I’ve been wanting to read A Burglar’s Guide to the City, by Geoff Manaugh, whose fascinating blog BLDGBLOG has recently infatuated me. Here is something he recently said to Ellen Gamerman of the Wall Street Journal for “The Dying Art of Burglary,” her review of the book.
Architects tend to think that they’re the only people really concerned about the built environment, but when you read police reports about burglaries or talk to burglars or read FBI reports about bank crimes, they’re discussing architecture in a really unexpected and interesting way.
Movies of bank heists – not Bonnie & Clyde; that’s robbery, not burglary, which involves no (intentional?) violence – are Manaugh’s favorite genre. I’ve always liked them, too, but typically more because of the architecture of the relationship among the burglars than the architecture of the buildings. But there definitely is something here. Think of how much more burglars must love classical architecture, with all its handholds to the second story.
In one of my favorite movies, Cary Grant plays a retired cat burglar who, with Grace Kelly’s jewels as bait, tries to catch a thief using his old techniques in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Lots of useful balconies on the Riviera!
The film might not have caught my attention if the burglars had to deal with modern architecture, with no way to get to the top but by elevator, or maybe swinging onto the roof from another ugly building nearby. I don’t know what Manaugh thinks of what burglars think of modern architecture. He used to work for Dwell magazine. I can imagine one of those “Unhappy Hipster” sendups of Dwell photos in which a man, in the living room of their glass house, says to his wife, “I don’t think burglars break windows anymore.”