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5.16.16: Burglar's Guide to the City, Boring Buildings, & Guinea Fowl

Ed Yourdon via Flickr CC

To catch a thief, you have to think like one. To prevent a crime, you have to case a joint like a potential infiltrator and find the weak spots. Today, an architecture and design critic gives us a burglars eye view of the built environment

Plus, humans respond to architecture on measurable cognitive and physiological levels - which means boring cities take a steep toll on our bodies and our minds.

Listen to the full show. 

A Burglar's Guide to the City

It’s the detective’s dictum: to catch a thief, think like a thief. To prevent a crime, you have to case a joint like a potential infiltrator. Look for the weak spots - the air shafts, sewer tunnels, the exposed walls and rooftops that become scenes of crimes - and getaways. Which means you have to think like an architect.

That’s one tactic, anyway, played out with a mad scientist’s delight by Geoff Manaugh in A Burglar's Guide To The City. The book gives us a pair of x-ray glasses - presenting the built environment through the eyes of former bank robbers, cops, FBI agents, and panic room builders, along with the mechanics of some historic heists. Manaugh is also author of BLDGBLOG

A Burglar's Guide to the City

Concrete Furniture

In 1965, Toronto had a town hall that was built to last. The ultra-modernist building seemed like a good idea at the time. Too bad so many people hated it. This story comes to us from Roman Mars, producer Sean Cole, and the podcast 99% Invisible.

You can listen to this story again at

The Cost of Boring Buildings

“First we shape our dwellings,” Winston Churchill famously said, “and then our dwellings shape us.” Think of the particular serenity of sitting on a porch overlooking a lake, the awe of looking up at the towers on a Manhattan street...then sinking feeling of pulling into a strip mall.

A growing body of research shows that humans respond to the built environment on measurable cognitive and physiological levels. The upshot: boring architecture takes a toll on our psyches and our bodies, leaving people feeling less social, stressed out, and possibly even more prone to attention deficit disorders. That's a problem in many places, where big, boxy retails chains, drugstores, and bank branches are just about the only think being built.Jacoba Uristis an art and culture journalist - she surveyed a number of studies for her article "The Psychological Cost Of Boring Buildings" at New York Magazine.   

The Cost of Boring Buildings

Bird Songs Reflect the Environment

While some bird song has an almost lyrical quality, others sound jarring and not especially melodious. This has less to do with a bird's singing ability and more to do with its environment.  Michael Steinfrom BirdNote explains.

You can listen to this story again at

The Curse of the Guinea Fowl

You hear their voices and you listen to their stories – but you're about to get an inside look at what goes into producing an audio story for public radio.  You could probably guess that there’s some research – phone calls, emails leading to interviews – recording interviews and cutting up the audio – writing, editing, sound mixing, etc.  But every once in a while, a radio journalist will run into a particular “radio journalist” sort of problem -- a little hazard or difficulty to be overcome.  Our very dearest Sean Hurley brought us this story.

The Curse of the Guinea Fowl

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