The Pruitt-Igoe Myth Author(s): Katharine G. Bristol Source: Journal of Architectural Education (1984-), Vol. 44, No.
3 (May, 1991), pp. 163-171 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1425266 Accessed: 03/07/2009 00:31
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This history engages the profoundly embedded economic and political conditions that shaped the construction and management of Pruitt-Igoe. This version of the Pruitt-Igoe story is a myth.At the same time. Anyone remotely familiarwiththe recent historyof Americanarchitecture knowsto associate Pruitt-lgoewiththe failure of HighModernism. In these discussions there is virtual unanimity that the project's demise demonstrated an architecturalfailure. and with the inadequacyof efforts to provide livable environments for the poor. Anyone remotely familiarwith the recent history of American architectureautomatically associates Pruitt-Igoe with the failure of High Modernism. I want to focus particularattention on one of the most important aspects of the myth: the alleged connection between the project's failure and the end of modern architecture. by architecturaldesign. Pruitt-Igoe created whichmadefundsdirectly available citiesforslumclearance. these
1 63 Bristol
.Itthen outlines how each successive retelling of the Pruitt-lgoestory in both the nationaland architecturalpress has added new distortionsand misinterpretations the originalevents. Post-Dispatch) (Courtesy Louis
of the Pruitt-Igoepublic housing project crashing to the ground (Figure 1). At the core of the myth is the idea that architecturaldesign was responsible for the demise of Pruitt-Igoe.Berkeley
This paper is an effort to debunkthe myths associated withthe demolitionof the Pruitt-lgoepublic housing project.
The Pruitt-lgoestory: Public housing and urban redevelopmern was underthe UnitedStates HousingAct of 1949. Pruitt-lgoe demolition. In the final section I argue for an interpretation of the Pruitt-Igoe myth as mystification. Simultaneously it legitimates the architectureprofession by implying that deeply embedded social problems are caused. of University Califbrnia.' Locatedin a by ring immediatelysurroundingthe centralbusinessdistrict. When Charles Jencks announced in 1977 that the demoliton of Pruitt-Igoe representedthe death of modern architecture. Pruitt-Igoe has attained an iconic significanceby virtue of its continuous use and reuse as a symbol within a series of debates in architecture. In place of the myth. Inthe seventeen years since its demise. and thereforesolved. Louis. Since the trial demolition of three of its buildings in 1972. the myth shifts attentionfrom the institutional structuralsources of public housing problems. G. By placing the responsibility for the failure of public housing on designers. The of of paper concludes by offering an interpretation the Pruitt-lgoemyth as mystification. to urban and redevelopment. postwar St.and withthe inadequacy of efforts to provide livable environmentsfor the poor. In the first section of this essay I debunk the myth by offering a brief history of Pruitt-Igoe from the perspectiveof its place within a largerhistory of urban redevelopment and housing policy. It is this association of the project's demolitionwiththe failure of modern architecture that constitutes the core of the Pruitt-lgoemyth. the myth shifts attention from the institutional or structural sources of public housing problems. this paper offers a brief historyof Pruitt-lgoethat demonstrates how its construction and management were shaped by profoundlyembedded economic and politicalconditions in postwarSt. Like many other cities in the a shiftof its predomiera.By placing the responsibilityfor the failure of public housing on or designers. centralcity slums were expandingas poor households movedinto unitsabandoned thoseleavingthe city. I then consider how the Pruitt-Igoe myth came to be created and disseminated. and how each successive retelling of the Pruitt-Igoe story has added new dimensions to the myth. he invoked an interpretation of the project that has today gained widespread acceptance.The Pruitt-Igoe Myth
FEW ARCHITECTURAL IMAGESARE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE SPECTACLE
1. this project has become a widely recognized symbol of architecturalfailure. St. public housing. both by the national press and by architects and architecture critics. Louiswasexperiencing massive nantlywhite middle-class populationtowardsthe suburbs.
.slumswereracially Blacksoccupiedthe areaimmediately segregated.One of theirstrategies to usetwo popular dewas new high-rise
.A.2 immediately surrounding of Using the urbanredevelopment provisions the 1949 HousSt. The blackghetto expandedparticularly with the postwarinflux of fast poor blackpopulationfrom the South.H. Aerial of Pruitt-goe.and the P.000 tenants densities at project higherthanthe originalslumdwellings. Authority and tracts withinthe slumsand to plannedto acquire clearextensive sell them at reduced cost to private Theseredevelopment developers.A.and the projectdensity. Louisreceived federal a commitment development plan.the architectsdevoteda greatdealof attentionto improvinglivabilityin the units.
. alsoto accommodate and householdsdisplacedby redevelopment and other slum clearance projects. Louis'LandClearance and Redevelopment ing Act.
