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. ...
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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
In The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, director Chad Freidrichs, gives viewers an in-depth look at the Pruitt-Igoe project, one of St. Louis' failed attempts to urbanize the city. In this documentary, Freidrichs focuses on dispelling the myths that surround the project by interviewing past residents and establishing the real cause of why projects Pruitt-Igoe failed. In addition, this documentary sheds light on the bigger issue, of why housing projects in general fail in America.
The main argument of the film is built to dispel the myths about housing projects, that Pruitt-Igoe fueled. When most people think about housing project and why they fail, they blame violence, crime, drugs, and poverty. While these things are commonly found in housing projects, they are not to blame. To prove this, Friedrichs starts by discussing the beginning of urban renewal. In 1949 the Housing Act was passed. Legalized and funded, St. Louis started urban renewal by clearing the slums and building new public housing units, Pruitt Igoe. Pruitt-Igoe was conceived to replace the tenement homes of poor residents throughout the St. Louis. The idea was to replace the slums with new high-rises, and this would solve the issue of poor neighborhoods. However this would not work out in the end. As I previously mentioned when people think of housing projects they think of crime as the root of their problem. This was not the case for Pruitt Igoe. Friedrichs points to a lack of funding as the cause of Pruitt Igoes failure in the documentary. The documentary looks in-depth at how a lack of funding led to the deterioration of Pruitt Igoe. They say the project was doomed from the beginning because the city did not have a solid plan on how to continue to fund Pruitt Igoe. When the planning for the building started, the city wrote in the plans that the rent residents would pay would never increase. As the years went on funding dwindled and the buildings deteriorated. The documentary interviewed some past residents and they told stories of how the grounds keepers stopped taking care of the building, no repairs or updates were made to the buildings, and how basically their was no one to take care of Pruitt Igoe. Another argument the documentary made was that people who live in housing projects have a community there. Many of the interviews shown in the documentary support this. Everyone they interviewed had positive happy memories of living in Pruitt Igoe despite poor conditions toward the end. They boasted of growing up there as children and always having someone to play with. The apartment styled building made it so everyone knew each other. Friedrichs use of interviews took the focus off of Pruitt Igoe being a failure and focused on the community aspect.
Overall, this documentary dispels a lot of myths that surround housing projects. The documentary takes a look at a controversial aspect of urban planning over a course of decades in Pruitt Igoe. Many people put housing projects to the back of their mind or look at them as negatives blaming their problems on the residents that inhabit them. As a person who was grown and raised in St. Louis, I didn't even know that Pruitt Igoe existed as it has since been torn down. I would recommend this documentary, as I think it shows an important part of our history and portraits Pruitt Igoe in a positive light which it and its' residents deserve.
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