15 Lombard Street

[Image: The cover and a spread from 15 Lombard St. by Janice Kerbel].

15 Lombard St. is a book, published in 2000, by Janice Kerbel. It is "a rigorously researched masterplan of how to rob a particular bank in the City of London," the publisher explains.
    By observing the daily routine in and around the bank, Kerbel reveals the most detailed security measures such as: the exact route and time of money transportation; the location of CCTV cameras in and around the bank along with precise floor plans that mark the building's blind spots.

    Kerbel's meticulous plans include every possible detail required to commit the perfect crime.
The book was pointed out to me by Sans façon in relation to an earlier post here on BLDGBLOG about the city re-seen as a labyrinth of possible robberies and crimes that have yet to be committed – a geography of tunnels yet to be dug and vaults yet to be emptied.
But is there a literary genre of the crime plan? An attack or robbery outlined in its every detail. Is this fiction, or some illegal new form of literature? Would there be an impulse toward censorship here?
Or does one put such a thing into the category of counter-geography – a minor cartography, a rogue map? Or perhaps radical cartography, as the saying now goes?
There's a fascinating series of interviews waiting to be done here with people who work in building security – how a building is deliberately built to anticipate later actions. Or, should we say: to contain the impulse toward certain radical uses.
When the robberies get to this door, they will become frustrated that it can't be opened and so they will try to break this window – so we must reinforce this window and put a camera nearby.
The building has within it certain very specific possible crimes, the way this house contained a "puzzle." I'm reminded of the famous Bernard Tschumi line, and I'm paraphrasing: Sometimes to fully appreciate a work of architecture you have to commit a crime.
Architectural space becomes something like an anticipatory narrative – the exact size and shape of a future heist, nullified.
It outlines future crimes the way a highway outlines routes.

(Thanks again to Sans façon for the tip!)

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Anonymous exurban escape said...

You know, I like this emerging theme of architecture as a framework for crime. But personally, I think I would like to write an extremely detailed book about all the possible ways in which somebody could injure themselves in a building. An atlas of all possible accidents.

July 30, 2008 11:39 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

It could be published by Band-Aid™.

July 30, 2008 11:41 AM  
Anonymous jonah reeves said...

This is also reminiscent of Tom McCarthy's novel Remainder. The protagonist suffers a serious brain injury, requiring him to relearn to walk and go about his daily life. He becomes obsessed with the obsessive reconstruction and reenactment of places, routines and events in hope of rediscovering his own 'authenticity...' which ultimately leads him down a related path (more would give too much of the plot away). You might check it out.

July 30, 2008 11:59 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Jonah, I actually interviewed Tom earlier this month in London; you can listen to the mp3 here. Enjoy!

July 30, 2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger Orcateers said...

The closest copy of this book I can find is at the Art Institute of Chicago (1700 miles away) I wonder if I would travel that far just to read a book. Am I that Interesting?

July 30, 2008 4:10 PM  
Anonymous trent middleton said...

has anyone played computer/console games lately? all of these environments and settings are deliberately designed to anticipate later actions - some to discourage certain actions, and others to encourage...

July 30, 2008 6:39 PM  
Blogger kangnar said...

so im thinking, you could call it, "modern banking and boobie-traps"

July 31, 2008 1:09 AM  
Anonymous mrs. deane said...

"Architectural space becomes something like an anticipatory narrative – the exact size and shape of a future heist, nullified.
It outlines future crimes the way a highway outlines routes."

Likewise, we are expected to construct public art with a view to its future destruction by vandalizing grown-ups. If we don't include such calculations, we won't even get a permission to place the art works.

Keywords in a public art commission nowadays are vandalism proof, maintainance free and durable. In other words, as an artist count on your work being unloved from the start.

August 03, 2008 4:30 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Stamp said...

Wow. this is amazing. In my own experience, one of the few fun parts of designing a bank was walking through the raw space with the owner and plotting out how we would break in. A few extra ducts were barred up as a result of our little imaginary heist exercise. Ultimately though, there's nothing you can do to heist-proof a bank, but you can taken certain precautions that might make the bank across the street look like an easier target.

October 21, 2008 4:35 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

but you can taken certain precautions that might make the bank across the street look like an easier target.

Jimmy, it'd be amazing to produce some kind of manual about this - an architectural guide to making your competitors look like targets.

October 21, 2008 4:42 PM  

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