The BCNM was thrilled to partner with the College of Environmental Design to host Geoff Manaugh, author of A Burglar’s Guide to the City, for “Our Landscape Futures” as part of the BCNM’s Commons Conversations: Technology and Public Life in Changing Times, on February 13, 2017.
Geoff offered students and the public an insight into the design of cities and their unintentional impacts by focusing on the felony of “burglary.” From a discussion on how burglary demands a violation of the “close” of an architectural space (hence, threatening an individual through an open window is also classified as a “burglary”) to an in-depth look at the realities of surveillance, Geoff invited the audience to reconsider how space and buildings function. Of particular interest to students was the revelation that while there are helicopters in cities like LA at all times watching the population in a simulacrum of a panopticon, in reality, the human actors are faulty — often not able to fully engage or disinterested — raising the question of why cities spend so much money on helicopter fleets. When discussing how all architectures design their own crimes, as burglars will find ways to infiltrate each space, Geoff pointed to the myriad means by which we have “improved” our buildings, highway systems, and landscapes, from an urban design perspective, but have invited new crimes as a result.
Geoff also discussed an upcoming book project on the history and reality of quarantine — which by definition lacks proof (at which point it becomes isolation). This conversation brought to the fore why Geoff is so valuable in conversations about design and architecture — he is able to highlight how seemingly insignificant design and definitional issues can have large and unexpected consequences, drawing into question our value systems.
Ultimately, Geoff’s talk inspired students to shift their perspectives when thinking about the built environment, and to take inspiration from a variety of fields when dealing with infrastructural design.