Pruitt Igoe Now – Call for Design Ideas

Pruitt Igoe Now - Call for  design IdeasDeadline: 26 March 16 2012

Open to: international

Pruitt Igoe Now seeks the ideas of the creative community worldwide: we invite individuals and teams of professional, academic, and student architects, landscape architects, designers, writers and artists of every discipline to re-imagine the 57 acres on which the Pruitt-Igoe housing project was once located.

At 3:00 pm on March 16, 1972, the St. Louis Housing Authority demolished the first of thirty-three high rises of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project through detonation. One month later, the agency demolished a second tower. These highly-publicized and well-documented events were not supposed to usher the end of the notorious housing project, but to foster its rebirth. Instead these incidents would become trauma that has never been resolved for St. Louis, or for the nation.

Rebirth has never arrived. The spectacle of the detonations created momentum toward the accelerated death of Pruitt-Igoe, and led to public sentiment against high-rise housing and even modernist architecture. For decades, architects and historians have mythologized Pruitt-Igoe’s failure as the “death of modernism,” and have placed the blame on the architects, Helmuth, Yamasaki and Leinweber, for problems that are now known to be the result of complex political and economic circumstances. Minoru Yamasaki himself expressed his belief that the project was a failure, and made no mention of it in his autobiography. The architect’s own last word on Pruitt Igoe, like the site itself, is a void.

After more demolitions by sensational detonation on July 15th, 1972, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the St. Louis Housing Authority decided to demolish all of the remaining buildings. By 1977, the last block was demolished and the site cleared. Residents never returned to what had become their neighborhood, and the 57-acre site would sit dormant until 1989, when the St. Louis Public Schools developed 14 acres for a public school site, The rest of the site has lain fallow, an urban forest grown dense with native species, its boundaries delineated by a tall chain link and barbed wire fence meant to discourage a curious public (they find their way into the site anyway, with increased conviction since the release of the documentary “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth”).

March 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the first of the Pruitt-Igoe high-rises. This call seeks design ideas that re-invigorate the abandoned site. In the spirit of that original St. Louis architectural competition—to which the Eero Saarinen-designed Gateway Arch stands as witness—this competition imagines the site of Pruitt-Igoe as a frontier: the threshold between North St. Louis, which is showing signs of stabilization after decades of decline, and the new design for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

As countless other social housing projects across the country are torn down, and rebuilt in the idiom of new urbanism, the site of Pruitt-Igoe remains untouched. What is Pruitt-Igoe now?

Our jurors will select the first, second and third most inspiring proposals and award them $1,000, $750 and $500 respectively. A broad selection of entries will receive honorable mention and inclusion in an online gallery. In April 2012, a symposium on urban dwelling and creative intervention will be held at Portland State University; the advisory committee plans to curate all proposals, and exhibit these at the symposium. The advisory committee also plans to curate select competition submissions into a traveling exhibition that will tour beginning in Summer 2012, starting in St. Louis. The initial setting for display will be publicly accessible and either on or near the Pruitt-Igoe site itself.

The competition was created by P.R.O. Director Michael Allen and Nora Wendl, Assistant Professor of Design in the Department of Architecture at Portland State University. Advisors include writer and former Pruitt-Igoe resident Sylvester Brown, Jr., artist Theaster Gates, architect Karl Grice, former St. Louis Housing Authority Chairman Sal Martinez, The Pruitt Igoe Myth producer Paul Fehler, Washington University professor Eric Mumford, Alderwoman April Ford-Griffin and St. Louis Beacon Associate Editor Robert W. Duffy.  Jurors will be announced August 1.


Pruitt Igoe Now is looking for bold ideas. And, for ideas from sources as diverse in media and background as possible. For forty years, the interpreted memory of the Pruitt-Igoe buildings has existed as a cautionary tale to architects, urbanists, and the public—and for just as long, these acres of land have been dormant, now largely overtaken with foliage. What is the future of the Pruitt-Igoe site?

In crafting a proposal, the designer(s) should carefully choose and define the site for the proposal. We leave as an open inquiry what part of the Pruitt-Igoe site or its surroundings requires intervention or contemplation through this competition. Of course, there is the historic boundary of the Pruitt-Igoe project, bounded by Cass Avenue to the north, North 20th Street to the east, Carr Street to the south and North Jefferson to the west. The Site Description section includes information about what exists inside of and around that boundary. Yet around the boundary is a surrounding urban environment inclusive of several neighborhoods and containing some remaining built resources whose histories are intertwined with that of Pruitt-Igoe. Both Jefferson and Cass Avenues are major thoroughfares, with Cass Avenue connecting west to merge into Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Jefferson Avenue connecting south to downtown and to the former Mill Creek Valley, one of St. Louis’ historic African-American neighborhoods almost completely removed around the time that Pruitt-Igoe opened. Additionally, Pruitt-Igoe is near the site of the Gateway Arch, an iconic work of modernist design that serves as both the signifier of St. Louis and as the most recognized architectural work in the region.

