USA an illfated public housing 1956 demolished 1972

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galleries on the stop-floors. These galleries were designed to be playgrounds for children and gathering places for adults. In 1951, the scheme received high praise in an Architectural Forum editorial for saving 'not only people but also money'. The editors of the journal saw the complex as being a worthwhile design paradigm for the future. The reality proved to be different.

The household mix was not what was expected. Single-mother, welfare-dependent households overwhelmingly inhabited the complex. In 1965 only 990 of the 10,736 residents of Pruitt-Igoe were adult males. Many of the features praised in the Forum were sources of frustration for the residents of the project. The grounds were perceived to be and were unsafe. Access to the buildings could not be controlled. Women had to go on errands and shopping in groups. There was little for children and adolescents to do. Antisocial behaviour followed. The supposed rivers of trees were trashed with glass and rubbish. The mailboxes on the ground floor - a potential informal meeting place - and community rooms were vandalized and the corridors, lobbies and stairs became feared places. Rubbish got stacked up against the malfunctioning chutes. The lack of toilets on the ground floor meant that the children urinated where they could. Pipes burst in winter.

A $US7 million proposal was made in 1956 to remodel the scheme by turning the galleries into conventional corridors. By the mid-1960s the project was in poor shape while the Housing Authority reputedly still owed

Pruitt Igoe Apartment Pictures Louis Public Housing Projects Images

Figure 7.20 Pruitt-Igoe, St Louis. (a) Isometric view of the site, (b) diagrammatic cross-section and floor plans, (c) the architect's drawing of the predicted behaviour in a gallery and (d) a gallery in reality.

Figure 7.20 Pruitt-Igoe, St Louis. (a) Isometric view of the site, (b) diagrammatic cross-section and floor plans, (c) the architect's drawing of the predicted behaviour in a gallery and (d) a gallery in reality.

Pruitt Igoe Floor Plans
Figure 7.21 Pruitt-Igoe prior to demolition.

$30 million for its construction and was seeking funds for its demolition (Montgomery, 1966). By 1970 it was 70% vacant. Demolition took place in July 1972 and was hailed by architectural critic Charles Jencks as the death of Modernist architecture and the birth of Postmodernism. The failure had a major impact on the thinking of architects and city planners. Many in the architectural profession abandoned their social concern. It was just too hard. Many planners turned their attention to the improvement of social and economic issues rather than the character of the built environment (Figure 7.21).

The project, along with the similar British and French examples showed the limitations of architecture and built form as a determinant of social behaviour - good or bad. The necessity for a social support as well as a physical design agenda in urban design became clear. This need was recognized in the 1930s but was forgotten, or disregarded, by the 1950s. It was obvious in retrospect that much more attention needed to be paid to the space between buildings - to the public realm oflarge-scale architectural schemes -and to the facilities provided. The design of Pruitt-Igoe was well intentioned but based on a paradigm inadequate for its purposes. Housing and urban design theory has come a long way since then. Practice lags.

Major references

Editorial (1951). Slum surgery in St Louis: a new apartment type. Architectural Forum 94 (April): 128-36.

Montgomery, Roger (1966). Comment on 'House as haven in the lower class'. Journal of the American Institute of Planners 32 (1): 23-31. Montgomery, Roger (1985). Pruitt-Igoe: policy failure or societal symptom? In Barry Checkoway and Clive Patton, eds., The Metropolitan Midwest: Policy Problems and Prospects for Change. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 229-43. Newman, Oscar (1974). Defensible Space: Crime Prevention through Urban Design. New York: Macmillan.

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