The Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis became most famous at the moment of its demise. The thirty-three high-rise towers built in the 1950’s were supposed to solve the impending population crisis in inner city St. Louis. It was supposed to save the urban poor from the indignities of the downtown slums that lacked natural light, water and fresh air. And for a short while, it worked. It was a housing marvel.
But when conditions started to decline, everything got very bad, very fast.
It got so bad, only two decades after it was built; the housing authority blew it up. The image of the first Pruitt-Igoe controlled implosion circled the globe.
The implosion footage became the unassailable proof that Modernist architecture and federal housing just didn’t work.
Chad Freidrichs is the director of the new documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth and in the film he examines all the reasons people cite for the demise of Pruitt-Igoe.
In this episode of 99% Invisible, we focus on the popular idea that the architecture was to blame.
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