The Spectre of Pruitt-Igoe

by Michael R. Allen

In May 2010, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan visited the site of the former Pruitt-Igoe housing project. Afterward, he shared his thoughts with St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial writer Eddie Roth. Roth produced a lovely short video combining many striking images from the Post archive with Donovan’s comments. Donovan’s statements about the Pruitt-Igoe legacy are smart and eloquent, although his insistence on the wisdom of demolishing all American high-rise public housing is questionable.

One thing that all interpreters seem to agree upon is the complexity of Pruitt-Igoe’s legacy. The differences lie in whether the design itself could have been salvaged and made to work. Rampant dismissal of the design has led to a strong and largely unquestioned narrative about the causal relationship between high-rise apartment buildings and the conditions of poverty. With almost all of the towers in this nation gone, we seem to be faced with a culture of poverty only stronger and wider than when Pruitt-Igoe’s last tower was opened in February 1956.

To learn more about the history of Pruitt-Igoe, attend one of the upcoming screenings of the wonderful documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. Screenings are scheduled for Thursday, June 2nd at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 4th at 12:00 noon, both at the Tivoli Theatre.

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  • Randy

    This is amazing.

  • derek zasaretti

     Pruit Igoe actually set the trend for imploding the massive tower theme all across the country. The razing of the Vaughns 15+/- years later. Cabrini Greene , Baltimores Lexington Terraces and later the BluMeyer buildings. Is New York the only place that still has the massive towers?