3.As the growingslumscrept closerto the centralbusiness and district.5 for Despitethe intensepressure economical design.3 was Located Pruitt-Igoe one of thesepublichousingprojects.They a the by responded developing comprehensive to redevelop zone plan the downtownbusiness core. Siteplan. on a 57-acresite on the northside blackghetto.A.the outbreak the Korean of war had createdinflationand materials shortages. LouisHousingAuwouldclearlandforthe construction publichousing. LouisHousingAuthoritycommissionedthe firmof Leinweber.)intervened insistedon a schemeusing33 identical elevator 2 eleven-story buildings(Figures and 3).while whites tended to live to the south. projects publichousing. highdensityresulted The fromhousingand rede-
1. Louis Housing Authority to Pruitt-Igoe. for 5800 publichousingunits.it wasone of several tracts thathadbeentargeted slumclearance for underthe postwar reIn 1950 St.4Thesedetook placein the contextof a stricteconomyand effisign changes ciency drivewithin the P.mid-rise.H.city officials the localbusinesscommunityfearedthe accompanying declinein property values would threatenthe economichealthof downtownrealestate. In 1950 the St. wereslatedto accommodate middle-income projects mainly housing and commercialdevelopmentin an effort to lure the middle class backto the central city. the St. north of downtown. Yamasaki Hellmuthto designPruitt-Igoe.At the sametime. The 2700-unit wouldhouse 15.the task by numberof units.L. founditselfin the positionof havingto justifypublichousingexpenditures an unsympathetic to Congress. was to Though this arrangement acceptable the localauit exceeded federal the maximum allowable cost thority. goverment's unit.Their firstdesign proposalscalled for a mixtureof high-rise.all of which had beenpredeterminedby the St. Political opposition to the public was intensein the conservative housingprogram particularly political climateof the early1950s. & The architects' wasconstrained the sizeandlocationof the site.and walk-up structures.abouthalfof whichwereallocated by the St.(Courtesy Roger Montgomery)
2. of These thority wereintendedto providelargenumbers low-rentunitsto of projects the poorin orderto stemghettoexpansion. view Missouri Historical (Courtesy Society) May 1991 JAE 44/3 164
officials' that wouldeventually velopment expectations theseprojects come to housenot only thosedisplaced slum clearance Pruittfor by but alsoby demolition redevelopment for andforfuture Igoe. LouisHousingAuthority.At thispointa fieldofficer the federal of PublicHousingAdper ministration and (P. In addition.
i ^When ^rtlt: _ . the kitchIn weremadeof the thinnest ens. LouisHousingAuthority's expenditures Pruitt-Igoe.the units still represented much higherlevelof amenitythan the dilapidated a unitstheyhadvacated beenforcedto leave. View c a Pruitt-lgoe Missouri Historical building.r
i~.In additionto the elimination the of suchas children's areas. the bathrooms.tt T
_9fB __ |^
was Forumand ArPruitt-Igoe publishedin the Architectural chitectural Record.In a 1975 studyof the to on St.however. (Courtesy
~present .." Skip-stop transported level.~
.underfederal combinedlowlegislation.6 was thesespecificdesignfeatures it that received dg most attention. By the first signalswas a steadilydeclining occupancyrate. The Architectural Record the skip-stop elthe praised evators galleries innovative and as for the shortcomcompensations of the high-rise ~a.. renthousingandslum-clearance locatednearthe heart projects.. _ ^ ^
."Thequality the hardware so poor and of was doorknobs lockswerebroken initialuse. solutionwas inescapable..Windowpanes and on wereblown frominadequate framesby wind pressure.~l~ -^JIBiB-~
Even after the architects had switched to an all high-rise fromthe PublicHousingAdscheme. of had One 1958. of the city. -t X ^.St.and still provide. Attemptsat integrationfailed.... Louis' housing officials failedto anticipate trendsthat drachangingpostwardemographic
1 65 Bristol
. or conditions begunto deteriorate.located on every third floor.
!.J1. i? I :.however.
within each building. political scientistEugeneMeehananalyzed extentto which thesebudget the constraints affected finaldesign. Laundry and storage rooms also opened off the galleries. Diagr ammatic section.m---i.r *> ..7
)f 4.. .and
Pruitt-Igoe was an exclusively black project virtually from inception.
.Despite cheap quality.cabinets plywoodpossible. Though originallyconceived as two segregatedsections (Pruitt for blacks and Igoe for |whites).As Roger Montgomeryhas persuasively argued. andground-floor amenities. were
.. :i: 411.'i ' ? .h~-..t.W<-i.fromwhich theywouldwalkto theirapart.
