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The World’s 10 Most Important Top Secret Buildings

From MI6 to the Vatican Secret Archives, these structures house sensitive materials and government secrets

Secret BuildingsPhoto: Getty Images

MSS (Beijing, China)

The Ministry of State Security was founded in 1983 as China’s national intelligence agency. While the MSS’s official address is within the Ministry of Public Safety Building (shown here) near Tiananmen Square, the civilian agency actually operates from a highly secretive headquarters occupying an entire block in Beijing’s Haidian District. Located east of the famed Summer Palace, the headquarters houses about 10,000 of the agency’s 110,000 employees.

Secret BuildingsPhoto: Getty Images

Bundesnachrichtendienst (Berlin, Germany)

Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) operates within the world’s largest intelligence headquarters. Designed by architecture firm Kleihues + Kleihues, the monumental $1.23 billion Berlin building sits on 64 acres and was built using 20,000 tons of steel and 135,000 cubic meters of concrete. Construction began in 2008, and BND-Zentrale officially opened in 2019 after several years of delays, including an incident in 2015 known as “Watergate,” which involved flooding caused by thieves damaging toilets.

Secret BuildingsPhoto: Getty Images

DGSE (Paris)

France’s secret service, the Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE), is housed in the former Tourelles barracks on Boulevard Mortier in Paris’s 20th arrondissement. The three-building complex surrounds an inner courtyard, which is walled off from the street. The agency set up shop there shortly following World War II as the External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service (SDECE), officially becoming DGSE in 1982. The complex is nicknamed the Swimming Pool because of its proximity to the Piscine Georges-Vallerey, an aquatic center constructed for the 1924 Olympics. The agency is planning to move to a new location in Fort Neuf de Vincennes in 2028.

secret buildingsPhoto: Getty Images

Cheyenne Mountain Complex (Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)

During the Cold War, the US Military began constructing a highly protected command center within Cheyenne Mountain that could withstand Soviet attacks. The Army Corps of Engineers excavated 693,000 tons of granite during the construction of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex near Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Fifteen buildings are tucked within the mountain site, which opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center in 1966. On November 9, 1979, a missile attack test scenario was transmitted to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex and thought to be real, putting the military on high alert for about eight minutes. The incident was fictionalized in the movie Wargames.

secret buildingsPhoto: David Goddard/Getty Images

GCHQ (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom)

In 2003, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a cyber security and intelligence agency, moved to a new home in the suburbs of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, bringing staff from 50 buildings under one roof. Nicknamed The Doughnut, the Gensler-designed building was constructed using local Cotswold stone, steel, aluminum, and glass. The round building has 1,000,000 square feet of space across its three sections and features a large central courtyard and a four-story-high glass atrium.

secret buildingsPhoto: Getty Images

Vatican Apostolic Archives (Vatican City)

Formerly known as the Vatican Secret Archives, the Vatican Apostolic Archives are set in the Cortile del Belvedere in Vatican City. Separate from the Vatican Library, the archives hold the government documents of the Holy See, and the contents are the property of the Pope. Records from the 8th to 20th centuries are housed on over 52 miles of shelving, and the collection includes a letter from Henry VIII asking for a marriage annulment, the 1521 papal bull of excommunication of Martin Luther, and a transcript of the trial of Galileo. Some of the millions of documents are stored in a two-story bunker beneath the Vatican Museum’s Cortile della Pigna. The collection did not allow access to outsiders until 1881, and today, admission is limited to 60 pre-approved scholars daily.

Secret BuildingsPhoto: Getty Images

Pionen White Mountain Data Center (Stockholm, Sweden)

Swedish internet service provider Bahnhof operates a data center that could double as a Bond villain’s lair. Pionen is a former civil defense bunker 100 feet below ground in the Södermalm area of Stockholm. The center, which was designed to survive a hydrogen bomb attack, is reached via 16-inch-thick metal doors and features fake waterfalls, greenhouses, and a saltwater fishtank. Pionen previously housed the servers of Wikileaks.

Secret BuildingsPhoto: Getty Images/Øyvind Breyholtz

Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Norwegian archipelago)

One of science’s most private sites is also one of its most remote destinations. Located on a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a backup for genebanks worldwide, storing duplicates of 1,214,827 seed samples to ensure the safety of the globe’s food supply. The vault was built nearly 400 feet into Plateau Mountain, and the permafrost keeps the samples frozen even if power is lost. Only authorized personnel are permitted to enter the structure.


Via Architectural Digest

Joyce Rey
Joyce Rey
Joyce Rey

Joyce Rey is one of the most respected names in luxury real estate worldwide, having represented some of the most significant properties in the world.



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