The Atlas of All Possible Bank Robberies

[Image: From The Bank Job].

It occurred to me that you could make a map—a whole book of maps—detailing all possible routes of bank robbery within the underground foundations of a city. What basements to tunnel through, what walls to be hammered down: you make a labyrinth of well-placed incisions and the city is yours. Perforated from below by robbers, it rips to pieces. The city is a maze of unrealized break-ins.

A whole new literary genre could result. Booker Prizes are awarded. You describe, in extraordinary detail, down to timetables and distances, down to personnel and the equipment they would use, how all the banks in your city might someday be robbed. Every issue of The New Yorker, for instance, includes a short, 600-word essay about breaking into a different bank somewhere in Manhattan, one by one, in every neighborhood. Ideas, plans, possibilities. Scenarios. Time Out London does the same.

It soon becomes a topic of regular conversation at dinner parties; parents lull their kids to sleep describing imaginary bank robberies, tales of theft and architectural transgression. Buildings are something to be broken into, the parents whisper. It’s what buildings have inside that’s your goal.

14 thoughts on “The Atlas of All Possible Bank Robberies”

  1. conventionally unconventional cleverness from BLDGBLOG once again. the night time story scene is good enough to start the day on 🙂

  2. The way this post challenges the accepted social norm of a city’use of buildings vaguely reminds me of Alan Lightman’s book Einstein’s Dreams. The book is a collection of short stories that typically start off with a declaration of the nature of a particular world (ie: In this world, time travels slower for those in motion. Subsequently all of the inhabits, except those unconcerned with longevity, have moved to the tops of mountains on homes built on scaffolding because the earth has a faster velocity further from the core). The world seems unbelievable at first, yet the idea is based on Einstein’s theory of relativity. In the end the stories only make sense in this ‘make believe world’, but also directly relate to our actual reality. It would be an interesting approach to document how buildings are used: In this world buildings are made to be broken into. In this world, buildings are temporary. In this world, buildings are made to be deconstructed. By exploiting core ideas on the use of buildings you would create a practical critique of their true purpose

  3. Tom McCarthy’s recent novel Remainder features, as a central occurrence, the diagrammatic bank robbery – so the snowball has begun rolling. I’m not sure what the gestation period for bedtime-story-level cultural fascinations are (certainly much longer than New-Yorker-column-level, that’s for sure), but I expect we’re well on our way to the golden age of Give Me the Money and Nobody Gets Hurt.

  4. Scott, I interviewed Tom McCarthy about Remainder the other week in London, actually; you can listen to the MP3 here.

    Mike, your book is a great idea: In this world buildings are made to be broken into. In this world, buildings are temporary. In this world, buildings are made to be deconstructed. By exploiting core ideas on the use of buildings you would create a practical critique of their true purpose. You should do it!

  5. The bank robbing meme stands astride the rising cultural pillars of post-credit collapse anti-banker fervor and neo-technical nomadic architectural permeability.

    Rockstar North, tired of endless permutations of their popular franchise, begins work on the successor for next generation consoles. While cars remain a part of the game, walls and floors and streets become dynamic and malleable, and buildings are filled with valuable targets.

    No longer a mutated racing game, it becomes simply Grand Theft.

  6. There has been an unsucessesful bank robbery in Montreal in the 90’s. There’s a book and a movie (french)called ”Le dernier Tunnel” that are based on the real story of Marcel Talon.

  7. While cars remain a part of the game, walls and floors and streets become dynamic and malleable, and buildings are filled with valuable targets. Love it! This game should be real.

  8. And then a new economy is born: thousands of children raised on the gospel of bank robbery clean the vaults of the city: if you get away with it, then it’s yours, rules of the game, if the cops catch you, then tough luck, use your time in prison to think of better schemes.

    All of society falls prey to thievery, like some bacchanalia of crime. People are happy and tense, free and paranoid, an inmense game of chance and smarts.

  9. I had been putting up with it for awhile, but with this post you’ve taken it too far. I am talking, of course, of the adorable little inventive tangents that you take off the end of every post, leaving us to think, oh, isn’t he so inventive and creative? Doesn’t he just see our world in the most unique way? But this post doesn’t even begin with a story; it’s just a tangent. Taking this as a sign of what’s to come, I’m unsubscribing from the feed. At least give us a story, I can always skip over your dreamy ramblings (I get my fill from old issues of Popular Science).

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