U rt:l. . play landscaping.... high-density and the problem how to plana high-rise was on project a huge scale. L eJ~-I " r *~izIjifrEE fh-. dentsto the gallery
ments..z -U.~ings housingform: Sinceall of theseare.
conceived "vertical as elevators resihallways."8 Pruitt-Igoewas completedin 1954.-lli
elevators glazedinternal and sign features: skip-stop galleries (Figures ---^ 4 and 5). a SupremeCourt decision handed down that same year desegregation.. (Courtesy Roger Montgomery)
OverallPruitt-Igoe's first tenantsappeared pleasedwith their new the relatively construction housing.. The galleries..xt. a high-rise. Thesewereintendedto create"individual neighborhoods" '
^^^B *forced .theyfacedcontinuedpressure ministration keepcoststo a bareminimum.
I -. cost cutting targeted points of contactbetweenthe tenants the livingunits. m_t*i.'
:. acterwhich would avoid the "project" atmosphereso often criticized.B t.
Lrr:< 11 .to the greatestextent possibleunder communities with individual scaleandcharlegislation.
This furtherdepleted the Housing Authority's limited financial reservesand aggravatedthe vacancy problem.urban renewal. and the deficient management and maintenance. Louis Housing Authority's ability to maintain the project. These demographic shifts and economic pressures resulted in chronic neglect of maintenance and mechanicalbreakdowns.In a project increasinglyinhabited by the poorest and most demoralized segment of the population. decided to demolish the rest of the project. the Housing Authority was placed in a cost-income squeeze that impeded its ability to conduct basic repairs. The undersized elevators brutally are and battered. to consider closing the project. crime rates climbed.The storage rooms are also locked-and empty. The ongoing problems of vandalism.. go The deterioration Pruitt-Igoebecameevident only a few of in afterits completion 1954.Heavy metalgrillesnow shieldthe windows. when the growing notoriety of the design professionals Architectural Forum publisha secondarticleon to projectprompted In "TheCaseHistoryof a Failure. by the time the project opened in 1954. for most architects Yet the entirestorycanbe reduced a one-lineexplanation: designwas to The to blame.U. Bailey'sarticlelaid the foun-
May 1991 JAE 44/3
.1 In an effort to determine whether explosion or traditional headacheball demolition would be cheaper. theyreekof urinefromchildrenwho misjudged time it takesto reach the theirapartments.but theywere installed lateto prevent too fromfalling The threechildren out.. Despite some last-minute rehabilitationplans..D. In 1969 PruittIgoe tenants joined residents of two other St.had provedto be opportuneenvironments violent crime. acknowlvirtually edging that many of the featurespraisedin their 1951 articlehad to rather thanimprovements the quality life: to of proved be hazards..Forced walkthrough galleries reachtheirapartments.. frequently inflicting severe burns. Louis public housing projectsin a massivenine-month rent strike. andthe localpressnotedas early as years features the exacerbated project's 1960 thatcertain design problems. the project's notoriety. The programshad little effect: Occupancy rates continued to decline. in particular.This interpretation in acceptance the afgainedits greatest termathof the project'sdemolition. Many chose to live in inexpensive private dwellings ratherthan in public housing. as Eugene Meehan has amply demonstrated. . due to widespread dislocation caused by slum clearance. and fiscal instability prompted a number of efforts to salvage Pruitt-Igoe.
Rise of the Pruitt-lgoemyth therewerea numberof powerful socialandeconomicfactors Clearly at playin the riseand fallof Pruitt-Igoe. This decline in occupancy directly impacted the St. and finally finished it off in 1976. They have been robbed of their contents so often that tenants refuseto use them. steampipesremain both in the galleries the apartand exposed
ments. all of Forum's earlier statements aboutthe project.'3 To his credit." retracted James Bailey Pruitt-Igoe. Pruitt-Igoe's occupancy rate peaked in 1957 at 91% and immediately began to decline. Nonetheless.. to the to residentswere threatenedand attackedby gangs. 1972 a demolition experiment levelled three buildings in the center of the project.who used these spacesas hangouts.the absence of adult males as heads of households. In 1965 the first of severalfederalgrants arrivedto provide physical rejuvenation and the establishment of social programsto benefit the residents and to combat further rent arrearages. Slow overallmetropolitan population growth and the overproduction of inexpensive suburban dwellings helped open up the previously tight inner-city rental market to blacks.D.however. averagetenant income was declining. prompting H.U. He mentioned. frompromoting far and community for association.'2 The skip-stop elevators galleries. This connection betweenimputed design flawsand Pruittfirst of Igoe'sdeterioration cameto the attentionof a wide audience in 1965.9Pruitt-Igoe was conceived at a time when the demand for low-income housing units in the inner city had never been higher. all the remaining tenants were moved to 11 buildings.The tenantscall them whichtheymustpassto reachtheirdoors. local housing authorities were expected to fund their operations and maintenance out of rents collected from tenants.. backto the firstyears the project's history.However. this demand had taperedoff.and the federalhighway program. Elevatorsfailed to work and vandalism went unrepaired. The project came increasingly to be inhabited by the poorest segment of the black population: primarilyfemale heads of households dependent on public assistance. and routine management and maintenance were neglected. and on March 16. "gauntlets" through .The galleries anythingbut cheerfulsocialenclaves.?1 Under the 1949 Housing Act. stoppingonly on everythirdfloor. The roots of the Pruitt-Igoe of myth.the elBy evators offerconvenient are settingsfor crime. In addition.. Bailey tempered his criticism of the architecture by pointing out that the problems at Pruitt-Igoewent deeper than physical design.Residentswere also frequentlyattackedin the elevators. The adjoining laundry rooms are unsafe and little used. the vandalism came also to be accompanied by increasingratesof violent crime.. in 1973 H.the affectedthe inner-city matically housingmarketand threatened
viability of public housing projects. In a period of rising costs and declining occupancy. violence.
