The Pruitt-Igoe housing complex consisted of 33 buildings of 11 stories each on the Near North Side of St. Louis, Missouri. In 1950 the city commissioned the firm of Leinweber, Yamasaki & Hellmuth to design Pruitt-Igoe, a new complex named for St. Louisans Wendell O. Pruitt, an African-American fighter pilot in World War II, and William L. Igoe, a former U.S. Congressman. Originally, the city planned two partitions: Captain W. O. Pruitt Homes for the black residents, and William L. Igoe Apartments for whites. The site was bounded by Cass Avenue on the north, North Jefferson Avenue on the west, Carr Street on the south, and North 20th Street on the east. Prior to the project’s construction, the land was known as the De Soto-Carr neighbourhood, an extremely poor section of St. Louis, a black ghetto.
The project was authored by architect Minoru Yamasaki who would later design New York’s World Trade Center. It was Yamasaki’s first large independent job, performed under supervision and constraints imposed by the federal Public Housing Authority. Architectural Forum praised the layout as “vertical neighbourhoods for poor people”. Each row of buildings was supposed to be flanked by a “river of trees”, developing a Harland Bartholomew concept. However, parking and recreation facilities were inadequate; playgrounds were added only after tenants petitioned for their installation.
Seen here are the 33 rectangular buildings that made up Pruitt-Igoe. The four large branching structures in the foreground was the Vaughn Public Housing Complex (also demolished). Also pictured is the Pruitt School (the four-story building near the centre of the photo) and the St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Church, both of which still stand.
As completed in 1955, Pruitt-Igoe consisted of 33 11-story apartment buildings on a 57 acre (23 hectare) site on St. Louis’s lower north side, The complex totaled 2,870 apartments, being one of the largest in the United States. The apartments were deliberately small, with undersized kitchen appliances. “Skip-stop” elevators stopped only at the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth floors, forcing residents to use stairs in an attempt to lessen congestion. The same “anchor floors” were equipped with large communal corridors, laundry rooms, communal rooms and garbage chutes. In real life the stairwells and corridors attracted muggers. Ventilation was poor, centralized air conditioning nonexistent.
Nevertheless, initially Pruitt-Igoe garnered net positive publicity as a breakthrough in urban renewal. Despite poor build quality, material suppliers referenced Pruitt-Igoe in their advertisements, capitalizing on the national exposure of the project.
A 1956 Missouri court decision desegregated public housing in the state, and the newly built complex became predominantly populated by black tenants. Whites evidently chose not to take up residence in the new integrated towers.
The buildings remained largely vacant for years. By the end of the 1960s Pruitt-Igoe was nearly abandoned and had deteriorated into a decaying, dangerous, crime-infested neighbourhood; its architect lamented: “I never thought people were that destructive”. In 1971, Pruitt-Igoe housed only six hundred people in seventeen buildings; the other sixteen were boarded up.
In 1968 the federal Department of Housing began encouraging remaining residents to leave Pruitt-Igoe.
In December 1971 state and federal authorities agreed to demolish two of Pruitt-Igoe buildings. After months of preparation, the first building was demolished with an implosion at 3 p.m., March 16, 1972. The second one went down April 22, 1972. After more implosions on July 15, the first stage of demolition was over. As the government scrapped rehabilitation plans, Pruitt-Igoe was agonized over for three more years; the site was finally cleared in 1976.
Planted with trees, here’s what Pruitt-Igoe looks like today:
And here’s another view of it today:
There is a Pruitt-Igoe demolition sequence in the film Koyaanisqatsi, with music by Philip Glass. Here it is:
This text is a modified version of the information found on wikipedia: