The Pruitt Igoe Myth: A Widespread Symbol of Failure
The Pruitt Igoe Myth which is an American documentary from 2011 by Chad Freidrichs, discovers the reasons of the failure of the housing project based on the interviews and observations, such as several of the project’s residents’ personal and poignant narratives. The documentary revisions the history of Pruitt-Igoe which was the 32-building public housing complex in St. Louis. Pruitt-Igoe was constructed in 1956, and it gave a chance of enjoying modern living to people who once lived in poverty. The documentary is also an exploration of the social, legislative, and economic issues and how these issues led to the decline of public housing in the USA.
Whyte was a sociologist, a writer and an urbanist who believed that observation was a great tool to describe behavior in urban setting. He used the method of talking and observing people to figure out what people wanted in public space and he used these observation results to create better places that shape livable communities. He always supported that creating places where people interact and engage with each other was a moral responsibility for everyone.
Whyte and his associates want to understand of the way people use spaces, and the way they would like to use spaces, and for this, they study several plazas, parks, and sidewalks in New York City in the 1970s. For example, they discover that people come together, chat, and converse with one another in several ways on plazas, and at specific times like the lunch hour. They also find that people sometimes choose unconventional sites like at the edge of sidewalks to gather. The results show that the placement and design of its parks and plazas should be improved, so Whyte consults with officials in New York City. Moreover, Whyte observes the following in his study: "sociability and street view are very important requirements for a successful plaza." In the movie, we saw that people were doing activities like watching other people, eating, and playing games with each other etc. Some people who interviewed with said that being alone in crowd doesn’t feel bad when watching other people on the streets. Also, like we discussed in the Planning class, if people see friends, and feel comfortable interacting with strangers, they tend to feel an attachment to their community. Therefore, doing activities for socialization is necessary. Furthermore, Whyte said, “The street is the river of life of the city. They come to these places not to escape but to partake of it.” He observed plazas that were a full level below the street attracted few visitors. We find the relationship between the street and a plaza as an important point to its success.
In conclusion, William H. Whyte did a remarkable study by observing and by interviewing people to understand why some urban plazas were successful as public spaces while others were not.
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