Why did we build high-rise public housing projects?



In the spring of 2007, the Chicago Housing Authority demolished the last of the 28 buildings in the Robert Taylor Homes housing project. Robert Taylor Homes is one of several high profile housing project demolitions, from St. Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe to fellow Chicago project Cabrini Green. The demolitions serve as an admission that high-rise public housing wasn’t a good idea. The housing that replaced them are all low rise projects better integrated within existing neighborhoods. So why did anyone back then think it was a good idea? Why did housing authorities build these high rise projects in the first place?

Resources on this topic:

Hunt, D. B. (2001). What Went Wrong with Public Housing in Chicago? A History of the Robert Taylor Homes. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 94(1), 96–123.

“Demolished: The End of Chicago’s Public Housing” by David Eads and Helga Salinas. https://apps.npr.org/lookatthis/posts/publichousing/

“When Public Housing Was Paradise” by Joy Connelly https://openingthewindow.com/2011/06/13/when-public-housing-was-paradise-2/

“Elizabeth Wood, 93, Innovator In Early Days of Public Housing” by Bruce Lambert http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/17/us/elizabeth-wood-93-innovator-in-early-days-of-public-housing.html

“A Brief History of Public Housing” by Jennifer Amy Stoloff https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jennifer_Stoloff/publication/228789405_A_brief_history_of_public_housing/links/5643a68008ae9f9c13e05df6/A-brief-history-of-public-housing.pdf

Video sources:
– Archive.org, Prelinger Archives

Photo sources:
– Wikimedia Commons
– Flickr user Samuel A. Love
– Zahiri, N., Dezhdar, O., & Foroutan, M. (2016). Rethinking of Critical Regionalism in High-Rise Buildings. Buildings, 7(1), 4. https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings7010004

Filmed in sunny Sacramento, California.

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