Coeur de Ville _ Re-imagining the Pruitt Igoe Site, St. Louis, MO

emerymcclure architecture with Bradley Cantrell

One cannot deny that the intentions of Mayor Joseph Darst to “rebuild, open up and clean up the hearts of our cities,” in response to the decay and suburban flight of St. Louis had value. It also cannot be denied that the Pruitt Igoe Housing towers failed to fulfill those intentions and 40 years later, North St. Louis still lacks the vitality that defines a successful urban condition. We question the modernist impulse to create discreet objects such as rebuilding high-density housing in a site surrounded by blocks of open land and a vast stock of readily recyclable 19th and 20th century housing. Instead, we propose an ecological urban catalyst. Coeur de Ville (Heart of the City) takes the position that the most effective agent of urban renewal is not a metaphorical machine, but an active system that accepts the urban condition, processes it for positive effect, and then disperses it back into the urban system.

Generally our connection to the site is an interest in the pivotal role Pruitt Igoe defines in the modernist paradigm of America cities. Most of the team lived worked and studied in St. Louis for many years, but most specifically for Pruitt Igoe Now, we are interested in the fundamental questions regarding what is the city and how will it sustain itself.  We revere the history of the site and its occupants, not through nostalgia, but through offering them the operations needed to re-engage the city. We recall the past order and revive the power of vantage. Coeur de Ville allows its citizens once again to have a penthouse view of the city and gives the city the opportunity to view an occupied new center for North St. Louis.