Continuing with the recent trend in “ruin porn” – the phenomenon of almost voyeuristic hindsight and awe with America’s urban past and what has become the present – the notoriously iconic St. Louis housing complex Pruitt-Igoe will get an injection of interest next month when the new film The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: an Urban History premieres at the Oxford Film Festival. That’s Oxford, Mississippi. It’s no surprise to me of course that this film isn’t debuting in St. Louis itself, a city in almost permanent conflict with its own past, identity and desires.
For two years I drove by the grounds where Pruitt-Igoe stood on my way to high school – up North Jefferson, the main street bordering on the west (above). Not that I understood then the impact Pruitt-Igoe had on the landscape – I didn’t – but it was even then a point of fascination that something so grande and ambitious was attempted in my fair and diminutif city during an era of otherwise obvious decline. It lasted only 20 years, and was destroyed before I was born – but for the adults around me who lived through that era, something always seemed to stick at their side. Perhaps the film will shed light on what that thing is, but I like to think not – in the same way that looking at the contemporary satellite map above, which we now have easy access to, makes one think “awwww, that’s nice” – and actually yes the green is pleasant to look at – but it’s ultimately impossible to answer the question “What went wrong?”
some footage from Koyaanisqatsi shows Pruitt-Igoe getting blow’d up:
on another note I’m currently reading Franzen’s The Twenty-Seventh City, which I highly recommend to any native from the region, as well as anyone looking for a good (although I think he’s very cynical at times) American satire.