In addition.did not allow tenantsanycontroloverwho entered buildings. The myth also omits the subordination of Federal publichousingto postwarurbanredevelopment programs. was quoted as saying. the Newmanfurther arguedthatby designingpublichousingin such a way as to provide an appropriate amountof private."'6 The implicationwas that low-income urbanblacksconstituteda tenant groupwith special needs:They were not instilledwith the middleclassvalueof taking with and pridein the upkeepof theirenvironment. by his view architectural designwas neitherthe causenor the curefor theseproblems. to Pruitt-Igoe The trial demolition of 1972 brought Pruitt-Igoe unprecin Architecand edentedattention the architectural the national press. lifestyleon Pruitt-Igoe an articlein Architecture arguedthat the designwas Plus example.in his opinion.'5 pointed articlesrepresent first appearance the Pruitt-Igoemyth. of the projectarchitects. AIA Architects turalForum. Pruitt-Igoe The myth ignoresthe connectionbetweenPruitt-Igoe's problemsand the fiscalcrisisof the St. what or failure" American of EugeneMeehanhas calledthe "programmed Politicaland socialambivalence publichousing to publichousing. 1965JamesBaileyhadtaken of careto point out thattwo of the majorcausesof the deterioration werechronically maintenance the increasand inadequate Pruitt-Igoe of elements the storyhad of By ing poverty tenants. The locatedin large.unprotected entryways. Journal deall publishedarticles the failureof the supposedly on innovative Time. dollars slumsandassisted interests helpedcitiesclearunsightly private in developing innercity land. them and so made no effort to maintain or police them. federal The PublicHousingAdministration alsoimpeded on by publichousingefforts insisting unrealistically low constructioncosts. LouisHousingAuthority.It naturalizes presenceof crimeamong the
.dation for a continuous rearticulation of the Pruitt-Igoe story throughout the late sixties and earlyseventiesas the situation at continued deteriorate. The Washington and TheNational Post. only a generation removed largepoorfamilies
from the farm.usethe of lessif not accompanied efforts raise to theirincomelevel.This seminaltext of the then and emergingdisciplineof environment behavior arguedthat there was a directrelationship betweenphysical environments human and behavior.and develto thosedisplaced the wholeoped at high densities accommodate by saleclearance poorneighborhoods. on the findingsof a massiveparticipant observer study conducted Rainwater that duringthe mid-1960sat Pruitt-Igoe. The idea of defensiblespace is basedon the assumptionthat certain"populations" unavoidably bringwith them behavioral problemsthathaveto be designed This kindof argument doesnot against.GeorgeKassabaum. in
With all the attentionbeingpaidto the project's designin the link 1970s.semiprivate. No the of architectural features. genwas were to eralthemethatemerged thatthe architects insensitive the needsof the lowerclasspopulation weretryingto use the design and to forcea middle-class.reported the demolitionexperiment as These to the architecture one of the contributing causes. criticsnow beganto relatethe project's the or The failure flawsin the overall to approach designphilosophy. is It the privileging thesedesignproblems of overthe much moredeeply embeddedeconomicand socialones that constitutes coreof the the myth. amongothers.'4 on and Observer.arand chitects couldreduce violenceandvandalism the environment.it reveals that the type of argumentproposed Defensible in is a subtleformof blaming victhe Space tim."Youhad middleclasswhites like myselfdesigningfor an entirelydifferentgroup."17
This interpretation the demiseof Pruitt-Igoe of received strong when it appeared OscarNewman'sDefensible in reinforcement Space in the sameyearas the trialdemoliton.'9 in had resulted a tokenhousingprogram fisburdened impossible by calmanagement constraints.20 argued the violenceandvandalism occurred the project that at werean understandableresponse its residents povertyand racial to In discrimination.i8 The residents not feelthatthesespaces"belonged" did to apartments. Publichousingprojects valuable were confinedto the unwantedsitesin the heartof the slums.the widespread vandalism vioand According lenceat Pruitt-Igoe resulted fromthe presence excessive of "indefensible" Corridors weretoo long andnot visiblefromthe publicspace.Improvedhousingconditionsand othereffortsdirectedat changing behavior the poorwere. 1972 thesecrucial been all but forgottenin the rushto condemnthe architecture. As Post therewasan "incompatibility betweenthe high-rise structure the and who cameto inhabitit. of The myth alsoignoresthe connectionbetweensocialindifferenceto the poverty innercityblacks the declineof Pruitt-Igoe. longerconfiningtheir criticismto particular suchas the open galleries. JournalArchitecture and The Plus. by This evidence directlycontradictsthe Pruitt-Igoemyth by the of demonstrating significance the politicaland economicsources of Pruitt-Igoe's decline. For white.a strongassociative wasforgedbetweenarchitectural early flawsand Pruitt-Igoe's In deterioration. open plazas. the Washington put it. Life. of and In 1970 sociologistLeeRainwater wroteBehindGhetto based Walls. to Newman. publicspace. of for simplyinappropriate the socialstructures the peoplewho were one going to live there. theyalsobrought them certaindestructivebehaviors. sign features. residents. questionwhy publichousingprojectstend to be plaguedby violent crimein the firstplace.
