08 August 2010

The Changing City - mid 1960s

Though oversimplifying reality and popular in attempt, this short film from the mid-1960s gives you an interesting hint of the debate about suburbia and the city in general in USA at that time, catalyzed
in New-York on one side by the journalist and activist Jane Jacobs and on the other by the urban planner Robert Moses: avoiding the risk of drawing a caricature of them as antagonists, it is nonetheless possible to say that Jacobs, especially with her book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", 1961, addressed a sharp critique to the most rigid elements and aspects in terms of urban planning and architecture of Modernism, which Moses happened to represent. This film touches in 15 minutes the questions of sprawl and suburbia, car-dependency, social boredom; urban renewal and investment, decay of city-centers, governance.

Bearing in mind the contemporary tendency and easiness in pointing out the failures of Modernism, one of the main urban and housing modernist catastrophes, contemporary to Jacobs, was the 1954 housing project Pruitt Igoe in St. Louis, Missouri, designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, best-known for the Twin Towers in New-York. The following is a description by Robert Hughes, quoting architecture historian Charles Jencks, claming the demolition of Pruitt Igoe (1972-74) to be the death of Modernism.

Like tragically September 11 and the Twin Towers, Pruitt Igoe became widely popular on screen, as you can see from Kooyanisqatsi, film documentary by Godfrey Reggio with music by Philip Glass.

Related posts:
Urban renewal: 1955 vs. 2006

No comments: