THE PRUITT-IGOE MYTH

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THEPRUITT-IGOE MYTH

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After the World War II, the government invested in housing projectssuch as the Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis (Stefanik, 2015). The housingauthority aim was to provide better living conditions to the poorAmerican citizens staying in slums. However, the project onlysurvived for a few years since the houses were later demolished.People have different views regarding the factors that contributed tothe failure of Pruitt-Igoe. The paper seeks to analyze the projectand provide a well-rounded insight on the issue.

The Pruitt-Igoe housing project began in 1952 after the 1949 HousingAct was implemented (Stefanik, 2015). It consisted of thirty-three,eleven storey buildings that were spread across the fifty-seven acresof land in St. Louis. An analysis of the Pruitt-Igoe Myth suggeststhat the government contributed to the failure of the project. Theadministration developed and implemented public policies such as theprovision of better housing as a way of improving the level ofpoverty in the state after the Second World War. The economistsbelieve that the decision was appropriate at the time, but theleaders failed to focus on the long-term economic changes that thecountry would experience (Glenn, 2013). For example, the rapidpopulation increase in the suburbs and better access to educationimplied more people became literate. However, the number of availablejobs for the citizens was limited, which resulted in highunemployment levels. On the other hand, the development of thesuburbs led to reduced population in the city, and the middle classslowly faded. The impact of the changes in population size affectedthe economy of the country as it experienced the vicious cycle ofpoverty and obtained low income from tax. Therefore, the failedgovernment plans contributed to the failure of Pruitt-Igoe housingprogram.

As part of the postwar transformations, the government alsoconsidered applying modern architecture in their projects. It isargued that the architect behind the Pruitt-Igoe project, MinoruYamasaki, also contributed to its failure (Stefanik, 2015). Thecomplex that was constructed generated social implications such asisolation, vandalism, and provided breeding grounds for criminalactivities. The Pruitt-Igoe was considered a segregation project thatpromoted racism in America. For instance, the blacks paid more rentthan the whites, and no police were allocated in the area to providesecurity while the whites received adequate protection. The architectwas also blamed for designing skip-stop elevators that provided idealopportunities for mugging. Other designers also said that the longgalleries and staircases that encouraged people to mingle weredangerous (Laurence, 2016). The vandalism and criminal activitiesmade most tenants to relocate to other safer regions and abandon thePruitt-Igoe houses due to fear.

The residents of the Pruitt-Igoe are also to blame for the failure ofthe project. It is argued that the St. Louis individuals who becamethe first occupants were poor, uneducated, and failed to care fortheir homes. Since the federal government did not acquire adequatefinances from the tenant’s rent to cater for maintenance, theresidents began demonstrating and organized rent strikes in 1969(Stefanik, 2015). One of the occupants described how they had managedto climb out of elevators when they broke down and saved theirneighbors who got stuck in the lifts. Although most of the tenantsargue that Pruitt-Igoe was a life changing opportunity, it isbelieved that if they did not engage in the criminal activities,people would not live in fear and relocate to safer grounds. Besides,when the houses began to be used for drug dealing business and abusespread among the citizens, the government had to take the necessaryaction.

In conclusion, the failure of Pruitt-Igoe can be attributed to thegovernment, the architect, and the residents. Everyone had a role toplay in ensuring the sustainability of the project. Hence, it wouldbe inappropriate to blame one sector.

References

Glenn, E. H. (2013). Media. Planning, 79(4), 56-57.

Laurence, P. L. (2016). Becoming Jane Jacobs. Philadelphia.University of Pennsylvania Press

Stefanik, C.W. (Producer). (2015, Septemeber 27). The Pruitt-IgoeMyth. [Video file]. Retrieved fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKgZM8y3hso&ampfeature=youtu.be