not safefromcrime). by myth.it was incapableof their did tects.It presentsPruitt-Igoeas a productof the as an exampleof indefensible space Pruitt-Igoe the "In Le and between and high-rise buildings lowerclasssocialstructure."23 speThoughRoweand Koetter not refer Pruitt-Igoe For of and literature. some point thisprizeseemsto havebeenincorrectly to was This strangememorylapseon the partof attributed Pruitt-Igoe. Though it is commonly accorded the epithet particularly the urban designprinciples Le Corbusier. severalwriterssuggestedthat traffic. as it turned The of for the failure Pruitt-Igoe.tion of instillinggood behaviorin the tenants.. essential of urbanism" Corbusier calledthe "three monument. of a social-factors is textbook. space.Both accountspresentedthe projectas the cathe in monument(Jencks particular of perpetuating City. social ideasof Hibersheimer. Pruitt-Igoeneverwon any kind of architectural ing to Jencks.and it won an award is of in architects theirdiscussions Pruitt-Igoe extremely significant. Roweand Koetter. iconicmodernist (instead joys and of conventional failof demisewith the perceived The association Pruitt-Igoe's streets. example. truism the environment behavior John cifically. win two architec. with rational of that usedasan illustration the argument the International was Style in "streets the air"(whichweresafefromcars.spaceandgreenery"..In the introduction to his discussion of it won an architectural prize.Many tegrated the desolate in this When built. to residents' laundries.because paintsPruitt-Igoe the out. fictitious prizeis essenresponsible whichLe as it of tialto thisdimension the myth.inadequacy theirideasin the demolition the project. Corbusier..theseaccountsfailedto locatePruitt-Igoe its hisbegan that evidence economiccrisisand contextand thereby torical movement. the implication of the photograph'sinclusion is clear. standard and of the lackof fit whose revolutionfailed...premise the Modernmovement's that architectural socialrevoluand populations economicandracial tion had backfired.even thoughthe projectwas designedwith the inten"award-winning. in of Pruitt-Igoe a critiqueof racialdiscrimination The firstimportant playedthe largestrole in the project's appearance in intentions decamein 1976 when Colin Roweand FredKoetterused Now. as psychological society. Jencksasserted housing. it epitomizedthe ills of public ModernArchitecture. by prize.Likethe defensible popularized spaceargument in to use the projectin their writing to representthe Modern OscarNewman. city of LudwigHibersheimer Le Corbusier. theyaddeda set of ideasaboutthe architects' Modernism the photographof the demolitionin their introductionto Collage signingthe project."22 With the critiqueof most grandiloquent ern movement's to Theseusesof the Pruitt-Igoe that in Modernism symboladdedsignificantly the emerging the 1970s.Charles projects ripefor high-rise settings... had been rendered tragically ridiculous. Jencksfurtheradvanced interpretation TheLanguage Post One of the mostnotorious.24 of "the calledthe demolition Pruitt-Igoe modThe Architects Journal failure. terms. Pruitt-Igoebeganincreasingly be Beginning of elegant slab blocks fourteen storeys high. of Pruitt-Igoe. provision playspace. Like the one ex.accommodating socialneeds: At turalawards." St.and mythhasgrownby incorporating ampleof how the Pruitt-Igoe of Accordwith information. in when it wasdesigned 1951. Pruitt-Igoe mythhasalsobecomea equate. struct and as physical model. In the afsuchas of the termathof the project'sdemolition.This sectionof the bookwasdevotedto a demonstration the nonicalmodernist
May 1991 JAE 44/3 168
.but..which gardens semi-private of and he banished).represents death it This passage notablebecause illustrates particular is of mis.low-income rather thanseeingit as a productof institu. by by city evidence multiple of socialandeconomiccauses former city of deliveranceis everydayfound increasinglyinadDespitethe extensive to do of Pruitt-Igoe's the deterioration.It had a separation pedestrian vehicular had uresof the Modernmovement begunas earlyas 1972."sun. that the demolitionof Pruitt-Igoe Postmodernism.he associated with Pruitt-Igoe the rationalist principles CIAM..and localamenities substitutes crechesand gossipcenters-all rational needswas typicalof modernarchitecture.An earlier Louishousingproject the sameteamof archi. both con"thecity of modernarchitecture.the John CochranGarden Apartments.was demolition. insensitivity for traditionalpatterns."21 of modernarchitecture.publichousing are in Only one yearafterthe publicationof CollageCity.uses Pruitt-Igoe usedas an example this"cityof modernarchitecture" Pipkin'sUrbanSocialSpace.it wasnot surprising a numwho can be looselytermedPostmodern. It consisted to stituteof Architects in the mid-1970s.but. ignored demise. have of hasbeena failure. Pruitt-Igoe berof criticsand theorists.. the and the Pruitt-lgoeand the end of Modernism the celebrated CIAMand advertised the AthensCharter.. of tionalized Insteadof furthering development a new the oppression. CIAMand implicates of Socialstructures disin. to according the most progressive Pruitt-Igoe constructed Infromthe American ideasof CIAM.
