The Projects and the People: Public Housing in the Life of an American City


ACLS Fellowship Program


American Studies


This study provides a social and architectural history of a major public housing project between 1950 and 1980. Through a close examination of the Pruitt-Igoe complex in St. Louis, and the lives of the people whose paths crossed there, I will expand existing scholarship on design, public housing, and the urban landscape in America. While most critics blame the design of the project for its failure, my research demonstrates that design was tangential to the much more powerful forces of racism, poverty, industrial change, and neighborhood decline that shaped St. Louis over the past fifty years. While design is an important aspect of Pruitt-Igoe's history, I argue that a focus on the project's architecture alone neglects the struggle by tenants to make homes out of housing units.