Deep Storage

[Image: Photo by Michele Limina, courtesy Bloomberg].

Bloomberg has a look at the subterranean warehousing strategies of the very rich, including former Swiss military caves and bunkers that have been repurposed as private gold vaults.

Deep in the Swiss Alps, next to an old airstrip suitable for landing Gulfstream and Falcon jets, is a vast bunker that holds what may be one of the world’s largest stashes of gold. The entrance, protected by a guard in a bulletproof vest, is a small metal door set into a granite mountain face at the end of a narrow country lane. Behind two farther doors sits a 3.5-ton metal portal that opens only after a code is entered and an iris scan and a facial-recognition screen are performed. A maze of tunnels once used by Swiss armed forces lies within.

These “Swiss storage operations,” as the article describes them, can be seen as spatial byproducts of international financial loopholes, such as the fact that U.S. citizens “aren’t required under the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act to declare gold stored outside financial institutions,” or that these sorts of storage firms “aren’t regulated by the Swiss financial-services regulator Finma. Nor do such companies have to report suspicious activity to Switzerland’s Money Laundering Reporting Office.”

These regulations—or, rather, the lack thereof—assume architectural form: sites of temporary burial for monetary instruments that benefit from being held securely beyond the reach of the active economy.

Now for the inevitable heist film—part Bank Job, part Zork—set in the high-tech mountain bunkers of Switzerland…

Read more over at Bloomberg.

(Thanks to @fabmass for the tip!)

4 thoughts on “Deep Storage”

  1. I was wondering if you’d ever posted here about the Granite Mountain Records Vault, the Mormon Church deep-deep storage space inside the eponiùymous mountain. Both inside the Blog and several google searches I could find nothing, so I’m asking myself why. It’s so fascinating.

    According to Wikipedia the mountain itself “despite its name… is primarily composed of quartz monzonite, an igneous rock similar to granite in appearance, physical characteristics, and chemical composition. This is the same material used to construct the Salt Lake Temple and the facade of the LDS Conference Center.” So here there’s the first interesting thing: the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is built outwards (as you do) with the same materials excavated OUT of the mountain. There’s a complementarity that just cries for a BLDGBLOG post. Then there’s the vault itself. From the official website

    “The world’s largest collection of genealogical records is housed in a secure vault located in the mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built the Granite Mountain Records Vault in 1965 to preserve and protect records of importance to the Church, including its vast collection of family history microfilms.”

    But then it goes on saying “For security reasons, there is no public access to the Granite Mountain Records Vault”

    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and not really a conspiracy aficionado either, but I do like a good heist film. I can see all the problems potentially arising from anything set there: 1. you can’t actually shoot the movie there; 2. nobody outside the Church really knows how big it is and what’s actually inside, except carefully controlled public information; 3. the Church would have a say in either vetting or censoring or suing the filmmakers if there’s even just a teeny tiny little room for a lawsuit; 4. why would you rob the Mormons?

    So the point of the movie wouldn’t really be money, or gaining knowledge, but suppression of knowledge: the Mormons search and keep all the available records of every birth, death, deed and dirt on anybody and everybody ever. So our protagonists, or their foes, could be trying to erase information, rather than steal it.

    1. Then there’s the possibility of an imaginative set designer, trained as an architect, who so realistically—and, as it happens, accidentally accurately—designs the movie set for the Mormon vault that legally innovative lawsuits emerge alongside suspicions of a leak coming from someone inside the Church’s genealogical community.

      In terms of the vault, I just haven’t posted about it, I guess! I should look into it more. Thanks for prodding me to do so.

      After an interaction once (on Twitter? here in the comments a while back?), I’ve gotten obsessed with the idea of someone building a fake deposit vault to con overseas investors; then, once their (very sizable) deposit is made, the vault itself entirely disappears, perhaps simply loaded onto a truck and—poof.

  2. A few hours ago I was walking around and noticed a truck with furniture inside. Some company renting furniture, not sure whether they were delivering or taking it back. The truck was open and you could see (and indeed photograph) chairs, tables, and an armchair. I could see no furnipads or the usual tools of furniture movers. Instead, the truck had a hardwood floor, and wood all over, and chairs&friends were sitting there with a lot of room to breathe; except for the lack of windows it looked incredibly cozy. “I’d totally live there,” I thought.

    So I’m thinking that your fake vault and even the offices and lounges and any supposedly secret/secure place from where your con man operates to lure investors could be entirely built inside containers. And the containers, as containers do, could be just attached to a truck at the right moment and then travel to a huge cargo facility, waiting to be loaded with other containers exactly like them on gigantic Maersk Triple-E-like ships. And then the company, somehow, could keep operating from the ocean. Or from the middle of the desert. And this image may or may not come from a spiky container house I saw over at Dezeen:

    As for the Mormons, first: you’re most welcome (it’s cool to find something interesting you haven’t talked about yet); second: your set designer sounds a lot like a Latter-Day George Leslie meets Ken Adams (Kubrick’s War Room designer) meets the saddest movie ever made: Synecdoche, New York, with as a heist perfectionist touch, rather than a poetic but ultimately super depressing search for the meaning of life.

    Actually the last part, the Inceptiony Chinese Box part, comes from the other possibility (actually, two) in real life or inside the world of the movie.

    First scenario, the Memory Sessions: the Mormons suspect a leak, pursue nobody really because they have no evidence, but close off the vault for good. And the vault keeps operating long after humans are gone, and somehow keeps all the memories of billions of people intact, but the resulting human/A.I. mergers live, literally, in a Plato’s Cave, and build their entire society out of absurd but consistent theories about the world.

    Second scenario, the Oblivion Sessions: suspect leak, pursue nobody, ERASE everything. I don’t know why they’d do it. But it’s a movie.

  3. You probably haven’t heard about the endless vaults and halls buried in Granite Mountain by us Mormons (more correctly member of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Besides a permanent archive of genealogical records, there are rumors that there is something like 220k cubic feet of space with unused habitation compartments, food and water storage, worship and inhabitant meeting space. The only way to gain entry to this area is in the case of a worldwide devastation and by having a Temple recommend; thus it is to serve as a sort of Ark in case the majority of mankind is destroyed by any variety of ELE. This rumor is, of course ridiculous.

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