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In the essay “Space Invaders,” Geoff Manaugh describes the thought processes of burglars and the amazing ways they manage to burgle homes and businesses. He also describes how burglars seem to understand architecture better than any one and one can learn a lot from burglars just by thinking like one.
In the beginning of the essay, Manaugh gives evidence that some architectural knowledge can be very useful in being a burglar. He gives the example of George Leonidas Leslie and his burglar gang building 1:1 replicas of bank vaults and practiced robbing them over and over before the actual heist. Manaugh states that Leslie had already “broken into the bank twice, stealing nothing, simply checking out the building” (9). Just by knowing the architecture of a target, burglars are very good at infiltrating it. Next Manaugh states “nearly 150 years later, burglary and architecture still go hand in hand” (13). This claim holds true for today’s society. In every city there will always be people committing crime. Manaugh gives a very good point that “Burglary is designed into the city as surely as your morning commute. ” (13) There are a lot of architecturally different buildings in the city and burglars find a way to use that as an advantage. They will use crawl spaces between walls and floors or try to go through walls and ceilings. Wherever there are homes and businesses there will be burglars trying to steal your things.
Manaugh explains how burglars seem to understand architecture better than most people. They do not see walls or ceilings as boundaries, they just go through them. He states “if two rooms aren’t connected now, they will be soon. ” (14) If a burglar wants in a room, he will find a way in. Manaugh points out that burglars are idiots and instead of using a door they would rather find a more difficult way inside. Manaugh then states, “It’s like a perceptual disorder in which certain people can no longer distinguish solid surface from open space, door from wall” (15). What Manaugh asserts that some burglars do not have very good spatial awareness. What he means by that is burglars tend to fumble around and don’t look for an easier way in. Burglars might think they are smart by making tunnels and rappelling through windows like you would see in a movie, but it is quite the opposite. Manaugh sums it up better than anyone, he states they have “burglar’s syndrome, a spatial disease, something that compels you to misuse buildings. ” (15)
Manaugh then goes on to list multiple secondary claims about Burglars who do not have a strong sense of spatial awareness. Manaugh states a few examples such as “the guy who used to crawl through pet doors to get inside people’s houses” (15) or a man who used “a secret passage that led from the monastery attic down to a cabinet in the monks’ library. ” (16) These details truly show the audience that burglars can be seen as architectural geniuses or idiots who are asking to get caught. Whether or not you see them as smart or dumb, Manaugh gives great examples that show burglars are truly “idiot masters of the built environment” (15). One example of an idiot master of the built environment is a man from Dallas, TX who broke into one store then he made a tunnel through the wall to the store next door. The man had apparently “broken through the same wall at the store four other times since the summer,” stealing more than $20,000” (17). Burglars can be very creative with how they get into a building. Manaugh gives us these examples of odd burglaries and even though their methods may seem unorthodox, they are still successful at getting inside.
Manaughs main point in this essay is that by thinking like a burglar we can learn a lot about architecture by thinking like a burglar. Burglars use architecture to their advantage so they can slip in through an unnoticeable gap in the wall or a crawlspace in the floor. They use their knowledge of architecture as a tool rather than a profession like George Leonidas Leslie did. Manaugh lists several secondary claims about weird and failed attempts at robbing homes and buildings to show the reader how burglars are truly masters of their environment. Manaugh wants the audience to know that “Burglars use cities better. ™ Even if, in the end, almost all of them get caught. ” (22) In every example he gives the burglar gets caught of course but most of the burglars robbed the same place multiple times which shows how easy it is for them to rob places. These odd stories of burglars misusing buildings by climbing through walls and ceilings shows the audience that burglars use architecture to their advantage. All in all, Manaugh wants the audience to know that burglars may be smarter than we think. If we think like burglars we could develop a stronger sense of spatial awareness.
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