Pretty much all we know about the headquarters of the US National Security Agency (NSA) comes from a single undated public domain photo that floats around the internet. This irked architectural writer Jack Self, who embarked upon an investigative journey to string together the first-ever design history of the NSA campus in Maryland.
After emailing the NSA for information (which wasn't any help, duh), Self tracked down a local utility contractor that admitted to working on the project, which referred him to the US Army Corps of Engineers, that led him to the Baltimore District Office, where a sympathetic bureaucrat slowly declassified details one-by-one – until the gates of communication were closed tight.
While the actual facts about the architects (Eggers and Higgins, the same team behind the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC) and year of completion (1986) aren't particularly ground-shaking, it's pretty incredible that even with this tiny leak of information, the barrier remains intact between what we know, what we think we know, and what we'll never know:
On forums and chat threads it is rumoured that the sleek facade of highly reflective blue-black glass is designed as a massive Faraday cage — a shield capable of disrupting electronic waves, thereby making it impossible to either scan the building's interior, or alternatively leak transmissions. The headquarters is hermetic, in the literal sense of being impenetrable and completely closed off. It is a grounded stealth bomber, silent in its military landscape.
Like artist Trevor Paglen's aerial photography of several secret-collecting government agencies, including the NSA, which provided some of the first updated shots of the building in decades, Self's revelations just make this piece of phantom architecture more intriguing. We can see it with our own eyes, but that doesn't mean it actually exists. [Dezeen]