Chad Freidrichs. Exposing of urban mythology and history of housing development failure. Case study: Pruitt-Igoe, St. Louis, USA, 1954 - 1976

  • “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth", film still, 2011
    1/1 | “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth", film still, 2011
Online discussion
25.03.2021 - 17:00
Discussion in the framework of online discussions series about housing policy and new forms of (co)existence 'GET REAL!'

Moderated by Anna Bitkina and Maria Veits / TOK

March 25, 2021
19.00 (Moscow time)/17.00 (CET) 

The conversation with documentary filmmaker Chad Freidrichs will focus on the tragic story of The Pruitt-Igoe public housing development in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Completed in 1954, the government-sponsored 33 11-story buildings became homes for many underprivileged families and people with lower income. Twenty years later the whole housing project was declared unfit for habitation and demolished.

In his famous film ‘The Pruitt-Igoe Myth’ (2011) Chad Freidrichs conducts an investigation on the Pruitt-Igoe story and reconstructs a complex picture of city politics and urban policy behind the American modernist architecture. Thу film also serves as a platform for the voices of St Louis residents who were discriminated against based on their race and social status. Following the story of the housing complex from its initiation to demolition, Freidrichs intends ‘to set the historical record straight. To examine the interests involved in Pruitt-Igoe’s creation. To re-evaluate the rumors and the stigma. To implode the myth’. 

‘What happened in Pruitt-Igoe has fueled a mythology repeated in discussions of many urban high-rise projects. Violence, crime, and drugs, so the story goes, plagued the housing project from nearly the beginning as it became a “dumping ground” for the poorest city residents. According to one standard account, it was quickly torn apart by its residents who could not adapt to high-rise city life. The film sheds the light on the less popular side of the story - the  question of ‘priorities of the legislation that created large-scale public housing but failed to adequately fund it’.

In the time of the global housing crisis in megacities it's important to look back at different urban histories and housing policies and politics and conduct analytical work as well as to study different visual languages in order to find a comprehensive way to describe contemporary and historical political realities. During the conversation with Chad Freidrichs’, where he will also show some fragments of the film, we’ll touch upon his working and research methods as a documentary filmmaker and an investigative journalist.

CHAD FREIDRICHS is an independent documentary filmmaker. Having formerly served as Assistant Professor of Digital Filmmaking at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, he has directed and produced four feature length documentary films, including The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, The Experimental City and Jandek on Corwood. Chad is currently editing his latest project, a documentary on the psychology of film editing.

The event takes place as a part of the program “Get Real!”, a series of online discussions about housing policy and new forms of (co)existence curated by TOK in December 2020 -  June 2021 as a part of 5 season of its ongoing project “Critical Mass”. New season focuses on the emerging and complex issues of housing, real estate, urban development, contemporary and historical housing conditions in post-socialist and neoliberal contexts as well as pressing socio-political and environmental processes in megacities.