budget.to the latesttrends wasinsensitive the potential effects those of hadno controloverthe project's location. Pruitt-Igoe was one of Ratherthansocialreformers destroying publichousingprogram so & the architects wereessentially Yamasaki Hellmuth'sfirstmajorcommissions.then addeda fabrication his own. designideas. not on its architectural of to as and Wolfe repeated by now the to whathe perceived the socialimperative slumclearance the WarII. in couldbe madehumanly in a series articles theJournal depressing of habitable" communiand Thesestatements project of appeared It in a debatewith the progressive tiesof high-rises inherently are doomed. is mosteconomi.in FormFollows Fiasco: Architecture statements socialreform. the combinedwith skip-stop elevators. of the high-riseas a form for masshousing:"thelow buildingwith livmoresatisfactory multi-story than low densityis unquestionably I'd ing.but in political high-rise projects socialtermsaswell.the peers. in Yamasaki fits historydemonstrates.27 alsobecame convenient a in whichYamasaki engaged Housing for Tom Wolfe to includein his attackon the importingof Bauer. Thereis clearly Why is the Pruitt-Igoe onlywayto respond external mythso powerful? ampleeviIn her defenseof low-risehousing.mistaken ideathatit was an award-winning and werewillingto locateprojects on design).and accepted it of that urban landoccupiedby slumhousing.29 despiteits economicadvantages.or the use of high-riseelevator features. it is with theirmegalomaniac Leinweber. would terms.texts.Catherine Bauersuggested dence that architectural the designwas but one. and given hadagreed workwithinthe framework the large-scale.25 Yamasaki defended de. However. architects firmdid indeedadoptparticular features orderto conform thority the federal design and to isolated densi. .They described businessinterests city officials the project Modernist onlyin formal as not and the urbanperiphery then the high-density.The architectsalso incorrectlyassumedthat the galleries in interaction whatwasboundto be buildings. winner. the elimination of amenities. LouisHousingAu.he argued.The glazedgalleries tensiveopen spacesbetween the slabs. to of the restricted high-rise.28In FromBauhaus OurHouse Giventhe high cost of generally fictionthat the projectwas an award for economicnecessity urbanredevelopment.In fact. exDespite its dubious authenticityor historicalaccuracy.As a result.he argued. BauercriticizedYamasaki for his architectural less inten. an for be unnecessary..The Pruitt-lgoemyth as mystification He lemswith one-story buildings.The ideathatPruitt-Igoe's resulted interestin Modernism reflected prevailing the treatment certainly of audience elaborated CLAM.in published WhyModern effect Hasn't Worked.viewsthanfor his politics.Their taskwas limitedto providingthe form of the indi. did In carrying this task. designs.its excessive ties. solveallmy prob.and the minimalistsurface Pruitt-Igoe myth had achievedthe statusof architectural dogmaby failure fromthe inas the late 1970s. As the summary Pruitt-Igoe's of much In his statements thisdebate. beforemakinganyof thesedecisions. High-density simplyas a weapon to If in an ongoingconflictbetweendifferent schemes: factions withinthe architecing publichousingsubordinate urbanredevelopment
1 69 Bristol
. hardly the image design. asserting in 1971 a general smallparcels buildat high densities.the myth can be understood policy-makers. socialreformer of the project's wasdetermined the St. several factorsin the demiseof the project..Why then in is the has the architecture central projects not necessarily city communitybeen so insistentthat the failureof populations high-density was resultof economicimperatives a consciouschoiceon the partof Pruitt-Igoe its own fault? but innercityprojects the resultof makare At one level.he was too willingto give in to prevailing These usesof Pruitt-Igoe the misrepresented designers' tions and the extentto which the architects controlledthe project's profit-motivated and redevelopment housingpolicy. and probably least of that the policy of clearingslums and then rehousinglow-income important. that echoedthe assertion Pruitt-Igoe followed"Villedoubt that the high-riseformwould havea beneficial pressed Radieuse" therewas "nowaythis on publichousingtenants.PeterBlake.the architects follow the formal high-densityprojectmandatedby urbanredevelopment out practices. the conventions of modern architecture."26 defended high-rise designas the to economicandpolicyconditions. and Yet meetingwas held at which the residentscalledfor blowing up the callyefficientto acquire was of Yamasaki skeptical the value buildings.the use of theseformalconventions sensitivity orthodoxmodernist by designfound a receptive for intentions and for and becamean illustration manyPostmodern anti-Modern had that does not demonstrate the architects particular MinoruYamasaki ex.but as the bestpossibleresponse German-inspired sign.wouldhelppromotecommunity as a harshenvironment. His design The in and PublicHousingAdministration. pason of of thattheywishedto makean impression theirarchitectural sivein theiracceptance the dominant certain practices theirsociety.as reflecting agenda socialengineering.IfI hadno economicor sociallimitations.they as Yet vidualbuildings incorporating muchamenity possible.symbol Catherine high-rise housingreformer to 1930sarchitecture the UnitedStatesafterWorld merits.of the radical by depictedby the Pruitt-Igoe myth.
