Ben Oliver

Banner image for The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

A sad cautionary tale
12 January 2014

A sober look into the (literal) rise and fall of the Pruitt-Igoe Project, a huge federal housing complex built in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1950s. The goal of the project was to offer poorer people a way out of the slum conditions parts of the town had devolved into, and in doing so to alleviate some major public health issues that had arisen. Within 20 years, the buildings had become the slums they were trying to destroy.

The film uses the narrow focus of the project to cover a broad spectrum of social issues, and it is largely very effective. Perhaps a wider range of sources could have been interviewed, it did at some points feel like we were talking to the same three people. It felt particularly out of place when people brought in to reminisce about their time growing up in the apartments started to theorise about other projects, and talk about what could have been ‘if it weren’t for X’.

The story has enough pull to hold the attention though, it’s an artificial paradise lost, a self-induced fall from grace, with 12,000 people caught in the middle, unable to escape. A sad cautionary tale and a reminder that everywhere was nice, once upon a time.