Architect discusses Bin Laden’s McMansion

I’ve continued to track the meme of Bin Laden’s Abbottabad house being a McMansion and a new mentions trickle in each day. Here is an explanation of the Bin Laden-McMansion connection from an architect at Architect magazine:

It may be unfair to tar your typical New Jersey Neo-Colonial with the brush of a Pakistani compound, especially since Bin Laden’s crib seemed to be home to a multigeneration community of interest and family. It made better use of sprawling space than most nuclear family–inhabited American homes, and I hate to say that it looks from the photographs to be more honestly modern than most of our fake palazzos and palaces.

The bin Laden compound was also not like a true McMansion because it was not about flash. There were no fancy cars in evidence, no landscaping that was put in place every spring and ripped up again in the winter, no garish colors. There was, for heaven’s sake, not even an Internet connection–how did they play games? How did they get onto Groupon?

We have made Osama Bin Laden everything we are afraid of. It is fitting that evil turns out not to lurk in caves, which would be so last millennium, or live in a tent, which would be so the millennium before that. It lives in the suburbs. It turns out that our fear of cities and our distaste of others was something he shared while fostering the paranoia that we might be in danger if we leave our cocoon through his and his cohorts’ murderous programs. So we, or at least the government that many of us do not want to pay for, swooped in, surgically extracting the emblem of that fear. I note that, unlike in so many other operations against our enemies, we left the McMansion standing.

A few things stick out:

1. There are a number of jabs here at McMansions. So we don’t like Bin Laden and we don’t like McMansions – why not put the two together? Seriously, the argument here is that McMansions are emblematic of sprawl, have poor architecture/design, are full of tacky people (who use Groupon! and have garish landscaping!), and they are all about flash.

2. There is another story referred to here: Bin Laden was found in the suburbs, the last place Americans would expect and one that goes against all our fears of people who live in caves or cities. I’ve already written about this and still find it a bit strange to claim that Bin Laden was living a suburban lifestyle in a suburban home when this particular community seems somewhat unique as a miltary community.

3. Additionally, it is claimed that Bin Laden, like Americans, was afraid of cities and others, hence, the need to live in a compound/McMansion in a suburb. Americans do have quite an anti-urban bias and occasional fear of others. There is likely some truth to this but I wonder how the average American might respond to being equated to Bin Laden.

4. Is it safe to presume that the last sentence indicates that the author would have preferred that this particular raid have destroyed the Bin Laden McMansion? If so, is it more because it was home to Bin Laden or because it is a McMansion?

Overall, this a good piece for illustrating the common critiques of McMansions.

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