Wednesday, 30 January 2013


A younger man than myself helped me remember this beautiful piece of music, written by Philip Glass for the film called Koyaanisqatsi (1982). The title derives from a scene in which the failed housing project named "Pruitt-Igoe", designed by Minoru Yamasaki (mostly known as the architect of the Twin Towers), is being demolished.

Although frequent attempts have been made by architects to blame the failures of the project on other aspects than the architecture, it has remained a symbol of  how ideology-driven, de-humanizing thinking in our craft can result in horrible and uninhabitable places. The famous architecture historian and theorist Charles Jencks has even claimed that the tearing down of Pruitt-Igoe nailed the moment where Modernism's optimism on behalf of the future and itself ended, and post-modernism started.

The site is now mostly empty, but suggestions have been made for it to be rebuilt in completely different ways, for example in the charming and thought-through master plan developed by architect Samuel Lima. He suggests applying traditional architecture, extracted from examples in the nearby area, and is firmly planted within the New Urbanist approach.

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