Louis: Hellmuth. Inc. structures andpractices it is powerless change. pp. myth servesto disguisethe actualpurposeand imthe of publichousingby diverting debateto the questionof the plication
May 1991 JAE 44/3 170
solutionsto whatare design. Obata and Record (August1956):pp.H. eds. As we haveseenin tracing riseof the Pruitt-Igoe the myth. For the role playedby the publichousingprogram St. PolicyFailure SocietalSymp"Pruitt-Igoe: Midwest: tom. TheQualityof Federal FailPolicymaking: Programmed urein PublicHousing (Columbia: Universityof MissouriPress. furthering misconcepthis By tion.theydo not approach notion that it is at the levelof design that questionthe fundamental or succeeds fails. p. 120 Kassabaum. 1951). (Washington. 6. 13. Louis'publichousing problems morecausalpowerto architecture than to program. 128-136. the myth disguisesthe causesof the failureof publichousing. "SlumSurgeryin St." 185. Montgomery. 8.S. 472-473." p. 230-239." or St. for 7.They attribute problems pubthe of publichousing lic housingto architectural failure. 74-83. 9..A.Buffalo. 71. St. and Arnold Hirsch. 1960. not only presupposesthat physicaldesignis centralto the successor failureof publichousing. October28. Patton. a embodiment all the allegedfailof provides convenient Pruitt-Igoe are of However. Meehan. pp. 126-132. MarkWeiss. Wrongwith High-Rise?.the architects' version consistently has on insisted the primary significance of the project's overall denies designin its demise. (paperdeliveredat the AnnualMeetingof the Associationof CollegiateSchoolsof of Planning.Quality.and proposeas a solutiona new to design. p.The tureprofession. Louis. "What's St.D.S.It placesthe architect in the positionof authority overprovidinglow-incomehousingfor the poor." P. pp.1979). such as OscarNewman or CharlesJencks. Louis.Quality. thoseto whompublichousingprograms supposare involved. RichardO." Louis Post-Dispatch." 235-239.J.This interpretation the existence larger of endemicto St. but alsothatthe designwas implemented carry the architects' to out socialagenda. and of This is becausethe myth is more than simply the resultof debate within architectural It culture: serves a muchmoreprofoundlevel at the interests the architecture of as profession a whole.C.)was incorporated into the newly created Department of Housing and Urban Development (H. Clavell. Goldsmith. JamesNeal Primm."Architectural Vast HousingProjects St. On the relationship publichousingto urbanrenewalmoregenerally. 65-67.see RogerMontgomery.By attributing in flawed crises the localeconomy. "Progress Decay? LouisMust Choose:The SordidHousingStory. Pruitt-Igoe The not myththerefore only inflates the powerof the architect effectsocialchange. St. Housing Chicago. 182-189. November14. 11. Davies. Louisredevelor opmentplans. Reform. University Cambridge 4. Urbanand Regional Planning in an Age ofAusterity(New York:PergamonPress.. D. CO: Pruett. pp.Housing pp. U. PublicHousingAdministration (P. Bailey. In 1965 the U. EugeneMeehan.1985). PartFourin a Series. the and alsoensures continuedparticipation the architecture of professionin tokenand palliative effortsto address problemof povthe The myth is a mystification benefitseveryone that erty in America. Louisand in of was by practices racial segregation. 60-63." 22-23. 1988)."CaseHistory. is in inextricably. City 1947). James Architectural Forum123 (December1965): Bailey. PublicHousingAdministration.. "Pruitt-Igoe. the myth concealsthe of completeinadequacy contemporary publichousingpolicy. March3.NY. Louis City Plan Commission. except directed."TheCaseHistoryof a Failure. TheMetropolitan and of (Urbana: PolicyProblems Prospectsfor University IllinoisPress.1983). Meehan. pp." Architectural Forum94 (April1951): pp.It has quite usefullyshiftedthe blamefrom the sourcesof housingpolicy andplacedit on the designprofessions. environment behavior.or to classoppression and policies. 