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Destroyed in a dramatic and highly-publicized implosion, the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex has become a widespread symbol of failure amongst architects, politicians and policy makers. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth explores the social, economic and legislative issues that led to the decline of conventional public housing in America, and the city centers in which they resided, while tracing the personal and poignant narratives of several of the project's residents. In the post-War years, the American city changed in ways that made it unrecognizable from a generation earlier, privileging some and leaving others in its wake. The next time the city changes, remember Pruitt-Igoe.Written by
Not Mentioned - The Pruitt-Igoe complex was designed by the architect Minoru Yamasaki (1913-1986) who also designed the World Trade Center and the main terminal at the St. Louis - Lambert International Airport. See more »
Pruitt-Igoe was among the largest projects of urban revitalization during its time. It was designed to be a cure for the disease of poverty and slums, in which the city and community alike would thrive. The Pruitt-Igoe myth documentary does an outstanding job of painting a vivid picture for one to visualize, the many hardships the residents faced. It concentrated on the issues that lead to the demise, the suffering and segregation but also the positive effects that it had on many people's lives.
Initially the residents were extremely excited to move into the community. They described it as a utopia and safe haven as well as a resort. People that lived in the Pruit-Igoe community claim that there was once a sense of community and that at a certain time period "it was full of electric engaging life". However, the green grass and playgrounds didn't last, and soon later the deterioration of the buildings became significantly of concern. Matters were so terrible that people would actually defecate in the elevator and stairs, and burn neighboring apartments. However, professionals claim that this was their unique cry for help. What was the causation of these failures you may ask yourself? Much blame the architect; others blame the welfare state, while others put to blame the people that resided there.
The city of St. Louis was expected to grow exponentially during this time frame that the project was being innovated. However, plans didn't go as expected. The city shrunk by 20%, which lead to homes being vacant causing a cascade effect full of negative impacts for the city to endure. Whites moved to the suburbs, and took the jobs with them; this became an even bigger problem because now not only were there vacant homes and apartments but also no jobs to pay for rent. This is one of the main issues to the demise of Pruitt and Igoe. The main idea was that the maintenance would be funded by rent paid by the tenants. It seems like an ingenious plan, where the buildings were basically going to maintain themselves without the input of state or government funding. Nevertheless, no one expected the city to decline greatly and for jobs to move out of reach. This predicament made it nearly impossible for residents to establish a secure form of employment. Thus no employment meant that rent met would not be met, therefore causing a deficit in resources for the maintenance department. After the buildings resort type facade diminished, tenants that had the means to escape left while persons with little to no resources stayed behind. This created segregation within the community, because as suburbs were being built and desirable areas within the city suffered from gentrification, low income individuals were essentially forced to move into Pruitt and Igoe.
Another important aspect that the film focuses on is the terrible violence and crime that the community underwent. It became a safe haven for drug dealers and murderers since the buildings were extremely vacant, criminals could easily handle their unlawful activities while remaining under the radar. Pruit-Igoe became representative of black; poverty, crime, and drug abuse. Community activists actively spoke to city officials in an effort to deal with the wrongdoings that the neighborhood was actively facing daily. However, the police blamed the mayor, while the mayor, blamed the state and Washington. It was a cycle of pointing fingers where the people left to suffer without remorse were the residents. Matters became so terrible that police and firemen stopped showing up to the area. Not only is the city to blame but also the tenants, because they would throw fire bombs at the same people that are supposed to protect them. It's extremely counter intuitive from their part. However as before mentioned this was a way of the tenants of demonstrating that they didn't like the conditions in which they were living. An important point made by the film was the many strict laws that the tenants had to abide by in order to have a roof over their head. If the government was going to support them and give them a few extra dollars, they then had to abide by the cruel rules. Residents were not allowed to own a television, or telephone. They felt segregated and isolated; many claim that it felt like a prison environment. Wouldn't you agree? It almost seems to me in my personal opinion as though the government was attempting to keep blacks dependent on the system, virtually modern day slavery where they control their every action and future as well as their children's future-one vicious cycle it all adds to urban issues that we still face to date. However the most absurd rule of all was the fact that men couldn't live in the projects, what's the rationale behind this concept? Splitting of families, kids growing up without father figures, leaving women vulnerable to criminals is what the foolish regulation caused. There was no morality being presented to these helpless individuals, they were treated inhumane and split of their naturalistic rights.
With accordance to the film, many people have very good memories of living in Pruitt and Igoe. The nostalgia of dancing in the halls and playground during Christmas brings nothing but tears of joy to their eyes, and the smell of baked goods coming from their neighbors windows brought the simplest of happiness. And although there were many negative phases that were lived many rather looks at the positive memories. It's extremely difficult to figure the source of the demise to this day, as we still face a huge dilemma with public housing. Nevertheless it's safe to say that everyone was at fault; the architect, government, and residents. Not for the source of the problem, since cities change with regards to population and capital, rather for allowing the predicament to reach such a cruel and inhumane way of living.
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