GSD teams win Pruitt Igoe Now competitionSep 17, 2012
Xiaowei R. Wang (MLA '13) and Heather Dunbar (MLA '13) were awarded first place in the competition to re-imagine the site of the vacant Pruitt Igoe housing project in St. Louis, for their submission “St. Louis Ecological Production Line.” Third prize went to the Social Agency Lab for “The Fantastic Pruitt-Igoe!,” with a team including GSD students and alums Katarzyna Balug (MUP '11), Zakcq Lockrem (MUP ’10), Jeffery Goodman (MUP ’11), Alexandra Miller (MUP ’10) and Kathleen Onufer (MUP ’11), as well as Maria Lucia Vidart of Rice University and Leila Bozorg and Sarah Nusser of MIT. Theaster Gates Jr. (LF ’11), director of arts and public life at the University of Chicago, was a juror for the competition.
Dunbar and Wang’s top entry proposes an urban horticultural and aquaculture nursery that would restore the biodiversity of the landscape and grow as new land becomes available. Wang explains, “We initially were struck by the complex, layered conditions surrounding the site—both the legacy of architectural determinism and the current state of St. Louis as a shrinking city. We wanted to preserve the site as a memorial but also to drive new economies. We felt that it was important to revitalize the city through ecology rather than having housing or a close-ended reading of the city or simply recreational activity as our goal. We wanted to conflate the uses of work and recreation. Our proposal is a little different from normative modes of urban agriculture - instead of directly feeding the city population, the productive landscape we propose will have the species and agricultural products from the site repopulate the area and its surrounding parks, with opportunity to expand and organize the surrounding urban fabric.”
Rather than a specific design, “The Fantastic Pruitt-Igoe!” proposes a multi-year process through which community youth can debate, explore and shape the future of the site. The Social Agency Lab partnered with teens affiliated with Theaster Gates's Rebuild Foundation to develop their proposal. The group came together in January for a weekend-long "Labcamp" hosted by Rebuild in St. Louis, with a community dinner, youth workshop and site tour. Lab members distributed across the U.S. and abroad maintained planning with the youth and Rebuild via Skype throughout the following months. The Social Agency Lab’s prize money from the competition is going to Rebuild for youth programming to build skills in city-visioning.