Reflections on Towers in the Park, and the Limits of Architecture

Michael Kimmelman, after visiting the Penn South housing cooperative in Manhattan and reflecting on the new film "The Pruitt-Igoe Myth", questions the role that design has in determining success or failure for tower in the park housing type.

January 26, 2012, 12:00 PM PST

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


A companion piece in some ways to the story we linked to earlier this week, Kimmelman considers the much maligned housing type that held such promise for providing a high quality-of-life for its residents when built en-masse in the 1950s and 1960s. Not all developments designed following the same Corbusian philosophy as Pruitt-Igoe shared its, now symbolic, fate. And Penn South is just one of Pruitt-Igoe's architectural cousins that thrived.

"Alienating, penitential breeding grounds for vandalism and violence: that became the tower in the park's epitaph. But Penn South, with its stolid redbrick, concrete-slab housing stock, is clearly a safe, successful place. In this case the architecture works. In St. Louis, where the architectural scheme was the same, what killed Pruitt-Igoe was not its bricks and mortar."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 in The New York Times

View south along Interstate 45 (North Freeway) from the ramp between westbound Interstate 10 and southbound Interstate 45 in Houston, Harris County, Texas

Houston Apartments To Be Demolished for Freeway Widening

Despite a federal hold on the controversial freeway widening project, the Texas Department of Transportation is pushing ahead with the demolition of an apartment complex in downtown Houston.

July 5, 2022 - Houston Chronicle

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

Street in downtown Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish ADU Ordinance Could Ease Housing Crunch

Recently approved revisions to the city’s accessory dwelling unit regulations prioritize long-term rentals to increase housing affordability for local renters.

July 6 - Whitefish Pilot

20 miles per hour speed limit sign in school zone

San Jose Begins Lowering Speed Limits

Thanks to a state bill, California cities can reduce speed limits on city streets by 5 miles per hour to improve traffic safety.

July 6 - San José Spotlight

University of Arizona

Tucson Development Boom Threatens Displacement of Longtime Residents

Median rent in Tucson rose by 30 percent since a year ago, prompting fears of displacement among many residents struggling to afford housing.

July 6 - Phoenix Business Journal

New Case Study Posted on HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.