Just North of the Pruitt Igoe site there sits a small cluster of occupied homes, surrounded almost entirely by vacant lots. The residents of this community live their lives cut off from most of the amenities needed on a day-to-day basis. The low density and expansive vacant land make it a struggle to reach the few resources that are scattered around the Pruitt Igoe site. When asked what they wished occupied the vacant property, one woman explained that a Walmart would be the best development that could occur. Such a suggestion might seem completely contradictory to what many designers would hope to place on the Pruitt Igoe site. However, the real appeal of the Walmart concept is the ease of having all needs met in one accessible location. If, instead, small business growth could be achieved along the perimeter of the Pruitt Igoe site, residents’ needs could be met while also promoting a sustainable, interconnected community.
Although new local businesses play a critical role in forming a longterm vibrant neighborhood, the history of Pruitt Igoe cannot be forgotten. Therefore, preserving the original electric substation and library would serve as a reminder of the area’s past. Finally, the extreme growth of natural vegetation has rendered Pruitt Igoe both remarkably unique for its urban context and rather formidable. In order to encourage engagement with the site, paving and widening the existing pathways and incorporating new ones will allow Pruitt Igoe to serve as an attraction and thoroughfare for the neighborhood. Through these strategies, Pruitt Igoe can weave back into the urban fabric and bridge the gaps between the isolated pockets surrounding the site.
Jamie Niekamp and Elaine Stokes are students with the College of Architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University, 2014.