A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh
Welcome to the world of the Burglar, its a different one from the world we live in. To them the buildings we live in and use as we are supposed to are full of possibilities, treasure, secret entrances, underground exits, alternative uses.
A Burglar’s Guide covers a historical spread of daring heists, the exploits of George Leonidas Leslie, The hole in the ground gang, and the Roofman ((I particularly like the Roofman as he breaks into MacDonalds Restaurants using his knowledge of their layouts and procedures. As MacDonlads follows the same formulae in every place he can make the same burglary again and again! His burglaries are Simulacrae of the perfect Macdonlads burglary that would work in every MacDonalds on the planet maybe?)) to name a few. It looks at the art of lock picking, talks to burglars who know the fire codes so well they can read the apartments inside from looking at the fire escape stairs.
“burglars are idiot masters of the built environment, drunk Jedis of architectural space.”
― Geoff Manaugh, A Burglar’s Guide to the City
We also see the people pitted against the burglars, from the LAPD helicopter patrol pilots, the designers of saferooms, the burglar trap houses built by the British Police, and in the process we get a flavour of the ever evolving game of cat and mouse they play.
This book could neatly be placed alongside Mike Daviss’ City of Quartz, Hollow Land by Eyal Weizman, Ground Control by Anna Minton, and theorists from the Situationists onwards and its a punchy and worthy addition to this reading list.
Geoffs insight is that with Architecture comes the Burglar and also those that try to prevent burglars. This ‘misuse’ of Architecture is also another way to see design and the built environment. Its a fun snapshot of many interconnected ideas and it could be another way to explore and think of the city for all of us.
- webcast of Geoff talking about the book.