Fantastic Pruitt-Igoe Design Workshop : Social Agency Lab and Neighborhood Youth

For the weekend of January 20th-22nd, Rebuild Foundation, St Louis was gifted with a visit by Social Agency Lab to host a weekend of dinner conversation and a design workshop to work collaboratively with local Hyde Park youth and teens to propose ideas for the Pruitt-Igoe Now national design competition.
The following blog post was written by teen workshop participant: Shallen, in 9th Grade at St Elizabeth’s Academy in St Louis.

Shallen's Art Work from Summer 2011
Shallen’s Art Work from Summer 2011

“We started the day by going to 3619, introducing ourselves and learning about the Pruitt-Igoe site before going on the the tour of the site.  We shared breakfast together, hot chocolate, donuts and fruit while we talked about Pruitt-Igoe.  After breakfast we boarded the bus to go to Pruitt-Igoe.  During the ride, the bus door was flapping open and it was freezing.  But in the end it was worth it….when we got there, everything was slippery and Justin almost fell because of the ice storm that happened the night before.  Then we started to walk slowly into the Pruitt-Igoe site, everything around looked vacant and desolate. We saw a lot of dead trees, dead leaves, dirt, its like you’re in a forest, but you’re in the middle of the city.

Bus ride to Pruitt-Igoe site
Bus ride to Pruitt-Igoe site
Forest in the middle of the city.....Photo taken by Shallen
Forest in the middle of the city…..Photo taken by Shallen

We met Michael Allen (Preservation Research Office Director & Co-Organizer of Pruitt-Igoe Now design competition), and he explained to us what used to be there before.  I thought it was amazing how something so important became so desolate and empty.  It made me think about what May-mah said “A lot of good came out Pruitt-Igoe, but people are always trying to look at the bad. It was a place to get people back on their feet and where a lot of good things happend. ” May-mah was saying it was just “a place where they would put black people.  White people used to live there, but when things started changing, when people came to do their dirt, the white people left and thats when things got bad”.  During the tour we saw an empty cement electric converter unit that Ameren used for controlling electric wiring underground for the buildings when they were standing. Ms. Betty said that some homeless people sleep in there in the summer and get chased away by the cops.  The tour wasn’t long cause everywhere you turned there was the same gloomy trees.

Youth explore the cement converter unit, previously underground on the Pruitt-Igoe site.
Youth explore the cement converter unit, previously underground on the Pruitt-Igoe site.
Matthew finds evidence on Pruitt-Igoe's grounds. Photo taken by Shallen
Matthew finds evidence on Pruitt-Igoe’s grounds. Photo taken by Shallen
Youth and Social Agency Lab huddle up for warmth during tour of the site. Photo taken by Shallen
Youth and Social Agency Lab huddle up for warmth during tour of the site. Photo taken by Shallen

Then we went back to Peppers house (3619 Blair, where Pepper is the local house cat).  We had pizza and discussed what we would want to see in the Pruitt-Igoe site, we created models with styrofoam, blocks, magazines, pipe cleaners and such.

Pepper on his perch inside of 3619
Pepper on his perch inside of 3619
Youth and Social Agency Lab conveners gather round the table to discuss history and ideas.
Youth and Social Agency Lab conveners gather round the table to discuss history and ideas.
Brandon, Shallen and Matthew get to work on forming their ideas
Brandon, Shallen and Matthew get to work on forming their ideas
Matthew, Myasia and Social Agency Lab pull out the materials and get to work
Matthew, Myasia and Social Agency Lab pull out the materials and get to work

I said I wanted it to be another art park, a sculpture park like the City Garden downtown or the one in Grand Center.  There were ideas for a theme park, another housing place.  Aniyah came up with the idea for a dog/pet park.  Justin themed his “Blue-topia” where everything was blue inside a dome which would cover the whole site where weather could be controlled.  Malik had the idea of a forest/animal preserve where there would be mammals, amphibians and reptiles could have a habitat and people could come and visit.  Matthew said it should be homeless housing.  Something that benefits the area, parks would be good but we’d need something would benefit the entire community not just that age group. We presented the projects to incoming parents and people and wrapped up and went home.

Matthew presenting his homeless shelter housing idea, with satellite TV included.
Matthew presenting his homeless shelter housing idea, with satellite TV included.

In the end, I hope to see something that the whole community can use, a place not just for kids or just for adults, but everyone.” Written by Shallen.

Rebuild Foundation would like to say a special thanks to Shallen for helping make this blog post (we hope those community service hours for school start to dwindle as a result!).  Also a big thanks to Social Agency Lab for treking so far and giving so much, the youth who shared so much with everyone and grew us all, parents who came out to listen and support their child’s ideas and Michael Allen, Ms. Betty and Ms. Blackman for touring us through Pruitt-Igoe’s dense history.  The weekend was a great success and will have more iterations to come.  For more images of the weekend and the dinner that happened the night before, please visit our flickr site.

 

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