re-imagining pruitt-igoe

This project has sought to position Pruitt-Igoe as an alternative to the Gateway Arch: an alternative history of St. Louis, as well as an alternative ecology.  This final design proposal re-imagines Pruitt-Igoe as a site of urban memory: both cultural and ecological.

The Jefferson Avenue streetscape retains the existing Catalpa Trees and Trumpet Creeper.  One lane of Jefferson Avenue is converted into a bike lane and planting strip: the lane is jack-hammered to increase permeability, and spontaneous vegetation begins to sprout.  Saw-cut channels in the sidewalk allow stormwater from Jefferson Avenue to reach the Pruitt-Igoe forest rather than flow into the city’s sewer system.

A corten steel gateway provides site history and provides entry via a pathway winding through the rubble that marks that former Dickson Street.  Visitors are aligned with the historic view of St Stanislaus, and can explore the ongoing processes of urban succession.  The existing forest is preserved on the Jefferson Avenue frontage; this and area on the east side of the site serve as seed banks for areas of the site that is cleared: further away from the street controlled-burn maintenance regime helps establish meadows, savannahs, and young forests, proving a dynamic setting for markers that identify the Pruitt-Igoe building footprints.

The building footprints are marked by gabion plinths made of concrete rubble.  These plinths represent the ecological history of re-forestation over rubble, and allow former residents to locate the buildings they once lived in.  Surrounded by a gravel firebreak, the forests emerging on these gabions will continue to grow as the area around them is burned to establish meadows.  As the forests grow up, they begin to represent the scale of the Pruitt-Igoe buildings.

The picnic area east of Gateway School is enlarged to serve as an area for large gatherings, such as Pruitt-Igoe reunions.  A new bosque of trees, established over the former football field, provides an abstract representation of the Pruitt-Igoe forest.  Species existing in the site, such as cottonwood, mulberry and catalpa, are combined with ornamental species such as red bud and little-leaf linden.  These trees range in size and form, but all feature heart-shaped leaves.  This area is intended to provide an “acclimation zone” that allows visitors to begin to contemplate the dissonant beauty of the Pruitt-Igoe landscape.

At DeSoto Park, a narrow strip of concrete is added to the Pruitt-Igoe era sidewalk.  Lined with trees extending from the bosque, this pathway establishes a connection between the community that uses the soccer fields every weekend and the site’s larger cultural and ecological history.

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