[Image: The cover and a spread from 15 Lombard St. by Janice Kerbel].
15 Lombard St. is a book by artist Janice Kerbel, published back in 2000. It presents itself as “a rigorously researched masterplan of how to rob a particular bank in the City of London.”
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 heists 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 new form of illicit literature, detailing speculative and unrealized crimes hidden in the city around us? Is robbing a building just another type of architectural analysis? 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? Would there be an impulse toward censorship here?
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: how a building is built to contain the impulse toward certain, more radical uses.
When the burglars get to this door, they’ll become frustrated and will try to break through the nearby window, instead – 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!)
10 thoughts on “15 Lombard Street”
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.
It could be published by Band-Aid™.
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.
Jonah, I actually interviewed Tom earlier this month in London; you can listen to the mp3 here. Enjoy!
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?
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…
so im thinking, you could call it, “modern banking and boobie-traps”
“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.
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.
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.