The Pruitt-Igoe Myth tells the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II, through the lens of the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing development and the St. Louis residents who called it home.
It began as a housing marvel. Built in 1956, Pruitt-Igoe was heralded as the model public housing project of the future, "the poor man's penthouse." Two decades later, it ended in rubble - its razing an iconic event that the architectural theorist Charles Jencks famously called the death of modernism. The footage and images of its implosion have helped to perpetuate a myth of failure, a failure that has been used to critique Modernist architecture, attack public assistance programs, and stigmatize public housing residents.
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth seeks to set the historical record straight. To examine the interests involved in Pruitt-Igoe's creation. To re-evaluate the rumors and the stigma. To implode the myth.
"Devastating…an engulfing real-life horror story as well as a testimony to the dominance of the image in American public discourse. Chad Freidrichs employs evocative archival footage and incisive firsthand reportage to brush away the clichéd and often prejudiced conventional wisdom that puts the blame for the project’s demise on its black residents. Lucid, tenacious. The photographs of the brand-new Pruitt-Igoe buildings sting with an electric poignancy." - Michael Sragow, The New Yorker
"Compelling, exceptional. It correctly finds value in preserving this disappearing American experience on film and should serve as a prototype for similar efforts of cultural preservation." - Dante A. Ciampaglia, Architectural Record