North St. Louis Pruitt Igoe

Pruitt Igoe Now

Yesterday the St. Louis Beacon published a great article providing an overview of Pruitt Igoe Now, an ideas competition for the site of the city’s largest housing projects. Here is the official announcement.

Pruitt-Igoe as part of the heart of St. Louis.

Pruitt Igoe Now is an ideas competition launched by a non-profit organization of the same name, located in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The subject is the 57-acre site of the long-mythologized Pruitt and Igoe housing projects — a site whose future is intertwined with emerging ideas about urban abandonment, the legacy of modernism, brownfield redevelopment and land use strategies for shrinking cities. This competition seeks the ideas of the creative community worldwide: we invite individuals and teams of professional, academic, and student architects, landscape architects, urban planners, designers, writers, historians, and artists of every discipline to re-imagine the site and the relationship between those acres to the rest of the city. The deadline for submissions in March 16, 2012. Submissions are accepted beginning now.

What now?

March 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the first of the Pruitt-Igoe high-rises, designed by architects, Helmuth, Yamasaki and Leinweber, who have long been blamed for the troubled legacy of these towers–problems that are now known to be the result of complex political and economic circumstances. Although later maligned by historians, the Pruitt and Igoe housing projects were the embodiment of modern architectural ideals for public housing, and as powerfully symbolic of St. Louis’ urban renewal as the Gateway Arch would become. For forty years, the site of this complex has been largely untouched, and today the site is an overgrown brownfield forest. As countless other social housing projects across the country are torn down, and rebuilt in the idiom of new urbanism, the site of Pruitt-Igoe remains untouched. What is Pruitt-Igoe now? Can this site be liberated from a turbulent and mythologized past through re-imagination?

The Pruitt and Igoe homes comprised a neighborhood.

This call seeks bold ideas that re-invigorate the abandoned site: ideas from sources as diverse in media and background as possible. This competition imagines the site of Pruitt-Igoe as a frontier: the threshold between North St. Louis, which is showing signs of stabilization after decades of decline, and the new design for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Our jurors will select the first, second and third most inspiring proposals and award them $1,000, $750 and $500 respectively. A broad selection of entries will receive honorable mention and inclusion in an online gallery. In April 2012, a symposium on urban dwelling and creative intervention will be held at Portland State University; the advisory committee plans to curate all proposals, and exhibit these at the symposium. The advisory committee also plans to curate select competition submissions into a traveling exhibition that will tour beginning in Summer 2012, starting in St. Louis. The initial setting for display will be publicly accessible and either on or near the Pruitt-Igoe site itself.

The Pruitt-Igoe site is now a forested island surrounded by neighborhoods.

The competition was created by P.R.O. Director Michael Allen and Nora Wendl, Assistant Professor of Design in the Department of Architecture at Portland State University. Advisors include writer and former Pruitt-Igoe resident Sylvester Brown, Jr., artist Theaster Gates, architect Karl Grice, former St. Louis Housing Authority Chairman Sal Martinez, The Pruitt Igoe Myth producer Paul Fehler, Washington University professor Eric Mumford, Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin and St. Louis Beacon Associate Editor Robert W. Duffy.  Jurors will be announced August 1.

Throughout the process, community and stakeholder engagement is crucial.  Pruitt Igoe Now doesn’t have a budget for public relations consultants, but it doesn’t have a protected corner office either.  Please get in touch and make this a better experience for the city’s future. Leave comments here, email or call 314-920-5680.