1980). 1981). Lion of the Valley(Boulder. agenda hasits rootsnot in radical but in the politicaleconomyof post-WorldWarII St. decisionsand fabricates centralrolefor architeca ing the architects' or of turein the success failure publichousing. 1950. that to with its functionof promotingthe powerof Simultaneously the architect.Housing (Columbia: Reform Duringthe Truman University Missouri Press. "TheOriginsand Legacyof Urban see in Renewal.They do not in anysignificant acknowledge approach way the political-economic socialcontextforthe failure Pruitt-Igoe. Forester.. and KateBristoland RogerMontgomery. edly
1. proponents these new approaches. 2. it for fromthe derived ideas of Le Corbusierand the CIAM. Comprehensive Plan (St. AnnualReport 5. in 3. Whatthisobscures the architects' is in passivity the face of a muchlarger that socialreform. the mythconceals existence contextual the of factors structurracism. "Four p. LouisPost-Dispatch." in BarryCheckowayand Carl V. This presentation the architect the figureof authority of as in of Pruitt-Igoe reinforced linkingthe project's the history is failure by to the defectsof High Modernism. ratherfrom the systemin but whichtheypractice. Louis. Makingthe SecondGhetto:Raceand in 1940-1966 (Cambridge: Press. The claimthatPruitt-Igoe failed because wasbasedon an agenda socialreform. 27-34. Change "TheGhost of Pruitt-Igoe" pp.
. 71.). 10. 12.thoughthesesuccessors critical ings of Modernism.U. Administration of Davies.eds.and W. the modernist to the designof publichousing. Pruitt-Igoe shaped the strategies of ghetto containmentand innercity revitalization-strategies that did not emanatefrom the architects.but it masks exto the tent to which the profession implicated. two mostcentral of critiques the designof PruittIgoe have come from successormovementsto High Modernism: and and For of Postmodernism. 23. 1966).By continuingto promotearchitectural fundamentally problemsof class and race. "Four Vast Housing Projects for St.
1970). 29.99."Architectural Forum136 (May 1972): 18."High Buildings for Public Housing?"Journalof Catherine BauerQuesBauer. "HighBuildings. 226." NationalObserver. Mark LaGory and John Pipkin. 1972. Meehan. 1973. CharlesJencks. 20. Lee Rainwater.1981).77.14. 9. 194-198. Catherine tions Mr. Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter. Actuallyin the late seventiesa local community redevelopment group that includedformerPruitt-Igoe residents madea proposalto buy and renovate four of the buildings. 83-87.66.1972) pp." 18. Architect's that Journal (uly 26.WilburThompson."Problems Sproutin the Shadowof No Growth. 17." Education (Summer. TheLanguage Post-Modern Architecture (New York: of Rizzoli. 4. Form Follows Fiasco: WhyModernArchitectureHasn't Worked AtlanticMonthlyPress. 1972).207. p. 26-31. Peter Blake.D. pp."LowBuildings? Housing9 (1952): p. 80-81. Wilson. 16.1981):pp. Yamasaki.1976). 101-108. 34 Journal ofArchitectural
. p. p.
22. "DemolitionMarksUltimateFailure Pruitt-Igoe of Project. pp.but wereturneddown by H.MA: MIT Press.U. 9-10. p. 56Space 58. p. "TheExperiment That Failed. Yamasaki's Journal Arguments. 25. 1971.83. 24.1977)." Architecture (October1973).Quality. Tom Wolfe. Defensible (New York:Macmillan. "Demolition." ofHousing9 (1952): p. Urban Social Space(Belmont." Time.1981)." Journal60(December1973). 6. 19. Architect'sJournal 180. 26. From Bauhaus to Our House (New York: Simon and Schuster. 3. "TheExperiment AIA That Failed. "St. Plus 15. 27. 38. "TheTragedyof Pruitt-Igoe. (Boston: 28." 226. 24. CollageCity (Cambridge. 403. Wilson. pp.August27."Pruitt-Igoe and OtherStories. Louis Blues. pp. CA: Wadsworth. Minoru Yamasaki. 20." 3. MaryComerio. p.Behind GhettoWalls. pp. Andrew May B.BlackFamiliesin a FederalSlum AldinePublishing."Collapse a Failure.1977)."Washington Post. pp. 263.December27. 73-74. p. 23. OscarNewman. 18. Jerome of The Curry. 188. 227. (Chicago: 21. p.