Space Invaders

Though A Burglar’s Guide to the City is filled with other colorful exploits, it’s far less a handbook for would-be thieves and instead uses their craft as a springboard into a heady series of interrogations of urban design and architecture. For [Geoff] Manaugh, the burglar may be a morally dubious figure who undermines our ‘very idea of personal space and dignity,’ but he also admires how burglary activates a different awareness of space, exposing the hidden vulnerabilities within well-intended blueprints and master plans. Los Angeles, for example, became known as the bank robbery capital of the United States not only because we have a multitude of banks, but also because so many of them were located near freeways which gave robbers a fast break to escape. Or consider Bill Mason, an ex-burglar Manaugh profiles, who became so adept at deciphering municipal building codes that he could mentally construct the layout of an apartment simply by scanning the placement of exterior fire escapes. As such, Manaugh concludes that, ‘(i)t is burglars and police, not architects or urban planners, who most readily and consistently show us (…) these other routes and spaces hidden in some unrealized dimension of the metropolis.’ To put it even more simply, he writes, ‘burglars use cities better.’
— Oliver Wang