Pruitt-Igoe, or Proof that the Flavor of the Month Can Indeed Go Bad

My friend Mile High Pixie has posted an interesting article briefly describing the history of American Modernism (at least in regards to city planning) gone awry – Pruitt-Igoe.  It was a large housing development located near downtown St. Louis modeled after Le Corbusier’s Plan Voison for Paris (which would have required the destruction of large swaths of Paris to implement, if it had ever been built).

There are many reasons why Pruitt-Igoe failed (and by failed I mean that it was almost entirely destroyed within 20+ years after it was constructed – I believe there’s still one or two buildings remaining), and none of those reasons are because of the modern aesthetic.  These buildings could have been built to look like mega-colonial behemoths and the development would have still failed.  Sorry Prince Charles.

And despite the destruction of Pruitt-Igoe (as well as Cabrini Green in Chicago) we are still living with the basic design principles of Corbu’s Plan Voison, which are instilled in most suburban developments.  Here in the Denver Area we have a large corporate development called the Denver Tech Center, and if you squint your eyes you can see the similarities between this and Plan Voison (the DTC lacks the order of Corbu’s plan, but of course suburbia isn’t known for its order).

The history of American Modern city planning consists of many examples of inhospitable spaces that promoted a negative living environment on many different levels.  The future of American Modern city planning is going to require a lot more dynamite.


1 thought on “Pruitt-Igoe, or Proof that the Flavor of the Month Can Indeed Go Bad

  1. Mile High Pixie

    Thanks for the props, G. Ultimately, we’re going to have to take at least one hint from the New Urbanists on this, such as bigger isn’t always better. What the New Urbanists still haven’t learned, though, is that style is nothing without substance. As you cracked about Prince Chuckie, even if Pruitt-Igoe had been a series of Gothic Cathedrals, it still would have sucked like a wind tunnel.


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