Osama bin Laden’s Compound

Surveying the design details of the world's newest notorious hideout


Like any media-obsessed normal person, we’ve been riveted to the coverage surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and especially interested in the descriptions of whereabouts that overnight went from “cave” to “McMansion.” Curious about what exactly goes into sheltering an international terrorist for six years, we focused on what architectural details have surfaced so far. In other words, what kind of a fortified compound does a million bucks get you in the “affluent suburb” of Abbottabad, Pakistan?


Built in 2005 and described by local residents as the “Waziristan Mansion,” the three-story house looms eight times larger than neighboring buildings and was one the first shocking clues indicating that the place was significant to the mission.



Concrete retaining walls topped with barbed wire surround the building, reach 18 feet on the southeastern side of the compound, and range 10-12 feet high on remaining sides. Anyone trying to get past the towering walls would also face reported armed guards and numerous security cameras.

bunker-wall-4.jpg bunker-wall5.jpg

Located at the end of a narrow pathway, opaque windows obstruct the view inside from onlookers and a seven-foot-tall privacy wall hides anyone up to, oh about 6’4″.


The courier that led the U.S. to the location was the sole way Osama communicated with the outside world; the compound had no telephone or Internet connections.



Describing it as “surprisingly permanent and surpassingly Urban,” LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne ranks Osama’s crib up there with Saddam’s as one of the “most notorious examples of hideout architecture in recent memory.”

via the New York Times and DailyMail

Images from top to bottom: European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), Diagram by NYT, EPA, EPA, AFP/Getty Images, T.Mughal/EPA

Edited by Graham Hiemstra, Ami Kealoha and Tim Yu