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A Burglar's Guide to the City

Geoff Manaugh

FSG Originals

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ISBN10: 0374117268
ISBN13: 9780374117269

Trade Paperback

304 Pages


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At the core of A Burglar's Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: how any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it. Studying architecture the way a burglar would, Geoff Manaugh takes readers through walls, down elevator shafts, into panic rooms, up to the buried vaults of banks, and out across the rooftops of an unsuspecting city.

With the help of FBI Special Agents, reformed bank robbers, private security consultants, the L.A.P.D. Air Support Division, and architects past and present, the book dissects the built environment from both sides of the law. Whether picking padlocks or climbing the walls of high-rise apartments, finding gaps in a museum's surveillance routine or discussing home invasions in ancient Rome, A Burglar's Guide to the City has the tools, the tales, and the x-ray vision you need to see architecture as nothing more than an obstacle that can be outwitted and undercut.

Full of real-life heists-both spectacular and absurd-A Burglar's Guide to the City ensures readers will never enter a bank again without imagining how to loot the vault or walk down the street without planning the perfect getaway.


Praise for A Burglar's Guide to the City

"Despite its title, Geoff Manaugh's A Burglar's Guide to the City won't teach you how to break into houses. It won't help you outsmart wily cat burglars with ingenious home alarm systems, either. Instead, it explores something a lot weirder and more interesting: Manaugh argues that burglary is built into the fabric of cities and is an inevitable outgrowth of having architecture in the first place . . . A Burglar's Guide to the City swerves between tales of criminals and the people who defend against them, introducing us to former detectives and present-day panic room designers. But undeniably the most fascinating parts of the book are the stories Manaugh has uncovered about criminal masterminds who exploited urban infrastructure and architectural quirks to get away with incredible heists . . . It's not just a guide to crimes of the city; it's a theory of cities, and the psychological contortions required to live in tiny boxes right alongside each other, with only thin, easily broken walls between us. You'll never look at your home the same way again."—Annalee Newitz, Los Angeles Times

"For years, Geoff Manaugh has entertained and fascinated us with his BLDGBLOG, and now he's even better at full-length, with A Burglar's Guide to the City, a multidisciplinary, eclectic, voraciously readable book that views architecture, built environments, and cities themselves through the lens of breaking-and-entering . . . This is great reading, a tour of nefarious ingenuity that has you shaking your head in admiration even as you wonder at how easy it would be to break into your own home. But Manaugh isn't dressing up salacious stories about cat-burglars and epic heists as high-minded architectural theory. The longer he goes at it, the more the thesis develops: the ways that criminals use cities and buildings (and the ways that law enforcement and governments try to limit them) reveals an awful lot about the daily business of our built environments . . . Manaugh's work is characteristically far-ranging and eclectic, and always fascinating. From a day-long workshop on urban prepping to a deep dive into the security considerations in Vegas casino architecture (the awkward entry escalator is a convenient way to get everyone in the building to line up and submit to being photographed, single file, from several angles, by hidden cameras) to the incredible story of Roofman, a burglar who perfected a McDonald's franchise stickup that he practiced up and down the country, taking advantage of the identical layouts and procedures at each franchise building. Come for the true crime, stay for the education in architecture and urban planning."—Boing Boing

“This is a marvelous wonder-room of a thing, an intricate, deeply researched, and brilliantly written mad scientist’s tour of crime and how it’s bound to the world we’ve built. Revealing, spectacular, and riveting.”—Warren Ellis, author of Gun Machine and The Planetary Omnibus

“This burglar’s guide isn’t for ordinary smash and grab burglars, it’s for the rest of us—who like to steal in, steal out, and get away with glorious dreams. A spectacularly fun read.”—Robert Krulwich, co-host of Radiolab

“Murphy’s Law—anything that can go wrong will go wrong—is especially true for architecture. Geoff Manaugh’s liaisons with burglars and bank robbers reveal unexplored niches and loopholes in our cities, and through the eyes of urban hackers we find new possibilities for reinterpreting the built environment. A Burglar’s Guide to the City shows that architecture is too important to leave to just the architects.”—Bjarke Ingels, BIG Architects

“Who knew urban studies could be so riveting? Geoff Manaugh excels at finding new, illicit, and fresh angles on a subject as loved as it is overexposed—the city. In his new book, elegant, perverse, sinuous supervillains maneuver and master the city like parkour champions. I see the TV series already.”—Paola Antonelli, MoMA

“Reading Geoff Manaugh is like donning night-vision goggles at the edge of a dark forest—you are suddenly aware of, and alive to, a world that was always there but occluded. A Burglar’s Guide to the City is a crackerjack intellectual caper.” —Tom Vanderbilt, New York Times bestselling author of You May Also Like and Traffic

“Geoff Manaugh has provided the reader with an excursion into a new world—part digital fantasy, part reality at the intersection of art, architecture, landscape design, and pure ideas. Like the blog, the book is personal, idiosyncratic, and, best of all, incredibly interesting.”—Errol Morris, director of Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and the Academy Award–winning documentary Fog of War

Reviews from Goodreads


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