Pruit-Igoe had grand ambitions to provide housing and modern amenities at a large scale for those in need – but it opened just as St. Louis ́ population was starting to shrink. Not only was this a significant factor in the ultimate demolition of Pruit-Igoe, the shrinkage has accelerated – and not only in St. Louis. The regreening of the Pruitt-Igoe site can now serve as a catalyst for a new, healthy model of living in the shrinking city: the metro village. By concentrating growth around existing community anchors and neighborhoods, while regreening vacant and underused land for gardens and forests, a series of metro villages can offer residents a modern version of the American Dream: the city out one ́s front door and the countryside at the backdoor.
As shown in the adjacent diagram, the next forty years of development in St. Louis can exploit shrinkage to prepare residents with more resilience in the fall of rising costs of energy, food + temperatures – while improving the quality of life and ecological function.
Rigorous mappings of existing conditions determine the boundaries of the areas to be infilled and those to be regreened. The villages will offer a range of densities, diverse uses and public activities, as shown in the plans above of Carr Park Village. The infill will be sensitive, mixing old and new with high aes- thetic quality. Urban streetscapes will contrast with and connect to rural landscapes and forests will be as important as the villages in providing identity to the place and will serve as connective tissue between the villages.
The oldest growth forest and most prominent green space of all will be the Pruitt-Igoe Memorial Park. The existing trees in the former buildings footprints will be maintained. The rest of the site will be cleared and re-planted as a memorial orchard.
Marius Mueller is a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at Bradenburg Technical University Cottbus (Germany), and a Master of Urban Design Candidate at Georgia Institute of Technology (USA).