ desire to blend into the city seamlessly, to the point that it faded away into the atmosphere of the surrounding urban settings. This also in part was related to personal facets of the two leaders. When comparing the two as leaders and as people, it explains much of the psychology behind their architectural retreats. Both of them had physical deformities that may have contributed to a lack of self-worth and therefore psychopathic tendencies. Also, rather than viewing death as a result of an action and a means of greater achievement, they saw death as the ultimate goal. Both of whom also had skewed regards towards women. Hitler had an incestuous relationship with his niece and remained nearly celibate, while bin Laden had three wives and sixteen children to his disposal. One striking difference between them, however, is the cultures they embraced. While Hitler felt that the only way for society to progress would be through technological means, bin Laden resided in a culture that had not changed in this respect for nearly five centuries. Bin Laden used sheer force against his people and felt that this would solve the problem, while Hitler pushed his citizens to dedicate their time towards progressing technologically. But the end consequences were the same-both retreated to their homes and seemed to die relatively serenely in their bunkers. This is an important relationship to draw, because while the architecture was used as a means of protection, it was also used as a space to retreat and deal with issues of personal importance. Therefore, this form of hideout architecture cannot be drawn solely to military purposes- it is used as a space that one can relax and feel unoffended by outside forces. Therefore, while both buildings were armed with precautionary measures, they were rather homey by the standards of their time.
Powerhouse Museum. “Inside Osama’s Lair,” accessed September 11, 2013, http://www.dhub.org/inside-osamas-lair/
Detailed explanation of why Osama’s building materials, structure and location all made sense in the given frame.
Library of Social Science. “Ideologies of War,” accessed September 11, 2013, http://www.libraryofsocialscience.com/ideologies/docs/hitler_binladen.htm
This a well developed point of view on Hitler and Bin Laden’s “Ideologies of War.” The in depth research and evaluations should be crucial to our research.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Osama bin Laden,” accessed September 11, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/65507/Osama-bin-Laden.
This entry about Osama bin Laden is a bit outdated because it ends on the note of the United States searching for him. However, it gives information about his early and intermediate career, including his involvement in al-Qaeda and the bombing.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Adolf Hitler,” accessed September 11, 2013, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/267992/Adolf-Hitler.
This is a very comprehensive entry about the early life, rise of power, habits, and time as dictator. Although it does not contain direct information about his bunker, it will be interesting to analyze how his early life and habits effect the way he lived in his bunker.
Myers, Kevin. “Inside the Bunker with Osama Bin Laden.” The Sunday Telegraph, Dec 09, 2001. http://search.proquest.com/docview/309388675?accountid=14214.
This article give a personal comparison between the Hitler and Osama bin Laden, both in terms of their strategy and motives as well as them as people on a psychological level.
“A Timeline of Osama Bin Laden’s Life.” AM New York, May 03, 2011. http://search.proquest.com/docview/866357999?accountid=14214.
This article gives an outline of the major events in Osama bin Laden’s life. It includes his birth, in 1957, some information about his background, and then more professional history including his involvement in Al Queda and the Taliban. The timeline cuts off at 2001.
“Osama bin Laden’s Compound.” CH Contributor, May 03, 2011. http://www.coolhunting.com/design/bin-laden-bunker.php
This reference gives a very quick evaluation of the most critical elements of the compound. This includes some photo documentation. It also has an axonometric model of the compound, which is labeled and dimensioned. The labels include security measures that the architect took to make the compound as private as possible.
“Abbottabad Compound Briefing.” United States Department of Defense, accessed September 11, 2013. http://www.defense.gov/DODCMSShare/briefingslide/359/110502-D-6570C-001.pdf
This pdf gives another axonometric diagram similar to the first source, but also several pages about the building to site relationship. It gives areal shots before the compound was built (2004) after it was built (2006) and where its location was overall in Pakistan.
“Inside the Fuhrerbunker.” Military History Monthly, accessed September 11, 2013.
This gives an axonometric representation of the underground bunker portion of Hitler’s Fuhrerbunker hideout. It outlines spaces including the hall, dining room, engine room, office, warehouse, etc. It also gives a basic outline, in text, about how the building is organized.
Video and Audio
This video gives insight on the events leading up to the assignation of Osama Bin Laden, such as the military training, information regarding the President and the CIA as well as the tests and research that had to be carried out before anyone could set foot “in” the compound.
“Albert Speer: Hitler’s Architect,” Youtube video, 14:59, posted by “EvilFingers,” accessed September 11, 2013,
This video is a part of series that talks in detail about the power and importance between architecture and politics. My hope for this series of videos is that there are real identical situations, whether architectural (bunker/hiding area) or of the military.