Intelligence Community Campus - Bethesda is the future of U.S. intelligence

Intelligence Community Campus - Bethesda (ICC-B) is the future of U.S. intelligence: collaborative, transparent, and closer in character to a university than a government monolith. Co.Design interviewed LEO A DALY's Andrew Graham and Tim Duffy about the design.

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Excerpted from Co.Design:

The Architecture Of 21st-Century Intelligence

The modern intelligence agency hides in plain sight.

By Diana Budds

To anyone who doesn’t know what its name stands for, the ICC’s new 40-acre campus might look like a university or new tech office. It features a striking matte copper–clad building with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Inside, there are multiple communal lounges where employees can collaborate, a cafeteria where they can get lunch, and a fitness center where they can stretch their legs. A 500-person auditorium accommodates large gatherings and there’s a courtyard for getting a bit of fresh air.

But this isn’t a startup’s office or school. “ICC” stands for Intelligence Community Campus. The new face of intelligence architecture is here–and it’s as familiar as it is novel.

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When you think of the architecture of intelligence agencies, the operative word that comes to mind is “defense.” Structures like the Pentagon, the J. Edgar Hoover Building where the FBI is headquartered, and the George Bush Center for Intelligence, where the CIA is based, are all hulking, monolithic, and imposing structures. Their architecture intentionally evokes mystery and insularity–there’s sensitive, covert work going on inside these buildings that no one else is privy to.

When James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, commissioned the architecture firm LEO A DALY to design a new facility in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2012, one of his desires was to move away from the 20th-century notion of what an intelligence agency looks like architecturally. That shift stems from a new organizational structure, a new philosophy of intelligence operations, and the changing nature of security threats facing the United States in the 21st century–away from physical intelligence threats and towards cybersecurity.

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“It really is more like a university campus environment,” Andrew Graham, the project’s senior architect, says. “You have public areas for informal gathering and exchange of ideas . . . The building and the lobbies have transparency and that’s somewhat of a metaphor for the agencies as well.”

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