Thursday, February 23, 2012

Paradise Lost: Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis

Pruitt-Igoe was a socialist planners dream is to replace slums with high-rise apartments, leaving lots of green space.  It cost $36 million to build.
"In 1951, Architectural Forum praised Yamasaki's original proposal as "the best high apartment" of the year. Overall density was set at a moderate level of 50 units per acre (higher than in downtown slums), yet, according to the planning principles of Le Corbusier and the International Congresses of Modern Architects, residents were raised up to 11 floors above ground in an attempt to save the grounds and ground floor space for communal activity. Architectural Forum praised the layout as "vertical neighborhoods for poor people". Each row of buildings was supposed to be flanked by a "river of trees", developing a Harland Bartholomew concept. As completed in 1955, Pruitt–Igoe consisted of 33 11-story apartment buildings on a 57-acre (23 ha) site, on St. Louis's lower north side. The complex totaled 2,870 apartments, one of the largest in the country."
It soon failed because of high crime.
"When corridors were shared by 20 families and staircases by hundreds, public spaces immediately fell into disrepair.When the number of residents per public space rose above a certain level, none would identify with these "no man's land[s]" – places where it was "impossible to feel ... to tell resident from intruder".
Demolition began in 1972 and by 1976, all the buildings had been demolished.  Nothing has been built there since except for a school.  Today the land is planted with trees and strewn with trash and it is considered a brownfield.

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