This competition asks entrants to imagine a way forward for the site, not necessarily a fully-designed built environment to supplant the existing site. To that end, Pruitt Igoe Now recognizes that a ‘product’ may not be the solution. Perhaps a proposal rooted in a ‘process’ of reclamation is more appropriate, and such proposals are welcome. We ask that submissions seriously consider the consequences of altering the current state of the 33 vacant acres of the Pruitt-Igoe site, as well as the implications of removing the remaining buildings and infrastructure that have always been part of Pruitt-Igoe’s historic cultural landscape. Further, as solutions emerge for this sensitive site, more questions arise: How do we proceed from here? Who should have say? Who is most affected? Who has the most claim to this space? Who stands to profit?

We invite architects to imagine new ways of inhabiting the site, with perhaps invented or emergent architectural typologies. Urban planners might design new and critical connections between this site, the surrounding St. Louis neighborhoods of St. Louis Place, JeffVanderLou, Carr Square and Downtown West, and the city center of St. Louis and the Gateway Arch just three miles to the south. Landscape architects might introduce urban agriculture to the site, or design a field memorial. Novelists and writers are invited to submit manifestos, narratives, and poetry. A singular image could propose an imagined future for the site. A short film could speculate upon possible future inhabitations.

Entrants are encouraged to visit the site before submitting if possible. The organizers of Pruitt Igoe Now are able to provide guided tours of the site for prospective entrants. Send a message to contact@pruittigoenow.org to request a guided tour of the site.


Our jurors will select the first, second and third most inspiring proposals and award them $1,000, $750 and $500 respectively. A broad selection of entries will receive honorable mention and inclusion in an online gallery.

All entries will be publicly displayed in St. Louis for several weeks in 2012. The setting for display will be publicly accessible and either on or near the Pruitt-Igoe site itself. Through open display, entrants will be addressing those who have called Pruitt-Igoe and the surrounding neighborhoods home.

In April 2012, a symposium on urban dwelling and creative intervention will be held at Portland State University; the advisory committee plans to curate all proposals, and choose two entrants for public presentation at this symposium.

The advisory committee also plans to curate select competition submissions into a traveling exhibition that will tour beginning in Summer 2012.


Some dates subject to change, and additional events to be added.

June 2011: Pruitt Igoe Now is announced.

March 16, 2012: Online entries due by 6 pm EST.

May 1, 2012: Design ideas revealed online.

June 1, 2012: Selection of three winning entries and honorable mentions

June – August 2012: Design ideas displayed in St. Louis.

Summer 2012: Traveling exhibition of entries launches.



Submission Location

• All submissions must be delivered here: http://pruittigoenow.submishmash.com


Entry into this competition is open to anyone, from any place, and from any discipline. Submission text must be in English. Further, entrants confirm that the submitted material is their own original or collaborative work, does not infringe upon any copyright law, and that they do indeed have permission to publish the material.

Entry Fee and Deadline

Entry Fee and Deadline
The entry fee is $20 per submission. Entrants may submit up to 3 entries in teams or individually, each with a $20 fee. The fees go to Pruitt Igoe Now, a nonprofit corporation, and only will be used toward promotion and exhibition of the competition.

In order to submit ideas, all the individual or team must register and submit online at http://pruittigoenow.submishmash.com
by Friday, March 16, 2012 at 6 pm EST

Submission Format
• Submissions must be delivered as either a single 24” x 36” layout (any orientation; JPG or PDF format; 10 MB max file size), or a short video. If submitting a video, submission may be HD or smaller, 1920 x 1080 pixels max; MOV format; 120 seconds max length; 25 MB max file size.

• 24” x 36” layouts may range from a single image, to designed text, to a conventional architectural competition board. No format will be given preference over any other, and originality and authenticity are encouraged.

• All submissions must be delivered here: http://pruittigoenow.submishmash.com

• Images and videos may be reduced in resolution or compressed to meet file size limitations, but must be submitted in the required formats (no zip files). All submissions will be judged in their on-screen format. However, winning entrants will be asked to provide their work in original, high-resolution format (300 dpi or greater) for publication and exhibition purposes.

The submissions will be judged by the Jurors anonymously and the entrant’s name should not appear anywhere on the submission.

A text statement of 300 words maximum, explaining the project’s conceptual approach and its design intent must be included in the cover letter of the submission form. Designers and authors should locate themselves in relation to the Pruitt-Igoe project. How do you know about Pruitt-Igoe? What interests you most about the site and its future? What connection do you have to the site, to St. Louis, to public housing or to modern architecture? Reverence for the people whose lives are deeply tied to the site through experience should be apparent.

Entrants acknowledge that the Project Organizers of Pruitt Igoe Now may exhibit all entries in the online gallery, and a selection of entries may be chosen for physical exhibition, public display and publication in a book or website format. Pruitt Igoe Now will make every effort to notify entrants of any public exhibitions of their work through correspondence with the registered contact.

In entering the design competition, entrants the Project Organizers of Pruitt Igoe Now unrestricted license to exercise the entrants’ rights regarding their design submissions, including, but not limited to, reproduction, preparation of derivative works, distribution of copies of the design submission, and the right to authorize such use by others.

Announcement, Displays and Publication of Results
In entering the competition, the registrant and all team members recognize the competition’s program as the intellectual property of Pruitt Igoe Now and agree to credit the competition by name in any exhibition or publication of the project. Entrants will be credited on all online and print material published by the organizers of the competition.


Entries due online by Friday, March 16, 2012, 6 pm EST

Complete rules and application form may be downloaded from the web site:


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