‘Modern architecture died in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 15, 1972, at 3.32pm (or thereabouts).’ So declared the critic and landscape architect Charles Jencks in the opening to his book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (1977). The apparently epoch-defining event to which Jencks referred was the destruction of Minoru Yamasaki’s Pruitt–Igoe housing development. Fully complete in 1956, Pruitt–Igoe’s 33 blocks, 11 storeys high, lasted less than 20 years. By the end they had become infamous for violence, poverty and decay, receiving, as Jencks wrote, the ‘final coup de grâce by dynamite’.
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Pruitt–Igoe became symbolic of what was by then a familiar tale of the unintended consequences ...