Project Introduction

Did modernism die in St. Louis? Charles Jencks claimed as much in The Language of Post Modern Architecture. According to Jencks, modern architecture died with the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe Homes in 1972. As the city seeks to re-frame its “modern masterpiece”–the Gateway Arch–through an international competition, what is the status of its famous modern disaster–Pruitt-Igoe–and what role could this site play in the city’s future? This project seeks to situate both the Arch and Pruitt-Igoe within the historical narrative of urban renewal in St. Louis. The fall semester Design Research Seminar will be dedicated to researching the history of urban renewal in St. Louis with a focus on Pruitt-Igoe and the Gateway Arch. Through highlighting the shared history of these projects, it is hoped that the Pruitt-Igoe site and story can be reinterpreted and repositioned in the city’s future planning. As research progresses, a series of interpretive maps of the St. Louis will be generated. At the end of the fall semester, a design program for the Pruitt-Igoe site will be developed, utilizing landscape-based design strategies to
connect it with the Gateway Arch and Jefferson National Expansion Monument.

It is believed that this project will have value as a critique of the “Framing a Modern Masterpiece” Competition, the winner of which will be announced in fall, 2010. This competition has branded the Arch a “modern masterpiece” while failing to fully acknowledge its lineage as an urban renewal project. Similarly, architecture critics have characterized Pruitt-Igoe as a failure of modern architecture while failing to contextualize it as a high-density, low income housing project constructed during urban renewal. This project will re-contextualize the Gateway Arch and Jefferson National Expansion Monument as one successful project in a city where urban renewal policy also proved disastrous. The spring semester design studio imagines the built form of such a critique,
wherein the Pruitt-Igoe site is no longer marginalized and instead valued as a cultural landscape and imagined as prominent and vital as the Arch is today.

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3 Responses to Project Introduction

  1. William says:

    What a fascinating endeavor! As a resident of St. Louis City, I’ve long been fascinated – and equally haunted by – this regions relationship with modernism. Thank you for doing this.

  2. Thanks William. I hope you will let me know if you have any suggestions for my research!

  3. Pingback: St. Louis – gateway to the frontier? | chibileviathan

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