The Pruitt-Igoe dilemma. From conception to demolition. 1954-1972. St. Louis Missouri.
What you have or are currently witnessing is a disturbing look at how the American government has demonized, abused, and unsupported urban public housing. Simply put, many have given public housing a bad reputation over the years, for a plethora of reasons. However, the epic story of one public housing development still confounds and astounds many today. The 33 11-story buildings of Pruitt-Igoe was billed as the solution to the overcrowding and deterioration that plagued inner city St. Louis. Completed in 1954, Pruitt-Igoe came to symbolize the failure of government-sponsored housing and, more broadly, government-sponsorship at large. What happened in Pruitt-Igoe has fueled a mythology repeated in discussions of many urban high-rise projects. Violence, crime, and drugs, so the story goes, plagued the housing project from nearly the beginning as it became a “dumping ground” for the poorest city residents. According to one standard account, it was quickly torn apart by its residents who could not adapt to high-rise city life. Widely circulated images of “Pruitt-Igoe” reveal this legacy. Vandalized hallways. Acres of broken windows. A building imploded. These images of destruction are periodically interrupted by images of a different kind: hopeful images of a massive, newly-built housing complex in the mid-fifties, the scale and grandeur of the buildings reflecting the optimistic spirit out of which Pruitt-Igoe came. The quick, unexamined transition from hope to disillusionment is the standard structure of the Pruitt-Igoe narrative. But there is another Pruitt-Igoe story, another approach. It is a story of a city and its residents. A city in many ways at the forefront of postwar urban decline. In the years of Pruitt-Igoe, St. Louis lost half of its population and most of its prestige in less than a generation.
This deserves reblogs for a lifetime. Utterly tragic.