Pruitt-Igoe Now Finalist #32: Past Need Not Be Prologue

Of course this isn't really Pruitt-Igoe Now finalist number 32, but with the official 31 finalists announced and mine not making the cut, I can only assume it was the last one out, right? Right? But anyway, here's my submission: The basic premise is that the Pruitt-Igoe site today is underutilized because experimentation has stopped. When the monolithic development was constructed, then demolished, nothing followed. Located in an economically depressed part of a declining city, it was too big to succeed.

My forumula for the future of Pruitt-Igoe is purposely not monolithic and is centered on four concepts; community, city, recognition and research. Community requires new housing, retail (possibly corner stores), playgrounds and more. City means an end to the superblock and the reintroduction of the street grid. Recognition signifies that what existed on the site is an important part of our history and Research is meant to show that history isn't dead, but should be a living, changing endeavor. You can click the image below to view the submission in full screen, or visit the link to view as a PDF.

Pruitt-Igoe NOW

(click for link to PDF)

The project above was submitted in response to a call for ideas from Pruitt Igoe Now, a competition set up to imagine a new future for the site of the infamous north St. Louis housing project. From the competition website: Pruitt Igoe Now seeks the ideas of the creative community worldwide: we invite individuals and teams of professional, academic, and student architects, landscape architects, designers, writers and artists of every discipline to re-imagine the 57 acres on which the Pruitt-Igoe housing project was once located. In total, the competition received 345 submissions and winners will be announced later this month.

The narrative of my submission reads:

There is not one answer for urban development. The goal is reinvention, assessment and continued development. The past, however conflicted, should open new avenues of exploration and not serve to impede our imagination or our practical needs. The challenge is not to right wrongs, but to offer function where none currently exists.

Community, the city, recognition and research are the hallmarks of the future Pruitt-Igoe site. Long neglected, both physically and mentally by the city and surrounding community, every effort should be made to reintegrate the land back into the life of the city. Construction of contemporary public housing reintroduces the vibrant experimentation that produced Pruitt-Igoe. The community reinvented.

Centrally located in the City of St. Louis the site must be opened to welcome in the urban form. The street grid should be re-established. Corner commercial spaces should be sought and pocket parks created. It’s imperative that we recognize and remediate the obstacle of the super-block.

While cognizant of the impassioned and wide-ly varied historical ownership of the site, Pruitt-Igoe must not be erased. Learning and re-search play a central role in the site’s future. Preserving a building’s footprint informs us of the project’s once dominating scale and no other site is as fitting to locate a center for study of American public housing.