The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Do you know about the Pruitt-Igoe housing development in St. Louis? The most famous thing about it is that it isn’t there anymore, and you’ve likely seen images of its demolition (it’s in Koyaanasqatsi, among many other places):

Pruitt-Igoe was supposed to fill St. Louis’ need for affordable housing, and like many similar mid-century housing projects, it was christened with a powerful rhetoric of hope and promises. Sadly, the project’s constraints soon quashed its ambitions, and vandalism, neglect, and violence made it an infamous blight. Thus the demolition, a move to eradicate a blight that had been built on the eradication of an earlier so-called blight.

Pruitt-Igoe is famous among architects, because its demolition was heralded as the death of modern architecture, and came to symbolize a general loss of faith in architects’ abilities to solve the world’s problems in general, and inner-city problems in particular.

This is, of course, infuriating to architects who will tell you that funding constraints, lack of maintenance, racism, class segregation, and many other outside impediments hamstrung the project before the first brick was laid. That is all very true, though I don’t know if we as designers can evade all the blame so easily.

All of which is why I’m very interested in the forthcoming documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History. I would love to hear more of the circumstances and surroundings, and more of the story—especially from residents. Check out the trailer on Vimeo and have a look at the website to learn more.



This entry was posted on Monday, January 10th, 2011 and is filed under architecture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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