Recipe Landscape

Though memories of Pruitt-Igoe haunt St. Louis and discrimination plagued the project from the start, its early history included dance, exchange, and strong social ties. Our proposal celebrates that often-overlooked history by reinstating a landscape of collective ritual and domestic life.

A recipe is not only a list of ingredients but a set of instructions guiding a process. Following a recipe, which leaves room for improvisation, yields a sensory delight that is collectively enjoyed. By cultivating milk and honey, through apiculture and urban husbandry, the Pruitt-Igoe site yields the most savored delight of all – ice cream.

Rather than hiding the scars of history that represent not just an event but perpetuating social inequities still palpable in the surrounding environment, the footprints of the buildings are excavated and planted with gardens that generate 33 flavors to be mixed with milk and honey to produce Pruitt-Igoe Ice Cream varieties.

As a new "land of milk and honey," ingredients celebrated by the ancients as sacred symbols of fertility and abundance, the landscape of loss is transformed into one of production, growth, and sustenance. The emergent forest may be considered a symbol of neglect and institutional abandonment. We reframe it as a kind of enchanted forest with the hidden gardens that recognize the site’s past lives and celebrate its most current one.

The site becomes a reminder and reinstatement of St. Louis’ manufacturing past. The processing of natural ingredients adjacent to their place of production contributes to the conversation on food security and public health (despite the welcomed indulgence of the product). The Pruitt School is transformed into a dairy and creamery where ice cream is made and which continues as an educational center for the study of urban agriculture, environmental stewardship and cultural rituals of food preparation and eating. The site provides jobs, creates a community focus as a collective endeavor, and brings a positive identity to the area long plagued by its burdened past.

Alison Hirsch (MLA, Ph.D) and Aroussiak Gabrielian (MLA, M.Arch) recently formed Foreground Design Agency, an activist practice that investigates social rituals and ecological processes to generate design interventions that promote a healthy public realm.