The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

About This Episode


It began as a housing marvel. Two decades later, it ended in rubble. But what happened to those caught in between? 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.

The film analyzes the impact of the national urban renewal program of the 1950s and 1960s, which prompted the process of mass suburbanization, emptying cities of residents, businesses and industries. Those left behind, like the residents of Pruitt-Igoe, faced a destitute, rapidly de-industrializing St. Louis, parceled out to downtown interests and increasingly segregated by class and race. Domestic turmoil was wrought by punitive public welfare policies; the paternalistic Housing Authority was cash-strapped; and the downward spiral of vacancy, vandalism and crime led to resident protest and action during the 1969 Rent Strike.

And yet, despite this complex history, Pruitt-Igoe has often been stereotyped. The world-famous image of its implosion has 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 implode the myth.